Infertility means a couple is not able to get pregnant even after a year of trying to conceive. If you are a woman over 35 years of age, infertility means not able to get pregnant after 6 months of trying. 

Women who are able to conceive but not able to carry the pregnancy are also considered diagnosed with primary infertility. Whereas, a woman who has had at least one successful pregnancy in the past is diagnosed with secondary infertility. Infertility is not only diagnosed in women, men can also be infertile. Men and women, equally, are likely to have infertility problems.

One-third of the infertility cases can be attributed to women and another third part can be attributed to men. The remaining third part can be caused due to a combination of male and female infertility or they may not have any known cause. 

Causes Of Infertility

In some cases the issues present with the couples causing infertility are present since the birth and in some cases the issues are developed in later stages of life. 

Causes of Infertility in Males

1. Abnormal sperm function or production. This usually is caused due to abnormal descent of the testicles and genetic defects. Few of the underlying health problems can also cause infertility such as diabetes, infections such as STI (Sexually transmitted infections). When the veins in the testes are enlarged this also causes abnormal sperm function and production. 

2. Problems with delivering the sperm. This occurs when there are sexual problems for e.g., premature ejaculation; certain genetic disorders can also cause issues in delivering the sperms; a blockage in the testicles or damage or injury in any reproductive organ can also result in poor delivery of sperms. 

3. Overexposure to certain environmental factors. These factors include harmful chemicals, radiation, etc. smoking tobacco, alcohol consumption, marijuana, prolonged use of certain antibiotics, high blood pressure, and depression. Frequent and prolonged exposure to heat such as in saunas and hot tubs may affect sperm production due to raised body. temperature. 

4. Damage caused due to cancer or its treatment. The treatment includes chemotherapy or radiation that can impair sperm production, in some cases it can be severe.

Causes of Infertility in Women

These causes may include:

1. Ovulation Disorders. Ovulation is a part of the menstrual cycle. Ovulation-simply put, means the release of an egg from the ovary (the female reproductive organ). The egg released may or may not be fertilized by sperm. If it fertilizes, it travels to the uterus and gets implanted to develop pregnancy. If not fertilized, the egg will break and the uterine lining is shed during the periods. 

The disorders that affect the release of the eggs are:

  • PCOS: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also known as Polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a common condition related to a hormonal imbalance in women of reproductive age group. It is characterized by high levels of androgens (male hormones) in the body. In PCOS, eggs are either not produced or not released by the ovaries, leading to irregular and prolonged menstrual cycles. Small fluid-filled sacs (follicles) develop in the ovaries leading to failure of release of the eggs.

  • Hyperprolactinemia is a condition where you have too much prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone that stimulates breast milk production. Hyperprolactinemia can cause irregular or no ovulation, resulting in infertility. Women who have this disorder often have irregular periods, and may also experience galactorrhea (milk production when not pregnant).

  • Hyper or Hypothyroidism is a condition in which either too much or too little thyroid hormone affects the menstrual cycle and causes infertility by interfering with the release of an egg from your ovaries. 

  • Other causes - Other underlying causes may include eating disorders, too much exercise or lack of physical activity, or tumors. 

2. Uterine or cervical abnormalities. These abnormalities include:

  • Polyps (growths on the cervical canal, the passage that connects the uterus to the vagina) in the cervix or in the uterus.

  • Noncancerous tumors in the wall of the uterus can block the fallopian tubes or stop the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. 

3. Fallopian tube damage or blockage. This is caused due to inflammation in the fallopian tubes, known as salpingitis. Salpingitis can result from a pelvic inflammatory disease that is usually caused by sexually transmitted infection, adhesions (causes organs and tissues to stick together), or endometriosis. 

4. Endometriosis. Endometrial tissues are present inside the uterus, when these tissues grow outside of the uterus the function of the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes are affected. 

5. Primary Ovarian insufficiency. This condition is characterized as early menopause. When the ovaries stop working and menstruation ends before the age of 40 this condition is known as menopause. However, due to some unknown reasons, the ovaries may stop working resulting in early menopause. Certain genetic factors, immune system diseases, radiation, or chemotherapy are linked with early menopause. 

6. Cancer and its treatment. Certain types of cancer, especially reproductive cancers usually impair the fertility of a woman. Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy affect fertility. 

Tips for Preventing Infertility 

Some types of fertility cannot be prevented, however, several strategies might increase your chances of pregnancy.

1. Couples who have regular intercourse, several times around the time of ovulation may have more chances to conceive.  

2. Men should:

  • Avoid tobacco, drugs and drinking too much alcohol.

  • Avoid frequent exposure to high temperatures.

  • Avoid exposure to environmental or industrial toxins.

  • Limit the intake of the medication that may affect fertility.

  • Exercise regularly.

3. Women should:

  • Quit smoking.

  • Avoid alcohol and street drugs such as marijuana.

  • Limit caffeine intake.

  • Exercise moderately.

  • Maintain a healthy weight as too much weight or too little weight can affect the hormone production in the body and result in infertility.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.