What are the common causes of infertility?

woman-pregnancy

Infertility is a problem that affects approximately 1 in 7 couple and means that the female is having problems conceiving a baby. Currently, figures suggest that 84% of couples will conceive within one year if they have unprotected sexual intercourse two or three times a week. Sadly, for the remaining 16%, if they fail to become pregnant within three years of having regular sexual intercourse, their chances of conceiving a baby in the next 12 months falls to less than 25%

What is required for the female to become pregnant?

In order to understand why a couple is experiencing fertility problems, it essential to understand exactly what is required for a female to become pregnant. Firstly, the woman needs to produce a healthy egg during her menstrual cycle, which generally happens each month. The next stage is for the couple to have sexual intercourse and the male partner to release healthy sperm which can fertilise the egg. The fertilised eggs must then become attached to the female’s uterus.

If all of the stages are complete, then the female is pregnant. However, unfortunately, there are several reasons why this may not happen.

Problems with the male partner

Three relatively common problems can occur with the male partner, and these are:

  • A low sperm count
  • A problem with the sperm’s movement (motility)
  • A problem with the sperm’s shape(morphology)

Any of these three problems can be caused by a wide range of issues which most commonly include:

  • Infection or disease – for example, this could be a sexually transmitted infection, a childhood problem such as mumps or diabetes
  • Trauma or surgery – injuries to the testicles (testes) are more common than you may appreciate and are often the result of sporting injuries. Surgery such as to remove one testicle due to cancer or other surgical procedures in the inguinal region may leave the male with a low sperm count
  • Genetic or physical problems – this can include undescended testicles or issues with the males DNA such as Down Syndrome
  • Exposure to drugs or chemicals – drugs can consist of both prescription medication and recreational drugs such as marijuana. Tobacco, steroids and excessive consumption of alcohol are also known to have serious implications when it comes to male fertility. With chemicals, it could include chemotherapy, exposure to radiation or pesticides
  • Excessive heat – common causes include wearing underwear that is too tight or spending too long in saunas or hot tubs – thankfully, this usually causes short-term damage that can be rectified in a matter of weeks

Severe premature ejaculation where the man ejaculates before the man’s penis enters the woman’s vagina and vasectomy are also potential problems. Both of these problems can now be treated thanks to modern medical procedures.

Problems with the female partner

Unfortunately, problems with female fertility are more common. They usually result in issues with either the egg being formed or the egg being released. Some of the most common problems include:

  • Problems connected to the female’s hormones – the human body, has an abundance of hormones, many of which are required during the menstrual cycle. Without these hormones, issues with ovulation are likely to occur. Excessive or reduced amounts of any of these hormones are likely to lead to fertility problems if left unaddressed
  • Physical complications – benign growths such as polyps or fibroids can lead to problems with the egg being released as too can damage to the fallopian tubes, physical abnormalities with the reproductive system, endometriosis or scarring from previous surgical procedures
  • Reproductive related disease or infection – women are just as susceptible to disease or infection as men. Ovarian cancer or infections such as Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can again lead to problems with either the release or transportation of the eggs
  • Reduced ovarian reserve – the menopause is part of the natural aging process. It usually occurs when the female is in her late forties or fifties. Premature menopause is also a problem leading to problems with egg quality or the number of eggs that that are released. The eventual result is that the female no longer produces eggs

Other factors that can lead to fertility problems with the female include:

  • A poor diet – it is vital that you eat a balanced diet that contains all the nutrients that you need. It is crucial for healthy hormone production and to reduce your chances of obesity
  • Exposure to drugs or chemicals – as with men, drugs can include both prescription medication and recreational drugs such as marijuana. Tobacco, steroids and excessive consumption of alcohol are also known to have serious implications when it comes to female fertility. It could include chemotherapy as well as exposure to radiation or pesticides
  • Other Diseases – this can include kidney disease, celiac disease, diabetes and sickle cell anaemia
  • Stress – stress not only affects your libido, but it can also affect hormone production
  • Over-exercising – although exercise is generally good for the body, over-exercising can leave the body fatigued and short of nutrients

Treatment

If you are and your partner are having difficulty conceiving a baby and have been trying for more than 12 months, it would be wise, in the first instance, to go and see a doctor. It is possible that they may recommend lifestyle changes such as altering your diet, stopping smoking or reducing alcohol consumption. Alternatively, they may identify some of the medical problems that we have outlined above, problems that can be relieved with the appropriate medication or treatment.

If your doctor fails to identify your problem, you can come and see us at First Fertility. We have the facilities and equipment to not only diagnose your problem but also offer an extensive range of fertility treatments. Our services include:

  • Male Fertility Checks
  • Female Fertility Checks
  • Semen Analysis
  • Chromosome Screening
  • Sperm Sorting
  • Hysteroscopy
  • Egg Freezing
  • IVF/ICSI
  • IUI
  • PGD
  • TESE/TESA/PESA

We look forward to hearing from you and helping establish what your problem may be and then offering a solution to help both you and your partner overcome your fertility problems.

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