Causes of Infertility

Causes of Infertility:

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive even after having frequent, unprotected intercourse for a period of a minimum of 1 year.

Most of the couples trying to have a child get pregnant within the first 6 months. Almost 90% of the couples surely conceive within a year. The remaining 10% of the couples are then said to be suffering from infertility.

In 30% of the cases, the females are suffering from infertility; another 30% is because of male infertility, around 20% is because of combined causes, and in around 10% of the patients the cause cannot be established. It is known as unexplained infertility.

Common Causes:

  • Sexually transmitted disease: STDs like syphilis, Chlamydia, gonorrhea have a negative effect on fertility.
  • Cancer treatments: if any of the partners is suffering from cancer, radiotherapy or chemotherapy might render them infertile.
  • Smoking and alcohol: smoking and alcohol consumption in females, as well as males, have a negative impact on fertility.
  • General diseases: diseases like Diabetes and thyroid problem may affect fertility.
  • Hormonal problems: abnormal levels of hypothalamic and pituitary hormones in the brain can also affect fertility.
  • Lifestyle disorders: obesity can lead to problems infertility in both males and females.
  • Psychological problems: stress is also an important factor to be considered while diagnosing the cause of infertility.
  • Cancer of reproductive organs: it may make the patient infertile.

Female Infertility Causes

  • Advanced age: As the age of the female advances, the number of good quality eggs in her ovary decrease, this makes it difficult for her to conceive.
  • Ovulation problems: in order to achieve a pregnancy a female should be able to ovulate. Problems in ovulation may lead to infertility. E.g. PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
  • Tubal causes: the fallopian tubes connect the ovaries and the uterus. If they are obstructed, the pregnancy cannot occur.
  • Uterine abnormalities: the uterus may have some congenital structural deformities. E.g. uterine septum. Other pathologies like fibroids, endometriosis, and polyps cause problems with implantation rendering the patient infertile.
  • Adhesions: if there are intrauterine adhesions, they can render the female unable of conceiving.
  • Cervical causes: some of the females have abnormal mucus, which might lead to the killing of the sperms in the cervix itself leading to infertility.
  • Infections: females may not be able to conceive if they have infections in the pelvic region like pelvic TB.
  • Genetic abnormalities: some of the genetic abnormalities if present make the woman infertile. E.g. Turner’s syndrome.
  • Other diseases: some diseases like Cushing’s disease, celiac disease can lead to amenorrhoea (absence of menstruation) which in turn leads to infertility.

Male Infertility Causes

Problems with sperm production:

  • Sperm abnormality: low count, or abnormal shape, and decreased motility may contribute to infertility.
  • Varicocele: Varicocele is an abnormal collection of dilated veins above the testes. It’s found in almost 40% of cases.
  • Infections: Infections in the testicle (orchitis) and epididymis can lead to infertility in males.
  • Undescended testicles: if the testicles are Undescended then sperm production is hampered.
  • Anti-androgen medicines: the use of some medicines can make the patient infertile. E.g. anabolic steroids
  • Mumps: the history of mumps in childhood may render the patient infertile in adulthood.
  • Genetic abnormalities: some of the genetic abnormalities if present make the man infertile. E.g. Klinefelter syndrome.
  • Trauma: any kind of trauma may render the patient infertile depending on the extent of the injury.
  • Antibodies against sperm: these antibodies kill the sperms and decrease the count.

Problems with sperm transportation:

  • Prostate enlargement: enlargement of the prostate gland results in obstruction in the flow of the semen.
  • Infections: Infections in the prostate gland (prostatitis) can cause infertility.
  • Absent vas deferens: If the tubes that carry sperms are absent, the patient can become infertile.
  • Vasectomy: a patient if has undergone the vasectomy, he becomes permanently infertile.
  • Retrograde ejaculation: when the semen gets ejaculated in the bladder instead of outside via the urethra.
  • Ejaculatory duct obstruction: in this condition, one or both of the tubes may be obstructed.

Also, sexual problems like premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction can lead to infertility though only 1% of the cases.

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