For couples who are trying to have a baby, the process of conceiving can be frustrating when they are unsuccessful in their efforts. Infertility is a common problem among couples in the United States. In fact, the Mayo Clinic reports that 10-to-15 percent of couples in the U.S. struggle with infertility. Contrary to what many people believe, you may still be able to conceive even if you are infertile. However, there are a few causes of infertility that are not treatable.
The reason you’re not getting pregnant may have to do with male infertility, female infertility or both. The following are some of the possible reasons that you’re having trouble conceiving, separated according to sex.
Causes Of Male Infertility
- Low sperm count: Men may suffer from abnormal sperm production or function due to repeated infections, undescended testicles or genetic defects.
- Sperm delivery issues: Some men suffer from premature ejaculation, retrograde ejaculation or painful intercourse. Other health issues, such as cystic fibrosis, may lead to problems like sperm blockages in the testicles.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to chemicals can affect sperm production and sperm count. Additionally, exposure to high heat in hot tubs or saunas can have a similar effect.
(For possible treatment methods for men, read Male Infertility Treatment Options.)
Causes Of Female Infertility
- Ovulation issues: When injury, tumors or excessive exercise affect ovulation, it can be difficult for a woman to get pregnant. Fallopian tube damage from inflammation or sexually transmitted infections may also cause ovulation problems. In addition, if a woman has elevated levels of the hormones prolactin or androgen, they may not be ovulating correctly.
- Problems in the uterus: Some women get benign tumors in the wall of the uterus called uterine fibroids. Others have endometriosis, which occurs when uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. In either case, the function of the fallopian tubes or uterus can be affected.
- Early menopause: Some women experience menopause before the age of 40 due to immune system diseases, smoking or other health issues.
- Alcohol use: Women who use alcohol at moderate to heavy levels may have more difficulty getting pregnant. However, it’s often a good idea to limit alcohol use while trying to get pregnant since alcohol use does increase the risk of birth defects. Moderate alcohol use doesn’t seem to affect male fertility.
- Bleeding or clotting disorders: When with a problem involving bleeding or clotting may experience infertility problems due to the relationship between bleeding and the reproductive cycle. This includes heavy menstrual bleeding, recurrent fetal loss or clotting complications during pregnancy.
(To learn about possible treatment methods for women, read Female Infertility Treatment Options.)
Causes Of Infertility In Both Men And Women
- Age: A woman’s fertility begins to decline at around the age of 30, while men over the age of 40 are often less fertile than younger men.
- Weight: When either partner is overweight or underweight, it can affect a couple’s ability to conceive. This can often be changed through healthy eating and exercise habits and treatment for eating disorders.
- Cancer treatment: Radiation and chemotherapy may impair sperm production and female reproductive function. This is especially true when cancer affects an area near the reproductive organs in either men or women.
- Smoking: When either partner smokes tobacco, they may find that they have a harder time getting pregnant. In addition, miscarriages are more common in women who smoke. For couples who undergo fertility treatment, their chances of success will be higher if they both do not smoke.
- Drug use: Fertility may be affected when either partner takes certain medications. Often, fertility can be restored by switching to a new medication or not taking the medication anymore. In addition, illicit drugs like marijuana and cocaine can affect fertility in both men and women.
- Scarring: Some men and women have scarring in their reproductive organs which impairs their fertility. These scars may form as the result of sexually transmitted diseases, injuries or surgery. In addition, some women with endometriosis develop scarring in this area.
- Birth defects: When either partner has a birth defect that affects their reproductive organs, it can impair their fertility.
- Health issues: Some health conditions can affect a couple’s ability to conceive. If either partner suffers from obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, an eating disorder or other types of chronic health conditions, they should seek treatment in order to improve their fertility.
Keep in mind that infertility is defined as not getting pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year (or for at least 6 months if the woman is over the age of 34). See your doctor if you are having trouble getting pregnant for more information about possible lifestyle changes and treatment options.