Couples often feel a loss of control when they are experiencing infertility, and we believe that knowledge is power. We work hard to educate you on the possible causes of infertility and to identify what specific obstacles you and your partner may have.
Most couples under age 35 will become pregnant within the first year of having frequent unprotected sex. When conception doesn’t happen after at least a year of trying to get pregnant, it’s not too early to reach out to your doctor with questions.
Reproductive health involvement
Becoming pregnant is a complex process, and there are reproductive issues that can increase infertility. The important factors in becoming pregnant are hormones, quality eggs, sperm function and age at the time of conception. Anything that negatively affects your reproductive health can cause infertility.
What can cause infertility in women?
Irregular ovulation – A woman is most fertile for six days in her menstrual cycle every month with a 24-hour period for egg fertilization. That’s roughly twelve small windows of opportunity to conceive with regular menstruation. If you don’t regularly have your periods every month, this significantly decreases the already small fertile window of conception taking place.
Endometriosis – A common result of this condition is infertility. Research found that 30 – 50% of women with endometriosis experienced infertility. Endometrial tissue grows outside the uterine lining and causes lesions to develop which can then form scar tissue. This leads to painful inflammation in the area. Cysts can form and make it extremely hard to conceive.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – This treatable condition of hormonal imbalance affects a woman’s reproductive system. Hormones play a large role in becoming pregnant. The immature eggs on the ovary do not experience the usual hormonal fluctuations that result in a mature egg developing for release at ovulation. And this results in infertility and irregular periods.
Early-onset menopause – This can be tied to an immune system disease or a genetic syndrome. Menopause occurs on average at age 51 in the U.S. Experiencing it before age 40 is considered premature menopause.
Uterine fibroids – These benign (noncancerous) tumors consist of muscle tissue in the uterus. Fibroids can alter the uterus, changing its shape and size, which affects the number of sperm that can enter. Fibroids only become a problem and may cause infertility when the tumors grow large and block the fallopian tubes or interfere with the endometrial cavity. They can grow large enough to restrict blood flow to the uterine cavity, decreasing the likelihood of implantation and embryo development.
Pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID) – PID can result from untreated sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. The bacteria that cause PID are treatable and even curable with antibiotics, but the scar tissue damage it leaves behind is irreversible. Pelvic infections can affect the reproductive system: This includes the fallopian tubes, cervix, uterus and ovaries.
What can cause infertility in men?
Sperm quality – Unhealthy or poorly functioning sperm can make conceiving difficult. When sperm doesn’t move quickly to travel and meet the egg during the short window of fertility, pregnancy doesn’t happen.
Retrograde ejaculation – This is a medical condition involving sperm releasing into the bladder versus outside the penis as it should.
Varicocele – This is the enlargement of the veins in the scrotum. This medical condition affects sperm quality and may be related to abnormal testicular temperature regulation.
Treatment options for infertility
Signs of infertility in women and men usually result from other underlying conditions. A visit with your doctor can help determine if you and/or your partner are experiencing infertility. Medical history, sexual history, and current medication use are some topics to discuss with your doctor to help determine infertility treatment. Your doctor will usually conduct a physical examination as well.
Infertility treatment for women may involve:
- Counseling to help you on your journey to conceive
- Hormone treatment to correct an imbalance
- Surgery to remove endometriosis
- Intrauterine insemination
- In vitro fertilization
Infertility treatment for men may involve:
- Medication and counseling to help with erectile or ejaculation dysfunction
- Surgery to rectify a testicular-related medical condition
- Hormone treatment to correct an imbalance