Causes of Infertility
Infertility is a common problem in today's society affecting approximately 15% of couples. There are multiple causes with the most common being problems with the male reproductive system (35%), and anatomic abnormalities or damage involving the female reproductive organs (35%). Endometriosis is a major cause of damage to the female pelvic organs, especially the ovaries and fallopian tubes. If left untreated, endometriosis increases the risk of infertility and may decrease IVF success. Abnormalities with ovulation account for about 15% of cases and another 10-15% of infertility is unexplained. Other causes such as autoimmune disorders, genetic abnormalities, and asymptomatic genital infections have also been implicated.
Infertility, which affects as many as 1 in 6 couples, is defined as the inability of a couple to conceive a child after one year of unprotected sex and is usually diagnosed through medical interviews and physical examinations of both partners. Infertility can be caused by a wide variety of factors. One-third of the time the problem lies with the male, one-third of the time it lies with the female, and one-third of the time infertility is caused by problems with both the male and the female.
Causes of Male Infertility
In males infertility can be caused by a variety of problems. Some of the more common disorders are listed below.
- Deficient Sperm Production: The production of sperm of low count, motility and increased abnormality commonly leads to infertility.
- Varicocele: A varicose vein around one of the two spermatic cords can cause blood to pool in the testes, this, in turn, causes the temperature to increase in this area. Higher temperatures decrease sperm production and can lead to infertility.
- Infections: Twenty-eight to seventy-one percent of infertile men show some signs of an infection of their reproductive organs. The presence of antisperm antibodies, which attack and destroy the sperm, are usually a good indicator that an infection is present.
- Ductal Obstruction: Blockage or damage to the spermatic tubes.
- Ejaculatory Dysfunction: These disorders are characterized by the failure to deliver sperm to the vagina.
Other factors that can cause male infertility include abnormal development or damage of the testes, genetic disorders such as a chromosomal abnormality and daily habits like smoking and alcohol.
Normal Sperm Parameters
The characteristics of a normal semen sample are mentioned in the table below:
|Morphology:||<85% (abnormal shapes)|
Causes of Female Infertility
The main causes of female infertility are the following:
- Hormonal Disorders that effect normal ovulation and the quality of the formed oocytes. The most common hormonal disorder in women is the polycystic ovarian disease/syndrome.
- Age: After the age of 30 the quality of your eggs begins to diminish, and it becomes harder to become pregnant and carry a fetus to term. The older a woman is the more likely it is that her eggs will have chromosomal abnormalities.
- Endometriosis: This disorder occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus (the endometrium) grows into growths or lesions outside of the uterus (usually on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the outer surface of the uterus, vagina, cervix).
- Pelvic Adhesions: These are usually caused by surgery or infection, and occur when scar tissue forms between two or more internal organs. When this tissue affects the ovaries or fallopian tubes, infertility can result.
- Immunological Infertility: This disorder occurs when the woman's system produces antisperm antibodies, which destroy her partner's sperm.
- Genetic and Chromosomal Abnormalities
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: This infection of the reproductive tract can lead to blocked or damaged fallopian tubes.
- Daily habits: stress, alcohol and smoking
Infertility Treatment Options
Infertility treatment is based on the findings from a diagnostic workup, which can include various blood tests and imaging studies. Treatment may require instruction and behavior modification, hormonal therapy, or surgical intervention.
What is the cause of your infertility?