Infertility in general means degree of reduced /delayed/ irregular desire or ability to mate, capacity to conceive and to nourish an embryo, and finally the power to expel a normal foetus and foetal membranes at the time of parturition.
Dr. Sakshi Sharma, MVSc
In normal reproductive process, the animal has to undergo various aspects-
- Functional ovaries
- Development and maturation of follicles
- Displaying estrus behavior
- Fertile coitus
- Timely ovulation
- The arrest of ova with fimbria of the oviduct
- Successful conception
- Tubal journey of zygote
- Implantation of embryo
- Development of embryo
- Development of embryo, fetus and its membranes
- Successful birth at full term with intact membranes
- Resumption of cyclicity and restoration of uterine function after parturition.
Any disturbance due to management or disease or the genetic make-up at any stage of these steps may cause infertility.
Forms of infertility
- A) Anatomical
Congenital and Acquired
- B) Functional
Anestrus, Cystic Ovarian Degeneration, Repeat Breeding Syndrome
- C) Infectious
Specific and Non-specific
- D) Managemental
Nutrition, Poor Heat Detection, Wrong time/ Faulty Insemination
Anatomical form of infertility
A) Congenital Anomalies
Congenital lesions of the ovaries are rare.
It is a rare hereditary condition in which one or both the ovaries are absent and the animal has a poorly developed genital tract. The cyclic behaviour of the animal is absent due to a lack of reproductive hormones.
In this condition, one or both the ovaries are small, narrow, spindle-shaped rather than oval and functionless. No cyclicity occurs if both ovaries are involved. This condition arises due to autosomal recessive gene with incomplete penetrance and usually associated with the white coat colour.
In this condition, the animal’s phenotypic sex does not correspond with the gonadal sex or chromosomal sex. The sexuality of the animal is confused by the presence of anatomical structures in both sexes.
A true hermaphrodite has both male and female gonads which may be either separate or combined as ovo-testes. It has been found in horses, goat, cows and pigs. But it is more common in pigs and goats than in other species.
In a pseudohermaphrodite gonad of one sex i.e., testes or ovaries are present but the remaining part of the reproductive system has parts representing both sexes. It has been observed in pigs, goats and dogs.
It is distinct from intersexuality. The condition occurs in the female member of the heterosexual twin in which the allanto- chorionic membranes of the twins fuse early during embryonic development as early as 30 days, prior to the development of reproductive organs. This fusion allows the exchange of blood between the twins. It is noted in cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, but not in horses, dogs and cats.
Characteristics of Freemartin-
- The freemartin is sterile.
- Gonads vary widely in appearance.
- Normal to abnormal ovaries.
- Defective development of the genital tract.
- The clitoris may be enlarged and a tuft of hair at the vulva is more prominent.
- The mammary gland remains rudimentary and can be distinguished from normal by 1-2 months.
Segmental aplasia of Mullerian duct/ White heifer disease-
This defect leads to various anomalies of the vagina, cervix, and uterus. It can be sub-fertile or sterile. The ovaries develop normally consequently the animal shows cyclicity. There is a significant level of secretory activity of tubular parts but due to obstruction, these secretions distend the lumen of the reproductive tract. This defect is associated with a single recessive sex-limited gene with linkage to white coat colour and is commonly found in white shorthorn heifers.
Around 1 cm in diameter and adjacent to the ovary in the mesosalpinx and may press lumen of the oviduct.
Atresia of the vulva-
The vulva is abnormally small and results in dystocia and requires episiotomy at the time of delivery of foetus.
Cysts of Gartner’s duct-
These ducts are two in number in cow and located beneath the mucosa of the floor of the vagina these are usually difficult to detect. Cystic distension of these ducts may occur due to high levels of estrogen. These cysts may be as big as 5-6 cm in diameter. It rarely causes infertility and can be removed by ablation.
B) Acquired Infertility
Ovaro- bursal adhesions-
Adhesions between ovaries and bursa are commonly observed in cattle and buffaloes. It may vary from partial, which does not involve fallopian tubes to complete which involves ovaries, bursa, and fallopian tubes. Fibrous strands of varying thickness extend from bursa to ovary. This condition may be unilateral or bilateral. The ovulation is hampered if the ovary completely adheres to the bursa. It may cause obstruction of fallopian tube lading to the accumulation of secretion, distension, and thinning of walls. Secondary infections may cause the accumulation of pus.
The functional form of infertility
It usually affects individual animals in a herd. But in aggregate it constitutes an important cause of infertility. It is related to hormonal disturbance influenced by heredity, diseases, nutrition or stress. When this form of infertility affects a large number of animals in a herd, they frequently reflect some other problem especially nutrition.
The functional form of infertility includes problems like anestrus, subestrus/ silent heat, ovulatory defects like delayed ovulation, anovulation, cystic ovarian degeneration ( COD). COD is reported to be the most common cause of infertility followed by subestrus, anestrus, and anovulation/ delayed ovulation.
- A) Anestrus
In this condition, the ovaries are quiescent with the absence of cyclic activity. The reason for the failure of normal activity is the insufficient to release or production of reproductive hormones to cause follicular development.
It is due to persistent corpus luteum (CL) because of a defect in the uterus. If damage to the endometrium occurs, synthesis of PGF2 alpha is blocked and CL lysis does not occur, leading to anestrus. The possible conditions, in this case, could be –
- mummifcitaion of foetus
- maceration of foetus
- aplasia of endometrial gland
- uterus unicornis.
It occurs more frequently between 60 days or more after calving. Occasionally after partition, a silent heat may follow a normal estrus. The animal may not show heat signs but on close observation, heat signs could be noticed. On rectal examination, the cow shows evidence of having ovulated by the presence of a normal corpus luteum, or occasionally the cow may be in estrum or have just ovulated. So, the animal should be closely observed twice a day for 20-3- minutes or teased by the bull.
B) Ovulatory defects
These defects cause problems in normal ovulation. Ovulation in cows occurs 10-12 hours after the end of the behavioral estrus and 18-26 hours after the ovulatory LH peak. During estrus and after the end of estrus several follicles undergo development but usually one, or occasionally two ovulate, the other follicles regress and degenerate. The defects related to ovulation could be-
As the name indicates, there is a delay in ovulation. So sperms get aged and the animal becomes cyclic repeat breeder. Diagnosis of this condition is difficult since it requires sequential rectal palpation of the ovaries which might itself interfere with the process of ovulation and may cause a premature rupture. It has been recommended that a diagnosis can be made if the same follicle can be detected in the same ovary on two successive examinations, one at peak estrus and the other 24-36 hours later.
As the name indicated=s the mature follicle fails to ovulate. It can be associated with those conditions which can predispose to true anestrus. Sometimes the true anestrus is preceded by an anovulatory estrus with the follicle regressing and ova degenerate. Another reason could be the failure of regression of the mature follicle.
Cystic ovarian disease (COD)-
Ovaries are said to be cystic when they contain one or more persistent fluid-filled structures larger than a mature follicle i.e. >2.5 mm in diameter in one or both ovaries. These cysts persist for at least 10 days. As a result, the normal cyclical activity of the cow is altered and the animal becomes either acyclic or nymphomanic ( excessive sex drive or prolonged behavioral estrus).
The incidences are more in high-yielding cows. Other reasons could be feeding of high protein diets, deficiency of vitamin A in diets, and its incidence is more common during 2nd or 3rd pregnancies.
These cysts could be luteal or follicular in origin.
Luteal cysts are thick-walled, hard inconsistency and the affected animal shows signs of anestrus while the follicular cysts are thin-walled, soft inconsistency and the affected cow always remains in heat.
Repeat breeding syndrome is defined as a condition in which the cows or heifers having regular estrus cycles and appear normal on superficial clinical examination, fail to become pregnant following three or more consecutive breeding. Such a cow is called a repeat breeder cow.
It leads to a long service period and inter calving interval, which is responsible for low milk and calf production resulting in economic loss to dairy farmers. In a repeat breeder cow, the fertilization rate and embryo survival rate are low.
Special care for repeat breeders should be taken off. The use of unsterilized types of equipment should be prohibited to lower to risk of genital infections during artificial insemination. If there is a persistent hymen membrane among heifers, it should be ruptured before inserting an insemination gun. A balanced ratio should be offered to the breedable cows. Trace minerals like copper, cobalt, iron should be given in diet or supplementation to allow better hormone production for healthy reproduction.
Animals in heat should be inseminated with high-quality semen. Double insemination should be preferred in crossbreds. If animals are not bred at the right time it may lead to conception failure. Inseminate indigenous cows according to the A.M.-P.M. rule i.e. if the cow comes in heat in the morning then inseminate the cow in the evening and vice-versa.
The infectious form of infertility
- A) Specific infections
It is most attributable to the presence of venereal disease caused by various bacterial, viral, or protozoal organisms which are transmitted to the cows from the infected bulls at the time of natural service or through infectious semen at the time of artificial insemination. These include-
IBR-IPV ( infectious pustular vulvovaginitis, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis).
- B) Non-specific infections
Catarrhal vaginitis and cervicitis –
It is characterized by the profuse non-odorous yellow mucoid discharge from the vulva. The vagina and cervix are hyperaemic and oedematous but there are no gross pustules. The course of the disease lasts for 7 days to three months fertility and conception are lowered.
A common cause of infertility in dairy animals is due to inflammation of the uterus on account of bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. There is a mucopurulent discharge from the uterus, especially during the estrum, flakes of pus are there. Oestral discharge is often cloudy, milky instead of being clear and translucent.
Factors predisposing uterus to infections are-
- The wound on the uterus mucosa
- Dystocia (difficulty in giving birth)
- Abnormal parturition
- Prolapsed of the uterus or vagina
- Retained placenta
- Premature birth
- Uterine inertia
- Lack of exercise
- Delayed uterine involution
- Injury during AI
- Unhygienic conditions at the time of calving
It is the accumulation of pus and mucopurulent material in the uterus accompanied by retained CL resulting to failure of the estrum. The quantity of pus varies from 500ml to 10 litres. There is the failure of oestrum in this condition. The pus from the uterus escapes in the anterior of the vagina. It is expelled when the animal lays down or while urinating or defecating. on rectal palpation, the uterine wall is usually felt thickened, flaccid, and atonic.
Pyometra usually develops following-
- Retarded involution of the uterus
- Premature birth
- Twin calving
- Retained placenta
- Septic metritis
- After service from the infected bull (trichomonas)
It is characterized by cystic degeneration of the endometrium and atrophy of the uterine wall with accumulation of thin mucus in the uterus from 30 ml to 5 liters. The persistent hymen may result in locking up the uterine contents. Such cows should not be bred.
It is characterized by adhesion between the uterus and broad ligament to the other abdominal organs. It could be due to-
- Very severe septic metritis
- Perforation of the uterus due to penetration of the catheter
- Rupture of the rectum due to rough handling
- Extrauterine foetus (ectopic pregnancy)
- Excessive bleeding following nucleation of CL
- Forcible extraction of retained placenta
- Diffused peritonitis due to traumatic reticulates.
They may occur as a sequella to severe metritis, after forcible extraction of retained placenta, injury to the uterine wall due to improper penetration of insemination catheter.
It may occur due to severe chronic metritis which has resulted in complete destruction of the endometrium. In this case culling of the affected animal is advisable.
It is the inflammation of the cervix and is also associated with metritis. It may frequently follow abnormal parturition, abortions, dystocia, and lacerations.
It is the inflammation of the vagina. It may be primary or secondary to cervicitis and metritis. Its major causes of occurrence are non-specific infections.
Treatment of infertility with Homeopathic Veterinary Medicine
The best possible homeopathic treatment for the condition of infertility among dairy animals is the use of the product Fertisule. The overall response of the product is excellent in the repeat breeding cattle which have no apparent sign of reproductive anomalies. It triggers the endocrine secretions which regulate reproductive behaviour.