All About the Causes of Infertility
Infertility is defined as the inability of a couple to become pregnant after one year of unprotected sex. Some causes of infertility are attributed to the male. Other causes are related to the female. Still other causes of infertility can be from a combination of factors or even unexplained altogether.
Common causes of infertility
Primary causes of infertility include the following:
- Problems with ovulation (egg production)
- Anatomic problems such as fallopian tube blockage
- Endometriosis (a common cause of pelvic disease)
- Cervical mucus problems
- Male factors such as low sperm counts or poor motility.
Could age be the problem?
Age is the largest barrier to being able to have a baby. Female fertility is optimal for women over the age of 20 and up until age 30. Women over age 37 become much less fertile and as women age, more pregnancies are lost through miscarriage.
Causes of male infertility often include factors related to a man’s overall health and lifestyle habits (weight, smoking, etc.) as well as the following:
- Poor quality sperm - impaired movement or shape of the sperm, low sperm count or lack of sperm
- An inability for the sperm to reach and fertilize the egg
- Varicocele (a varicose vein in the testicle)
- Prior illnesses and infections
- Sexual issues such as erectile dysfunction
When a couple is unable to get pregnant, it is important for male partners to be medically evaluated. Men should be ready to discuss the following with a doctor:
- Sexual development during puberty
- Sexual history
- Medication and drug use
- Smoking and alcohol use
- Surgeries, illnesses, and infections
- Environmental exposures (toxins, steroids, radiation or chemotherapy)
What type of specialists treat infertility?
Many women rely on their OB/GYN for initial help for fertility problems. In addition to providing treatment for female medical conditions, many of these doctors offer infertility treatment as part of a comprehensive OB/GYN practice. As a bonus, many OB/GYNs make referrals to reproductive endocrinologists as needed.
If there are extensive problems contributing to infertility, consider seeing a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) (also known as a fertility specialist). These doctors have the same training as OB/GYNs with additional training in the subspecialty area of reproductive endocrinology (fertility and hormone issues). An RE should be board certified in reproductive medicine.
Working with an RE is a wise choice when your biological clock is rapidly ticking away and coexisting illnesses and/or much-needed treatments are causing infertility complications.Sources
- RESOLVE: Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility
- MayoClinic.com: Infertility: Causes
- American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM): Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility
- Bruce DF, Thatcher, S., Berg, B. Making a Baby: Everything you need to know to get pregnant.