Infertility vs. Impotence

Difference Between Infertility And Impotence A number of physiological difficulties, however, can also interfere with the ability to…

Difference Between Infertility And Impotence

A number of physiological difficulties, however, can also interfere with the ability to bear children. Infertility, a common hindrance to reproduction, is defined as the unintended inability to conceive a child after having intercourse for one year.

The female partner may be infertile, or at least suffer from decreased fertility, for a variety of reasons. Older women, for example, have intermittent release of follicles, that is, they may not necessarily ovulate each month as they approach menopause. The eggs that do form have a greater tendency to cause chromosomal anomalies in the fetus and, as a result, a higher miscarriage rate. (This is because the oocytes with the greatest chance of successful development tend to undergo ovum transformation earlier in a woman’s life.)

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can also cause infertility by damaging, in the Fallopian tubes, the hairlike cilia, the main mechanism responsible for the ovum’s proper movement. Also, the tubes can be blocked altogether, thus preventing the sperm’s access to the ovum. Another cause of female infertility is endometriosis, in which endometrial tissue is implanted abnormally outside the uterus. These implants can also distort the structure and normal function of the Fallopian tubes. Sometimes the result of these insults to the reproductive tract are untreatable, although surgery to repair the tubes can be successful in some cases.

If infertility results from physiological problems in the male partner, the cause may be determined through semen analysis, which looks at abnormalities in sperm motility, morphology, and volume. Treatment for most causes of male infertility is limited, and as a result, intrauterine insemination (IUI) may be necessary. In this procedure, concentrated sperm is placed into the uterus during ovulation (which is detected by sensitive laboratory tests). Donor sperm can be used if the male partner’s sperm is still not effective with this method. Other indications for IUI include difficulties with sexual intercourse or the presence of antibodies in the female that attack the male’s sperm. The latter results from an immune system error, since antibodies are normally produced to fight disease-causing organisms that invade the body.


Impotence, the inability of a male partner to have or maintain an erection, is another factor that can interfere with the ability to reproduce. The term most commonly refers to the male’s failure to achieve or maintain an erection during coitus. However, a man who is impotent is not necessarily infertile, because he may still be capable of normal sperm production.

Impotence has a variety of causes. Although the problem is often psychological in nature, the source can also result from a range of physiological difficulties, including hormonal deficiencies, poor circulation to the penis, or the inability of the penis to trap enough blood to become properly engorged and erect. Researchers also suspect that a number of cases may result from some problem related to nitric oxide production or metabolism; as previously mentioned, nitric oxide is essential for producing an erection.

There are several medical treatments for impotence. Vascular surgery may be used to restore adequate circulation, if the blood vessels of the penis have become blocked or suffered injury. Nonsurgical treatment for impotence includes injections of the drug papavarine. This medication causes the smooth muscles around the blood vessels of the penis to relax and carry more blood into the organ.

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