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What are the common causes of infertility?

Couple suffering from infertility

Introduction: Infertility affects millions globally. This article explores the reasons behind conception challenges, examining both male and female factors and offering a path forward.

Understanding Infertility

Infertility is a problem that affects approximately 1 in 7 couples and means that the female is having problems conceiving a baby. Currently, figures suggest that 84% of couples will conceive within one year if they have unprotected sexual intercourse two or three times a week. Sadly, for the remaining 16%, if they fail to become pregnant within three years of having regular sexual intercourse, their chances of conceiving a baby in the next 12 months falls to less than 25%.

In order to understand why a couple is experiencing fertility problems, it is essential to understand exactly what is required for a female to become pregnant. Firstly, the woman needs to produce a healthy egg during her menstrual cycle, which generally happens each month. The next stage is for the couple to have sexual intercourse and the male partner to release healthy sperm which can fertilize the egg. The fertilized eggs must then become attached to the female’s uterus. If all of the stages are complete, then the female is pregnant. However, unfortunately, there are several reasons why this may not happen.

Female Reproductive Cycles

Female Reproductive Cycles From https://byjus.com/neet/hormonal-control-of-the-female-reproductive-system/

Problems with the Male Partner

Three relatively common problems can occur with the male partner, and these are:

  • A low sperm count
  • A problem with the sperm’s movement (motility)
  • A problem with the sperm’s shape (morphology)


Any of these three problems can be caused by a wide range of issues which most commonly include:

  • Infection or disease – for example, this could be a sexually transmitted infection, a childhood problem such as mumps or diabetes
  • Trauma or surgery – injuries to the testicles (testes) are more common than you may appreciate and are often the result of sporting injuries. Surgery such as to remove one testicle due to cancer or other surgical procedures in the inguinal region may leave the male with a low sperm count
  • Genetic or physical problems – this can include undescended testicles or issues with the male’s DNA such as Down Syndrome
  • Exposure to drugs or chemicals – drugs can consist of both prescription medication and recreational drugs such as marijuana. Tobacco, steroids and excessive consumption of alcohol are also known to have serious implications when it comes to male fertility. With chemicals, it could include chemotherapy, exposure to radiation or pesticides
  • Excessive heat – common causes include wearing underwear that is too tight or spending too long in saunas or hot tubs – thankfully, this usually causes short-term damage that can be rectified in a matter of weeks

Problems with the Female Partner

Unfortunately, problems with female fertility are more common. They usually result in issues with either the egg being formed or the egg being released. Some of the most common problems include:

  • Problems connected to the female’s hormones – the human body has an abundance of hormones, many of which are required during the menstrual cycle. Without these hormones, issues with ovulation are likely to occur. Excessive or reduced amounts of any of these hormones are likely to lead to fertility problems if left unaddressed
  • Physical complications – benign growths such as polyps or fibroids can lead to problems with the egg being released as too can damage to the fallopian tubes, physical abnormalities with the reproductive system, endometriosis or scarring from previous surgical procedures

Factors Affecting Female Fertility

Reproductive-related diseases or infections can significantly impact female fertility. For women, diseases like ovarian cancer or infections such as Chlamydia or Gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), causing issues with the release or transportation of eggs.

We have seen that reduced ovarian reserve and premature menopause can also pose challenges to fertility, affecting egg quality and the number of eggs released in women.

Other Factors Affecting Female Fertility

  • A poor diet – it is vital that you eat a balanced diet that contains all the nutrients that you need. It is crucial for healthy hormone production and to reduce your chances of obesity.
  • Exposure to drugs or chemicals – as with men, drugs can include both prescription medication and recreational drugs such as marijuana. Tobacco, steroids, and excessive consumption of alcohol are also known to have serious implications when it comes to female fertility. It could include chemotherapy as well as exposure to radiation or pesticides.
  • Other Diseases – this can include kidney disease, celiac disease, diabetes and sickle cell anemia.
  • Stress – stress not only affects your libido, but it can also affect hormone production.
  • Over-exercising – although exercise is generally good for the body, over-exercising can leave the body fatigued and short of nutrients.

Treatment Options

If you and your partner are having difficulty conceiving and have been trying for more than 12 months, it would be wise, in the first instance, to consult a doctor. Lifestyle changes such as altering your diet, stopping smoking, or reducing alcohol consumption may be recommended. Additionally, identifying underlying medical problems and seeking the appropriate medication or treatment can help address fertility challenges.

If your doctor is unable to identify the problem, you can reach out to us at First Fertility. We have the facilities and expertise to diagnose fertility issues and provide a wide range of fertility treatments including male and female fertility checks, semen analysis, egg freezing, and advanced procedures like IVF, ICSI, and PGD, among others. We are committed to helping you overcome fertility hurdles and achieve your reproductive goals.

Conclusion: While infertility can present challenges, a doctor’s guidance and advancements in fertility treatments like those offered at First Fertility can turn your family dreams into reality.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Required for the Female to Become Pregnant?

In order for a female to become pregnant, she needs to produce a healthy egg during her menstrual cycle, have sexual intercourse, and require the male partner to release healthy sperm, which can fertilize the egg. The fertilized egg must then become attached to the female’s uterus.

2. What are Some Common Problems with the Male Partner That Can Affect Fertility?

Common problems with the male partner include a low sperm count, problems with sperm movement (motility), and problems with sperm shape (morphology). These issues can be caused by various factors such as infections, trauma or surgery, genetic or physical problems, exposure to drugs or chemicals, and excessive heat exposure.

3. What are Some Common Problems with the Female Partner That Can Affect Fertility?

Common problems with the female partner include hormone-related issues, physical complications, reproductive-related disease or infection, reduced ovarian reserve, and other factors like poor diet, exposure to drugs or chemicals, other diseases, stress, and over-exercising.

4. When Should I Seek Medical Help if I’m Having Difficulty Conceiving?

If you and your partner have been trying for more than 12 months and are having difficulty conceiving, it is advisable to see a doctor. They may recommend lifestyle changes or identify medical problems that can be relieved with appropriate medication or treatment.

5. What Services and Treatments Are Offered at First Fertility?

First Fertility offers a range of services and treatments including male and female fertility checks, semen analysis, chromosome screening, sperm sorting, hysteroscopy, egg freezing, IVF/ICSI, IUI, PGD, and various surgical procedures such as TESE/TESA/PESA.

  • Published on : Monday February 24, 2020
  • Last updated : Monday July 1, 2024
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About the author

Michelle Tan is an IVF Consultant with 12 years of experience in fertility consulting. Having personally undergone IVF and surrogacy, she brings firsthand insight and empathy to her work. Based in Singapore, Michelle frequently travels to clinics in Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Bishkek, sharing her expertise and supporting patients on their fertility journeys.