Understanding the Signs and Causes of Infertility

Understanding the Signs and Causes of Infertility

Understanding the Signs and Causes of Infertility

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 26% of married women in the U.S. aged 15-49 have infertility issues. Infertility is generally diagnosed after a year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive, or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term after conceiving. Here we’ll explain causes, symptoms and available treatments available to those experiencing infertility.

What is infertility?

Infertility is a condition where an individual, male or female, is unable to conceive a child due to a reproductive issue with one or both partners. Infertility can affect anyone, and there are several possible causes, including hormonal imbalances, genetic factors, and lifestyle choices. The good news is that several effective treatment options can help overcome infertility.

What are the types of infertility?

  • Primary infertility: Primary infertility is when a person is unable to conceive after one year
    of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse.
  • Secondary infertility: Secondary infertility is when a person who previously conceived can no
    longer conceive.
  • Unexplained infertility: Unexplained infertility occurs when a woman or couple can’t conceive
    despite fertility testing revealing no underlying cause.

Signs of infertility

As stated above, the primary sign of infertility is the inability to come pregnant after
6 to 12 months of regular unprotected sex. Some of the more common physical symptoms of infertility include:

  • Irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Irregular or no periods
  • Abdominal pain
  • Penile disorders and issues with ejaculation

Causes of infertility in women

  • Ovulation disorders: Studies reveal 25% of infertility cases in females are due to ovulation disorders. Ovulation refers to the monthly release of eggs in a woman’s ovaries. If the egg is not released or is released irregularly, it may impact fertility. Issues in the uterus or fallopian tubes can also prevent the egg from traveling from the ovary to the uterus for fertilization. Other ovulation disorders, such as hyperprolactinemia and thyroid problems, can also prevent an egg from being released.
  • Implantation failure: This is the failure of a fertilized egg to implant in the uterine wall at inception. Specific causes of implantation failure are unknown, though possibilities include genetic defects in the embryo, endometriosis, a thin endometrium, scar tissue in the endometrial cavity and progesterone resistance.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): PCOS , one of the most common causes of female infertility, occurs when the ovaries produce excessive amounts of the male hormone testosterone. This lowers the level of female follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), preventing the release of a mature egg and causing the follicle to fill with fluid and become a cyst.
  • Tubal blockages: Damaged fallopian tubes can block eggs from traveling from the ovaries into the uterus, and also prevent the sperm from reaching the egg. One of the most common causes of tubal blockages is repeated or severe Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) due to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia.
  • Poor egg condition: Damaged eggs and those with abnormalities cannot sustain a pregnancy. This problem is common with women in their late 30s and early 40s, with studies showing that declining egg quality means that a 40-year-old woman has just a 5% chance of becoming pregnant each month.
  • Endometriosis: This is a condition that occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, negatively impacting function of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.
  • Early menopause: Early menopause is when a woman’s ovaries stop working, and menstruation ends before age 40. The cause of early menopause remains unknown.

Infertility treatments for women

  • Fertility drugs: SFertility drugs and medications can be used to stimulate or regulate ovulation in women with infertility problems. This is often the primary treatment for women with infertility issues due to ovulation disorders.
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI): During an IUI procedure, the doctor places a healthy sperm directly in the uterus around the time when the ovary is releasing eggs to be fertilized. The timing of the treatment is often coordinated with a normal ovulation cycle or with the help of fertility medications.
  • Surgical treatments: Hysteroscopic surgery can treat several uterine problems, including fibroids, intrauterine scar tissue, uterine septum, and an endometrial polyp. The doctor can also surgically treat endometriosis, pelvic adhesions and larger fibroids that impact fertility.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF): In vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment involves retrieving eggs from the ovary and placing them with sperm in a lab dish. Once the sperm has fertilized the egg, the embryo is transferred back into your uterus.
  • Assisted hatching: This procedure involves opening the outer layer of an embryo, making it easier for it to implant in the uterine lining.

Is infertility a female only issue?

No, it isn’t. Research shows that approximately 33% of infertility cases are due to female infertility, while another 33% are due to male infertility issues.

What causes infertility in men?

Male infertility is primarily attributed to low sperm count, abnormal sperm function and blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Other causes include:

  • Enlarged veins or varicocele in a man’s scrotum that hold their testicles
  • Genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis
  • Sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction
  • Low testosterone levels
  • Injury to the scrotum or testicles
  • High heat exposure to the testicles from frequent use of hot tubs or holding laptops
  • Prior surgical sterilization, such as vasectomy
  • Some medications and drugs, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy

Infertility treatment for men

  • Fertility drugs: SFertility drugs and medications can be used to stimulate or regulate ovulation in women with infertility problems. This is often the primary treatment for women with infertility issues due to ovulation disorders.
  • Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes can improve fertility, including regular exercise, improving the frequency and timing of intercourse, avoiding lubricants containing spermicides, and avoiding tobacco, marijuana, anabolic steroids and recreational drugs.
  • Medications: A doctor can prescribe medications that raise testosterone and other hormone levels. If infertility is due to erectile dysfunction, your doctor can prescribe drugs to help maintain an erection during sex.
  • Surgery: If the tubes that carry sperm have been blocked or damaged, a varicocele surgery can be performed to open the blockages in the tubes and repair structural problems.

How can I prevent infertility?

While you’ve undoubtedly heard all of this before, it bears repeating that eating a well-balanced diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding tobacco and alcohol abuse, staying physically active and considering fertility preservation are all steps that can help protect your fertility.

Halo Fertility can help you conceive

Getting – and staying – pregnant can be complicated, especially with an infertility diagnosis. If you are struggling to get pregnant, Halo Fertility provides effective solutions to address your issues. We provide personalized fertility treatments , from IUI to IVF to third party and LGBTQ+ services. Schedule an appointment today to discuss your issues with our board-certified physicians.

Follow Us

Recent Post