What is infertility and why does it happen?

With all the photos of movie stars sporting baby bumps well into their late 30s and even 40s, you might think that getting pregnant is easy. But often it's not. Up to 1 in 6 couples struggles with infertility.

Infertility is the inability to get pregnant after one year (or 6 months if the woman is 35 or over) of regular, unprotected intercourse. It is equally likely to be related to male factors (one-fifth of cases) or female factors (one-third of cases). The remaining cases are unexplained or caused by both female and male factors.

Factors that may contribute to infertility in men include:

  • problems with sperm (e.g., abnormally-shaped sperm, sperm that cannot swim properly, low sperm count): these may be caused by infections (such as mumps after puberty or sexually transmitted infections), age, medical conditions, or exposure to chemicals or high temperatures
  • abnormalities of the reproductive organs (such as undescended testes) or male hormone levels
  • erectile dysfunction (trouble getting an erection that is adequate for penetration)
  • retrograde ejaculation (a condition where semen moves into the bladder instead of out of the penis during ejaculation)

Factors that may contribute to infertility in women include:

  • problems with ovulation (releasing an egg from the ovaries)
  • damaged or blocked fallopian tubes
  • problems with cervical mucus (such as mucus that is too thick or mucus that contains sperm-killing antibodies)
  • endometriosis (a condition where uterus lining tissue is found outside of the uterus)
  • polycystic ovary syndrome (a hormonal imbalance that interferes with ovulation)
  • uterine fibroids (benign growths in the uterus wall)
  • scar tissue in or near the reproductive organs (may be caused by sexually transmitted infections, appendicitis, or surgery in the abdominal or pelvic area)
  • birth defects causing an abnormally-shaped uterus
  • early menopause

Other factors that can affect fertility (in both men and women):

  • age (both men's and women's fertility declines with age, although the decrease is more dramatic in women)
  • emotional stress (which can affect hormone levels)
  • poor nutrition
  • being overweight
  • exposure to toxic chemicals (such as lead and pesticides)
  • certain medications
  • smoking, drug use, or excessive alcohol intake
  • lubricant use
  • certain medical conditions (e.g., cancer, diabetes, thyroid problems)

Factors other than those listed may also play a role in infertility. If you are concerned about fertility, speak to your doctor to find out if any of these factors could be affecting your chances of conceiving.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Infertility-What-Are-the-Signs