The Importance of Research in Human Reproduction


1. Sterility or infertility, as defined by the World Health Organization, is the failure of a couple to procreate (to reproduce) despite seriously attempting to do so for at least 12 months.


2. Male sterility may be due to

(a) a low sperm count

(b) low motility and energy of sperms

(c) drug abuse such as cocaine

(d) chronic alcoholism

(e) malnutrition


3. Female sterility may be due to

(a) blocked Fallopian tubes

(b) fibroids in the uterus

(c) hormonal imbalance

(d) weight problem


Ways to overcome sterility

1. Nutrition

(a) Avoid being either significantly overweight or underweight. Being too thin or too fat can interfere with ovulation.

(b) Zinc is among the most important nutrient minerals because it is directly related to sperm motility.

(c) L-arginine is necessary to maintain a normal sperm count.


2. Hormone treatment

The injection of small amounts of specific female sex hormones into the body to stimulate the eggs to mature and to induce ovulation.


3. Surgery

Surgery is needed for fibroid removal and tubal reconstruction.


4. In-vitro fertilisation (IVF)

(a) IVF is now becoming an accepted medical practice used when the doctor is convinced that there is an irremediable obstruction of both Fallopian tubes so that the husband's sperm can never reach the wife's ovum.

(b) IVF is what most people think of as 'test-tube baby' treatment.


(i) In IVF, the woman is given daily hormone injections that stimulate her ovaries to produce ova.

(ii) The mature ova are suctioned from her ovaries and placed in Petri dishes filled with culture medium.

(iii) The ova are fertilised with her husband's sperms.

(iv) The petri dishes are placed in an incubator.

(v) After about 48 hours, one or more embryos are transferred into the woman's uterus through a catheter for implantation to take place.


Methods of birth control

1. Nowadays, most couples have the idea of planning for an ideal family size. This is called family planning or birth control.


2. Birth control methods can be natural, mechanical, hormonal, chemical or surgical.



Mode of action




Rhythm (Natural)

- Using cervical mucus changes and body temperature measurements to estimate the time of ovulation and avoiding intercourse during the fertile period

- Natural

- No cost

- No medical or hormonal side effects

- Acceptable to most religions

- Unreliable

- Requires ongoing, accurate record keeping of fertile period

- 75% - 99% reliable

Condom (Mechanical)

- Thin, disposable latex sheath placed over the penis prior to intercourse to prevent sperm from entering vagina

- No side effects

- Gives some protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

- Slight decreased sensation for the male

- Can break or leak

- Latex allergies

- 86% - 98% reliable

Intrauterine contraceptive devide (IUCD) (Mechanical)

- Small plastic or copper device that is placed into the uterus by a doctor to prevent implantation

- Provides protection for 8-10 years

- Increases menstrual flow

- Increases risk of pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility

- Does not protect against STDs

- Cramps

- 98% - 99% reliable

Contraceptive pills (Hormonal)

- Pills containing specific hormones which prevent ovulation

- Reliable if taken regularly

- Makes monthly period more regular

- Lowers the risks of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer

- May cause side effects such as nausea and weight gain

- Does not protect against STDs

- 95% - 99% reliable

Spermicides (Chemical)

Foams, jellies or creams placed in vagina prior to intercourse that chemically kill sperms

- Inexpensive

- Can be used with condom

- Messy to use

- Must be applied before intercourse

- May cause allergies

- 94% reliable

Vasectomy (Surgical)

- Sperm ducts are cut and tied to prevent sperms from leaving the ducts

- Most reliable method

- No hormonal side effects

- Requires surgery

- Operation can rarely be reversed

- 99.5% - 99.9% reliable

Tubal ligation (Surgical)

- Fallopian tubes are cut and tied to prevent ovum from leaving the tubes

- Most reliable method

- No hormonal side effects

- Requires surgery

- Operation can rarely be reversed

99.5% - 99.9%


Diaphragm with spermicide (Mechanical and chemical)

- Dome-shaped rubber disk with a flexible rim that covers the cervix so that sperm cannot reach the uterus. A spermicide is applied to the diaphragm before insertion

- Can be inserted a few hours before intercourse

- Does not protect against STDs

- Must be fitted by a doctor and training is required to fit

- May cause abdominal pain

85% - 97% reliable

Injection (Depo-Provera) (Hormonal)

- Injection of specific hormone progestin that inhibits ovulation, prevents sperm from reaching the egg, and prevents the fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus.

- Only one injection every three months

- Irregular bleeding

- Weight gain

- Breast tenderness

- Headaches

- Does not protect against STDs

- 99% reliable



The positive efects of birth control on the community

 1. To overcome the problem of overpopulation.


2. To have fewer children so that the family can achieve the best standard of living. For example, providing each member of the family with comfortable shelter, adequate clothing, nourishing food and the highest level of education possible.


3. Prevents unplanned pregnancies.


4. Fewer unwanted babies will be abandoned or thrown into rubbish dumps, rivers and bushes.


The negative effects of birth control on the community

1. Birth control is considered as a form of silent abortion.


2. Encourages immorality and illicit sex.


3. Some methods of birth control result in circulatory disorders, pain and permanent infertility.


The importance of reasearch on human reproduction

1. In 1972, the World Health Organization launched the UNDP/UNFPA/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP).


2. HRP is a global programme of technical co-operation. It promotes, conducts and evaluates research on human reproduction, with particular reference to the needs of developing countries.


3. The researches focus on

(a) menopause (time when a woman's reproductive capacity stops)

(b) improvement of knowledge in treatment of infertility

(c) improvement of birth control

(d) treatment and prevention of cancer (e.g. cancer of the ovary, the uterus and the prostate gland)

(e) treatment and prevention of birth defects