WHAT CAUSES FERTILITY PROBLEMS?
Article updated on 7 August 2023
Infertility is a challenging condition that impacts the lives of millions of couples worldwide. This widespread condition is characterized by the inability to conceive after a year of consistent and unprotected intercourse among couples of reproductive age. The desire to start a family and the emotional toll of infertility can be profound, making it a significant concern for many individuals.
Conception, the process of a successful pregnancy, involves a complex interplay of various factors within both the male and female reproductive systems. It requires the synchronized functioning of multiple components to ensure the union of sperm and egg and the subsequent development of a healthy embryo.
Many factors can contribute to infertility, including physical, hormonal, environmental, and lifestyle-related aspects. These factors may affect either or both partners, leading to challenges in achieving pregnancy. Consequently, a comprehensive evaluation of both individuals is essential to identify any underlying issues and tailor an effective treatment plan.
Conception relies on a series of crucial factors:
- Production of Healthy Sperm: Males need to produce healthy sperm capable of fertilizing an egg.
- Production of Healthy Eggs: Females must produce healthy eggs in their ovaries.
- Patent Fallopian Tubes: Females require open and functioning fallopian tubes, through which sperm can travel and fertilize the egg.
- Successful Fertilization: The sperm must successfully fertilize the egg after reaching the fallopian tubes.
- Proper Implantation: The fertilized egg should be implanted in the female uterus.
- Hormonal Environment: The female needs a proper hormonal environment to support the development of the fertilized egg.
Infertility can result from disruptions or abnormalities in any of the above factors. It can be due to factors related to males, females, or both. In more than 50% of cases, infertility has been attributed to female factors.
Male factors may include issues with sperm production, motility, or morphology, while female factors could involve problems with ovulation, fallopian tube blockage, or uterine abnormalities. In some cases, both partners may have contributing factors leading to infertility.
Understanding the specific causes of infertility is essential for effective diagnosis and appropriate treatment. A comprehensive evaluation by healthcare professionals can help identify the underlying factors and guide couples toward a suitable course of action.
By recognizing the complexity of conception and the potential factors that contribute to infertility, individuals and couples can seek timely medical assistance and explore various options available to fulfill their dreams of parenthood.
Female infertility can result from various factors that hinder the passage of sperm into the ovaries and create an unsuitable environment for fertilization and the development of a fertilized egg. Some of the leading causes include:
Disorders that lead to the blockage of fallopian tubes, such as:
- Untreated sexually transmitted diseases.
- Scarring of the fallopian tubes following unsafe abortion.
- Complications from previous abdominal or pelvic surgeries, which may result in pelvic infections and adhesions, contributing to infertility.
The uterus plays a vital role in nurturing the fertilized egg after implantation. However, any infection or congenital abnormalities of the uterus can lead to conception difficulties. Uterine conditions that may contribute to infertility include:
- Endometriosis: Infection of the endometrial layer of the uterus, where the fertilized egg implants during pregnancy.
- Septate Uterus: Congenital septation of the uterus increases the risk of miscarriage.
- Uterine Fibroids: Large fibroids can prevent the implantation of eggs in the uterus and also block fallopian tubes.
Excess production of certain hormones can lead to hormonal imbalances in women, causing infertility. Conditions that contribute to hormonal imbalances include:
- Pituitary tumors
- Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Improper regulation of reproductive hormones through the hypothalamic-pituitary axis can lead to improper ovulation, which is the most common cause of infertility in females.
Apart from the above, other factors that may lead to infertility in females include:
- Advanced age
- Production of antibodies against sperm.
Male infertility can result from various factors that affect the production of healthy sperm and their proper ejaculation into the female genital tract. Some of the primary causes include:
Untreated STIs can lead to the formation of adhesions that obstruct the passage of sperm through the male genital tract. Additionally, injuries to the male genital tract can also cause adhesions and fibrosis, further impairing sperm movement.
Abnormal production of male reproductive hormones from the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and testes can lead to reduced sperm production and overall infertility.
Varicocele is a condition characterized by defective valves in the veins of the scrotum, which impairs proper blood flow in the testis. This condition negatively affects the testis' ability to produce sperm, leading to infertility.
Undescended testis is a congenital condition in which the testes do not descend into the scrotum. This can lead to impaired sperm production and fertility issues.
Injudicious use of anabolic steroids can cause impaired sperm morphology and reduced sperm counts, contributing to male infertility. Understanding these potential causes of male infertility is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
Infertility can be influenced by various environmental and lifestyle factors that impact both men and women. These factors include:
Smoking has detrimental effects on fertility in both men and women. In men, smoking reduces sperm count and impairs sperm quality, leading to fertility issues. Additionally, excessive smoking can cause erectile dysfunction. In women, cigarette smoking alters hormonal levels, resulting in decreased egg production and faulty egg formation. Furthermore, female smokers have a decreased ability to sustain pregnancy.
Regular alcohol consumption has been linked to infertility in both sexes. In men, excess alcohol intake can lead to erectile dysfunction. In women, alcohol consumption can disrupt hormonal balance and interfere with the ovulation process, contributing to fertility problems.
A sedentary lifestyle and obesity can negatively impact fertility in both men and women. Lack of physical activity and unhealthy body weight can lead to hormonal imbalances and hinder reproductive functions.
Diabetes can significantly affect fertility in both sexes. It can lead to hormonal disruptions and impair reproductive capabilities in men and women.
Chronic exposure to harmful radiation and environmental toxins, such as lead, can interfere with the synthesis and regulation of sex hormones in both men and women, potentially leading to fertility issues.
Certain antibiotics and anabolic steroids used in prolonged chemotherapy can have adverse effects on fertility in both men and women.
Research has suggested that mental illnesses like depression and anxiety may impact fertility due to hormonal imbalances caused by these conditions. Both men and women experiencing such mental health challenges may face difficulties in conception.
Seeking Help for Infertility
If you have been trying to conceive for over a year without success, despite regular unprotected intercourse it might be advisable to seek medical assistance. Seeking earlier medical help is even more critical if you or your partner have any of the following conditions:
- Previous History of Ectopic Pregnancy
- Previous History of Miscarriage
- Problems of Penile Erection and Ejaculation
- History of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or STDs
- History of Injury to Internal and External Reproductive Organs
- Disorders of the Thyroid Gland
For women over 35, infertility testing should be considered after six months of unsuccessful conception attempts.
In order to choose the best course of action, your doctor will evaluate the underlying cause of infertility. The fundamental issue will determine the therapy strategy. It may involve lifestyle modifications, medical or hormonal therapy, or even surgical intervention. Assisted reproductive techniques, such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), can also be effective options for conception.
Do not hesitate to talk to your nearest healthcare provider to identify the cause of infertility and find the best treatment options for you and your partner. Seeking timely medical help can increase the chances of successfully overcoming infertility challenges and fulfilling your dream of parenthood.
Infertility is a challenging condition that affects both men and women worldwide. Understanding the potential causes of infertility and seeking timely medical assistance are crucial steps in the journey toward parenthood. Lifestyle traits such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, sedentary habits, and obesity can significantly impact fertility for both sexes. Infertility can also be exacerbated by illnesses, including diabetes, radiation exposure, and some drugs.
If you have been trying to conceive without success, it is important to seek medical help, especially if there are any underlying factors such as previous ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, penile or reproductive organ problems, thyroid disorders, or a history of infections or injuries. Timely diagnosis and proper assessment of the cause of infertility will guide the most suitable treatment plan, which may include lifestyle adjustments, medical or hormonal therapy, or assisted reproductive techniques like IUI and IVF.
Taking proactive steps and collaborating with healthcare providers can empower couples facing infertility challenges to navigate their way toward parenthood. Remember, infertility is a complex condition, and with the right support and care, the dream of starting a family can become a reality. Do not hesitate to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider, as early intervention and appropriate treatments can lead to positive outcomes in fulfilling your parenthood journey.
To search for the best Fertility Healthcare Providers in India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the UAE, the UK and The USA, please use the Mya Care search engine.
To search for the best Fertility Doctors in Malaysia, Spain, Thailand, the UAE, the UK and the USA, please use the Mya Care search engine.
- Sanders, Barry. "Uterine factors and infertility." The Journal of reproductive medicine 51.3 (2006): 169-176.
- Brugo-Olmedo, Santiago, Claudio Chillik, and Susana Kopelman. "Definition and causes of infertility." Reproductive biomedicine online 2.1 (2001): 173-185.
- Moridi, Azam, et al. "Etiology and risk factors associated with infertility." Int J Women’s Health Reprod Sci 7.3 (2019): 346-353.
- Deyhoul, Narjes, Tina Mohamaddoost, and Meimanat Hosseini. "Infertility-related risk factors: a systematic review." Int J Womens Health Reprod Sci 5.1 (2017): 24-29.
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