About 1 in 6 couples experience difficulty in conceiving a child. While about 30% of cases are male related, a woman’s age is the single most important factor affecting a couple’s chances of conceiving. For this reason, women who are under the age of 35 and who have tried for pregnancy for 12 consecutive months without success should consult a fertility specialist for medical advice. For women who are older than 35, the trying period should be six months. It is recommended that both partners attend this consultation for some initial tests. Not only is this important to improve the chances of conception, but also to reduce the strain that recurrent problems and failures may have on a couple.
The good news is that many causes of infertility are treatable and do not always result in treatments such as IVF. Below are some of the major reasons that can cause fertility problems in both men and women, but you should be aware that lifestyle choices such as poor diet, smoking, and alcohol also contribute to fertility issues.
Major causes of female fertility problems:
Women with poor egg quality or problems with their chromosomes usually have problems conceiving. Poor egg quality is directly related to the age of the woman. Ovulation irregularities are also a big obstruction to conception. Medication that stimulates the ovulation process may help to overcome the problem.
Endometriosis is a common cause of infertility in women, caused by the growth of uterine tissue outside the uterine wall. Laparoscopic surgery is a useful technique to remove the excess tissue that may block the fallopian tubes. Treatment is successful for up to 60% of women who go through the procedure.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome causes an imbalance in hormones and subsequent irregular ovulation, which can impede conception. Sexually transmitted diseases or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) may also cause fertility problems by damaging the uterus or fallopian tubes.
Major Causes of Men’s Infertility:
Some men are unable to produce sperm at all and others have issues with a low sperm count or a high number of sperm abnormalities. This problem can be solved by hormone therapy or fertility treatment. Typically, more than 20 million sperm/ml needs to be present in the semen for natural conception, and more than half of those need to move forward quickly, with at least 10% a normal shape.
Sometimes presence of varicose veins in the testicles or the effects of sexually transmitted diseases can cause a blockage in the vas deferens or epididymis. Vas deferens or epididymis is a tube that helps the sperm to move during ejaculation. Surgery is usually successful in removing this obstruction.
Male infertility affects almost half of all couples experiencing fertility problems, so it’s important for both partners to undergo some fertility investigations. A fertility specialist can identify if there are any obvious problems and recommend the best path to pregnancy.