· By Kristen Scott Ndiaye

9 little-known causes of infertility

If you’re struggling with infertility, know you aren’t alone. On average, about 10% of couples experience fertility problems. 

Infertility means that you haven’t been able to conceive, despite trying for a year or more. It’s further important to note that infertility isn’t solely a woman’s problem. Both sexes are at an equal risk of experiencing infertility. Infertility can also happen due to combined issues involving both the female and male. So, let’s examine the common causes of infertility. Why does it happen? What could potentially be causing your fertility problems?

Common Causes of Female Infertility

Generally, female infertility involves disruptions to the ovulation, fertilization, and/or implantation processes. Inevitably, other health issues can greatly contribute to the development of fertility problems. For example, heavy smoking, drinking, or other stressors may make it less likely that you’ll become pregnant.

Research further indicates that the most commonly identified factors contributing to female infertility include:

  1. Ovulatory Disorders (25%) - This includes hormonal imbalances and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which may interfere with the maturation and release of an egg from the ovaries.
  2. Endometriosis (15%) - This condition occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus grows elsewhere in the body, such as on the ovaries. This can result in ovarian issues, interference with the anatomy of the pelvis, scarring on the fallopian tubes, and inflammation.
  3. Pelvic Adhesions (12%) - These are frequently the result of endometriosis. However, adhesions (scarring) can also occur from surgery or due to a pelvic infection.
  4. Fallopian Tube Blockage (11%) - The primary cause of fallopian tube blockages is attributed to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is an infection involving a woman’s reproductive organs. This can happen due to an STD. However, not all cases of PID occur due to sexually-transmitted diseases.
  5. Uterine Abnormalities (11%) - This may mean uterine fibroids or congenital uterine abnormalities.
  6. Hyperprolactinemia (7%) - This condition is characterized by increased serum prolactin, which may result in irregular or no ovulation. 

Common Causes of Male Infertility

Male infertility also happens due to various issues. These usually involve sperm production, sperm count, sperm quality, and sperm motility (movement).

Some common causes of male infertility include:

  1. Varicocele (40%) - This condition is an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum, which may result in decreased sperm quality and production.
  2. Low Sperm Count (10-15%) - Certain lifestyle choices can contribute to this infertility issue, such as excessive drinking, excessive smoking, medication, and previous or current illness. With age, a healthy sperm count naturally declines.
  3. Retrograde Ejaculation - This is often referred to as a “dry orgasm.” It happens when the semen goes into the bladder as opposed to being ejected from the body during sexual climax.

In some cases, the cause of infertility is unspecified, meaning it isn’t known or can’t be determined. In such instances, your fertility team or doctor will likely recommend IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization).

Your Next Step…

Ultimately, you and your partner need to undergo fertility testing so that your team or doctor can determine what is going on. From there, you have many treatment options, as well as alternative options to begin or expand your family.

While it can be incredibly stressful, frustrating, and upsetting when faced with infertility, there is hope. Stress can also increase fertility issues by interfering with your hormones and increasing inflammation in the body. Take a proactive approach and strive to lead your healthiest and most balanced life possible. This can improve your odds, as well as help reduce incidences of unspecified infertility. 

Most importantly, know that there are others going through the exact same hurdles. Find a community that you can trust and connect with and that can support your throughout your fertility journey.