may be caused by any number of conditions. And there are a variety
of causes associated with those conditions—both internal
and external. Some people are just born with it while other times
outside factors may affect fertility, and a pre-existing disease
or condition may interfere as well.
Fertility and the ability to conceive involves the proper functioning
of a number of aspects of your and your partner’s reproductive
- Healthy sperm
- Sperm’s ability to fertilize the egg
- Ability of a fertilized egg to implant in a woman’s uterus
- Sufficient embryo quality
- Healthy eggs
- Unblocked fallopian tubes
In men, infertility is caused by either a lack of sperm or malformed
sperm. Some men produce no sperm at all. A man can be born with
fertility problems and sometimes these fertility problems are associated
with a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis, but they can also
be attributed to injuries later in life. A man’s lifestyle
has a great influence on his fertility, and drug and alcohol abuse
may reduce sperm quality. Environmental toxins, including pesticides
and lead, can also affect fertility in men.
In women, infertility is most commonly cause by ovulation problems.
Ovulation is the process whereby an egg is released from the ovary
and made available for fertilization. You might be aware that you
have an ovulation problem, because you have irregular periods or
amenorrhea (absence of periods). Ovulation problems can be influenced
by your lifestyle—if you are overly stressed, have an improper
diet or an eating
disorder, or if you have an excessively strenuous exercise
routine, ovulation may be affected. Some hormonal problems also
affect ovulation, including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS),
a hormonal syndrome and common cause of infertility that may also
affect metabolism. Women with PCOS develop enlarged ovaries and
multiple small cysts. PCOS can be managed with weight loss and
exercise that might stimulate renewed ovulation.
Aging will also affect ovulation. Most professionals agree that
after 35 the ovaries begin to release fewer eggs. Menopause will
render you infertile because you no longer release any eggs. Besides
ovulation difficulties, many other factors that contribute to fertility
problems, including closed fallopian tubes, which inhibit the sperm’s
access to the released egg. Endometriosis is a pre-existing condition
that causes adhesions and cysts in the uterus and can be very painful.
It may also cause infertility. Some women are born with abnormally
developed reproductive organs, including the uterus. Uterine fibroids
are often associated with repeated miscarriages and infertility.
After you meet with your provider to discuss the possibility of
infertility, he or she will conduct an extensive interview to make
sure that you are having sex at the right times to promote conception.
The interview will be accompanied by a full physical exam and preliminary
blood tests. You may undergo tests and screenings to help identify
the problem. Knowing the cause of infertility is crucial to deciding
on the appropriate treatment. Men usually undergo semen analysis,
a test to check for any defects in the sperm, etc. Both you and
your partner will be tested for hormone levels, which can show
any ovulation or sperm production problem. After these initial
tests, if there is no identifiable cause, another round of tests
will be ordered. Your provider might choose to test your fallopian
tube function with an x-ray using a contrast dye to view any problems
in the uterus or fallopian tubes or laparoscopy, which provides
a direct view of the reproductive organs by internally inserting
a fiber optic camera. The results of these tests may provide an
explanation for your problems with fertility. Sometimes, a couple’s
inability to conceive or carry out a pregnancy is unknown. In fact,
at least 10 percent of all infertility cases have unknown causes.
In those cases, it may be more difficult to find the right treatment,
although other options may be explored.