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What Causes Infertility?

What is infertility?

Infertility is the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse. This means that a couple is not able to become pregnant after a year of trying. However, for women aged 35 and older, the inability to conceive after 6 months is generally considered infertility.

No one can be blamed for infertility any more than anyone is to blame for diabetes or leukemia. In rough terms, about one-third of infertility cases can be attributed to male factors and about one-third to factors that affect women. For the remaining one-third of infertile couples, infertility is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or, in about 20 percent of cases, is unexplained.

What can cause infertility in women?

A woman's age can have a big effect on her ability to have a baby, especially as she enters her 30s and 40s. For a healthy woman in her 20s or early 30s, the chances of conceiving each month is 25%-30%. But by the time a woman is 40 years old, the chances are 10% or less.

The most common female infertility factor is an ovulation disorder. Other causes of female infertility include blocked fallopian tubes, which can occur when a woman has had pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis (a sometimes painful condition causing adhesions and cysts). Congenital anomalies (birth defects) involving the structure of the uterus and uterine fibroids are associated with repeated miscarriages.

What can cause infertility in men?

The most common male infertility factors include azoospermia (no sperm cells are produced) and oligospermia (few sperm cells are produced). Sometimes, sperm cells are malformed or they die before they can reach the egg. In rare cases, infertility in men is caused by a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis or a chromosomal abnormality.

What can I do about my infertility?

Going to see a fertility specialist may help a couple figure out why they're not conceiving. Women see a reproductive endocrinologist and men see a urologist who specializes in fertility. In some (10% or more) cases, though, there may not be an obvious reason why a couple can't conceive. This is known as unexplained infertility. Fertility treatments can often help these couples with unexplained infertility.

ReproductiveFacts.org
is a patient education website of ASRM.
 

Zika