Millions of couples around the world suffer from problems with conceiving a child. Despite of the stigma which used to name women as the primary reason for a couple’s fertility problems, in actuality an equal percentage of the problems come from the male, and in about 20% it is both partners who are experiencing problems causing infertility. In the US, a couple is considered as having fertility issues after 12 months of unsuccessful trying to conceive through contraception-free intercourse, and after six months for women over the age of 35.
The most common causes of infertility in both men and women are either: medical, lifestyle-related or age-related.
The first and most obvious reason for problems with infertility is age. Naturally both women and men have certain years which are considered their “fertile years”. The peak of female fertility is around the age of 20 until about 35 when it starts dropping rapidly. Male fertility peaks from the ages of 20 to 39, and after the age of 40, it drops by around 50%, after which it declines rapidly too.
The reason for this is that the hormonal balance which controls the reproductive systems and functions of both women and men changes with aging by gradually slowing down and eventually stopping altogether. The problem with conceiving and carrying out a normal pregnancy, as well as the risks of defects and problems with having a child at an older age, is why medical experts usually advise both women and men not to delay having babies until after 45-50 years of age.
The other common cause for problems with conceiving a child is the lifestyle of one or both of the parents-to-be. Eating a poor diet and being undernourished, or being overweight, obese and leading a sedentary lifestyle are all factors which are also known to cause fertility problems in both in men and women. Luckily, when some changes in the diet, weight and lifestyle are made, these problems can be reversible, and the chances of conception can increase immensely.
Other lifestyle factors which directly affect fertility of both men and women include indulging in bad habits such as smoking or abusing with alcohol or recreational drugs. Some prescription medications can also interfere with the person’s reproductive system and the ability to conceive a child. These lifestyle factors should also be taken into consideration by couples who want to be parents.
Another factor, which may cause problems with the fertility of one or both of the parents, is the environmental factor. Being exposed to certain chemicals, pesticides and other harmful substances can harm the ability to conceive and can also be dangerous for the baby if a pregnancy occurs.
The other main cause for problems with conception and fertility is a health condition or a number of health conditions which one or both of the parents may have. These could be medical conditions affecting the reproductive system directly or others which affect the functioning of this system in a negative way.
Some of the most common problems which can cause infertility in men are the sperm abnormalities. In fact, about 90% of these cases involve either a low sperm count, bad sperm motility or low sperm quality. Again, the problem with the sperm can be caused by lifestyle factors, environmental factors, and age, as well as by certain medical conditions.
The condition of suffering from low sperm count is called oligospermia. When there is no sperm in the semen, the condition is referred to azoospermia. These conditions may be caused by a blocking of the passages in the male reproductive system, by indulging the bad habits listed above, by genetic defects, by certain pharmaceuticals, as well as by medical conditions i.e. mumps, varicocele, hydrocele, seminoma, and trauma in the testicular area.
Another problem which commonly causes infertility in men is the production of low motility sperm, which basically means that the sperm is too slow, or unable to move forward in order to reach and penetrate the ovulating egg. This condition is generally referred to as asthenospermia, and is often associated with DNA fragmentation.
The case in which a man produces wrongly or abnormally shaped sperm, which cannot fertilize the egg, is called teratospermia.
Other medical and physical causes for male infertility include: retrograde ejaculation – when the sperm cannot be ejaculated but rather returns into the bladder instead, trauma and other physical abnormalities of the reproductive organs, including the testicles, the tubes and other parts of the male reproductive system.
Various underlying hormonal imbalances and genetic disorders in both men and women can cause infertility as well.
The most common physical causes, which cause problems with fertility in women, include ovulatory disorders, poorly functioning fallopian tubes, endometriosis and other additional physical problems.
The common ovulatory disorders causing infertility can be due to hormonal problems and imbalances, which disrupt or hinder proper ovulation, including the production of normal and mature eggs, as well as by physical damage (scarring) of the ovaries, problems with the rupturing of the follicles or by premature menopause.
The other main physical reason for fertility issues in women are poorly functioning fallopian tubes, which means they are partially or fully blocked because of previous medical procedures and surgeries, previous infections, certain diseases of the abdomen, genetic factors or ectopic pregnancies.
Endometriosis is the third most common physical reason for infertility in women. It affects about 10% of the couples suffering from problems conceiving and generally means that the uterus of the woman has an abnormal and excessive growth of the lining of the uterus, the fallopian tubes or the pelvic cavity, which greatly diminishes the chances of conceiving. In fact, unfortunately nearly 40% of the women suffering from endometriosis are infertile.
The rarer physical causes for infertility in females include: having an abnormal uterus, problems with the cervical mucus or congenital abnormalities.
Gladly, a majority of the causes of infertility are reversible, or have solutions enabling the couple to conceive a child, but unfortunately this process can sometimes take quite a bit of patience and time causing disappointments and frustrations along the way for the couple.
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