If a couple cannot conceive a child in a year of having regular unprotected sex (six months for those older than 35), it means they may be facing an infertility problem. In this case, they are not alone, as at least 1 in 7 couples worldwide have difficulty conceiving.
Infertility means that either the man or woman or both of them have something happening in their bodies that prevents conception. Male and female infertility are equally common so it’s crucial that both partners get checked for factors that may cause the problem.
What Causes Male Infertility
- Too little sperm count. If a man’s semen contains fewer than 15 million sperm cells per milliliter, this may be not enough to conceive.
- Low sperm motility. Sperms can be too slow to reach and fertilize an egg.
- Abnormal sperm. Sperm cells can have defects that prevent them from fertilizing an egg.
What Causes Female Infertility
- Ovulation disorders. These may be caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or another hormonal abnormality.
- Blocked uterine tubes. A tube can be blocked as a result of pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, or surgery.
- Gynecological conditions affecting the uterine cavity. These include chronic inflammation, intrauterine adhesions, uterine fibroids and polyps, or adenomyosis.
In some cases, the exact cause of infertility may remain unclear. But there are known risk factors for both male and female infertility.
What Can Lead to Infertility in Both Women and Men
- Age. This is the most important factor affecting fertility
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhea and chlamydia
- Being underweight or overweight
- Smoking and drinking alcohol
- Chemotherapy and /or radiation therapy
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Poor diet
- Chronic stress
In some cases, fertility can be successfully restored after the underlying condition has been managed. Otherwise, infertility can be successfully managed with the appropriate medical treatment, endoscopic surgery, or with the help of assisted reproductive technology (ART). Its techniques vary in the approach to the problem. Consulting a specialist is the best way to find out which option is the best.
Content created in association with EBCOG, the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.