Understanding the causes

Infertility is a struggle for many couples. Studies suggest that 12-15% of couples are unable to conceive in their first year of trying. As much as 10% of couples are still fighting this battle at the 2 year mark. 

What are the causes of infertility?

Fertility issues can be grouped into two main categories: male and female issues. Infertility can affect one or both partners. 

The causes of male infertility include:

  • Poor or abnormal sperm production. This can be caused by genetic defects, enlarged veins in the testes, undescended testicles, health problems including diabetes, and infections including HIV. 
  • Unsuccessful sperm delivery. Damage to the reproductive organs, genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis, premature ejaculation, and even blockage of a testicle could prevent proper sperm delivery. 
  • Overexposure to environmental factors. Chemicals such as pesticides and radiation are well known to negatively impact fertility. Cigarette smoke, marijuana, alcohol, anabolic steroids, and even some prescribed medications can affect fertility. Warm saunas or spas that raise body temperature are another factor that could reduce sperm production.
  • Radiation or chemotherapy are also known to impair sperm production.

Female’s can suffer from a wide range of disorders that can impact fertility:

  • Ovulation disorders can affect how or if an egg is released from the ovaries. 
  • Uterine or cervical abnormalities can include polyps on the uterus and noncancerous tumors in the uterine wall that can block the fallopian tubes. 
  • Endometriosis can affect the function of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. 
  • Early menopause is when the ovaries stop working before age 40. This isn’t always linked to underlying conditions, but some immune system diseases have been linked. These include Turner syndrome or carriers of Fragile X syndrome. 
  • Pelvic adhesions that formed after pelvic infection, appendicitis, endometriosis, or abdominal or pelvic surgery.
  • Reproductive cancers and the treatments can negatively impact female fertility.  

There are quite a few ovulation disorders. Understanding these can help you and your medical team to improve your chances of conception.  Ovulation disorders include:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of female infertility. It causes a hormone imbalance which negatively affects ovulation. It’s associated with acne, abnormal hair growth, and insulin resistance and obesity. 
  • Hypothalamic dysfunction which is when follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) or luteinizing hormone (LH), which are produced by the pituitary gland, are disrupted. Stress, substantial weight change, or having an unhealthy weight can lead to this condition which affects ovulation. 
  • Too much prolactin, which is produced by the pituitary gland, will reduce estrogen production and therefore cause infertility. 

Improving chances to conceive

There are certain factors that impact your chances to conceive. First of all, age is a factor. Women’s fertility declines in their mid 30’s. Men may see a reduction in fertility over age 40. If you are looking to conceive, please consider:

  • Stop smoking: tobacco use can reduce sperm count and also increase miscarriages. 
  • Refrain from alcohol: With high alcohol consumption, sperm count can reduce. As for women, there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption when pregnant. 
  • Healthy weight: being overweight increases infertility but on the other hand, being underweight and not consuming enough calories is also linked to fertility issues. 
  • Exercise: moving throughout the day and having a healthy exercise regimen can help remove fertility issues. 

Find a fertility specialists

If you have been actively trying to conceive for 12 months or more and have not been successful, reach out to a fertility specialist. The medical team will review you and your partner’s medical history and put together a plan to discover what is preventing conception. Healthstar Physicians’ fertility specialist can work with you to put together a plan to expand your family. Reach out to our medical team to set up an appointment.