Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Infertility

July 2, 2023

Like in the male reproductive system, various disorders can disrupt normal function of the female reproductive tract so that successful reproduction is unlikely (infertility) or impossible (sterility). Infections, tumors, hormonal imbalances, and other factors can contribute to infertility or sterility in women.

For example, inflammation or infection of the uterine tubes can result in scarring that blocks sperm from reaching the ovum or prevents the ovum from traveling to the uterus. Infections, cancer, or hormonal imbalances may inhibit the female reproductive cycle, preventing the production and release of a healthy ovum each cycle. Such conditions also may interfere with the development of the uterine lining that is essential for successful pregnancy.

Because sexual reproduction requires normal function of both male and female systems, infertility of a couple may result from the infertility of either partner. A couple is considered infertile if a pregnancy does not occur after a year of reasonably frequent sexual intercourse (without contraception). When couples seek help for infertility problems, one of the first steps in diagnosis is to determine whether there is a problem in the male partner or the female partner—or both.

For information on strategies available to couples to prevent pregnancy, see the article Contraception at Connect It! at evolve.elsevier.com.

SCIENCE APPLICATIONS

REPRODUCTIVE SCIENCES

William Masters (1915–2001)

The study of human reproduction, and especially sexual function, has many cultural implications. So it is no wonder that American researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson encountered a great deal of controversy during their decades of pioneering work in the field of human sex and reproduction. They were the first to study human sexual physiology in the laboratory.
Dr. William Masters was a gynecologist (physician specializing in women’s health) and Virginia Johnson was trained in psychology. In 1966, their book Human Sexual Response clearly explained the physiology of sex for the first time. Besides making discoveries in the physiology of human sex and reproduction, they also developed therapies for treating sex-related conditions, and they trained therapists from around the world.
In addition to the broad fields of biology, medicine, psychology, and the behavioral sciences, the pioneering work of Masters and Johnson paved the way for advances in such diverse and specialized areas of knowledge as comparative neuroscience and social dynamics.

Virginia Johnson (1925-2013) Today, there are many opportunities to apply knowledge of reproductive science in a variety of professions. Reproductive health nurses, gynecologists, and urologists often provide primary reproductive care to adult men and women. Reproductive medicine clinical staff help couples improve fertility. Psychologists and counselors help patients struggling with various sexual concerns.

Summary of male and female reproductive systems

The reproductive systems in both sexes revolve around the production of reproductive cells, or gametes (sperm and ova), as well as mechanisms to ensure union of these two cells; the fusion of these cells enables transfer of parental genetic information to the next generation.

Table 23-3 compares several analogous components of the reproductive systems in both sexes. You can see that men and women have similar structures to accomplish complementary functions. In addition, the female reproductive system permits development and birth of the offspring—the first subject of our next chapter.

TABLE 23-3

Analogous* Features of the Reproductive Systems

FEATURE

FEMALE

MALE

Essential organs

Ovaries

Testes

Sex cells

Ova (eggs)

Sperm

Hormones

Estrogen and progesterone

Testosterone

Hormone-producing cells

Granulosa cells and corpus luteum

Interstitial cells

Duct systems

Uterine (fallopian) tubes, uterus, and vagina

Epididymis, vas deferens, and urethra

External genitals

Clitoris and vulva

Penis and scrotum

*Resembling or similar in some respects.