Animal Biology: Controlling Fertility

Animal Biology: Controlling Fertility

  • Controlling fertility mainly encompasses contraception methods that prevent fertilisation, and fertility treatments designed to aid conception.

  • The endocrine system plays a crucial part in fertility. Hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinising Hormone (LH) regulate menstrual cycles and thus fertility.

  • Contraceptive methods include barrier methods such as condoms and diaphragms which block sperm, hormonal methods such as the pill or implant which prevent ovulation, intrauterine devices like the coil which prevent fertilised eggs from implanting in the uterus, and surgical methods like sterilisation.

  • Hormonal contraceptives frequently work by maintaining levels of progesterone and oestrogen in the body, which inhibit the production and release of FSH and LH and prevent the release of an egg.

  • Emergency contraception methods such as the ‘morning-after pill’ work by delaying ovulation or preventing a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb.

  • On the side of fertility treatments, hormonal treatments can stimulate ovulation. These might include FSH and LH, which stimulate the maturation of eggs in the ovaries.

  • In vitro fertilisation (IVF) involves retrieving eggs from a woman, fertilising them outside of the body and then implanting the fertilised egg back into the woman’s uterus. This is often used when other fertility treatments have not been successful.

  • IVF can utilise donor sperm or eggs, and can also use surrogacy, where another woman carries the baby to term.

  • Ethical considerations around fertility control include potential health risks, the age of the parents, the right to have children, and the potential effects of population control policies.

  • It’s critical to also understand the potential psychological effects of fertility treatments and controls, including the emotional strain of unsuccessful treatments or unwanted pregnancy.

  • Scientists continue to develop new techniques and technologies to assist with fertility control, including developments in hormonal treatments and IVF techniques. Learning to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of these is a valuable skill.