A diagnosis of infertility can be difficult to process if you are trying to have a child. For many people, it causes plenty of stress and anxiety and can subject them to a certain undeserved stigma.
Here, one of the biggest misconceptions we often hear is that it’s mostly women who are responsible for reasons for infertility. In reality, people of all sexes may be equally affected.
According to national numbers, in fact, 30% of infertility cases are caused by risk factors across men, 30% across women, and the rest by a combination of factors affecting both.
In recent years, we also know that infertility has increased in prevalence across the UK.
In this post, we want to dive into common fertility issues that may affect one or both individuals and highlight that overcoming infertility is often a collaborative journey.
The main causes for infertility in men
When considered from a medical perspective, common factors causing infertility in men involve issues with the following:
- The production of sperm
- Low sperm count
- Issues with ejaculation
- The shape of sperm
- The movement of sperm
Certain lifestyle choices can affect these factors too.
Many studies have shown that smoking and alcohol consumption, for instance, can have an impact on erectile dysfunction and the health of sperm. Heavy drinking may lead to hormonal imbalances and cause a reduction in sperm production too.
Obesity can also cause infertility in men; according to a study by Harvard University, obese men are 42% more likely to have low sperm count and 81% are more likely to produce little to no sperm during ejaculation.
In addition to lifestyle choices, medical conditions like retrograde ejaculation—a condition that causes ejaculate to end up in the bladder—and varicocele, which refers to swelling in the veins around the testicles, may cause infertility in men.
Ageing may also cause certain issues—male fertility generally reduces after the age of 45.
Common causes of infertility challenges in women
Female infertility is generally caused by interruptions in processes spanning ovulation, fertilisation, and implantation.
Ovulation refers to when the ovaries release a mature egg, which then becomes an embryo during the fertilisation process and ends up in the womb, where it is implanted into the uterus lining.
Similar to men, certain lifestyle choices and side effects of certain medications could cause infertility. Unlike men, however, most women experience infertility due to various medical conditions including, but not limited to, the following.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS causes an increase in the male hormones in women leading to irregular menstrual cycles, potentially making it harder to conceive.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
PID refers to inflammation in the pelvis area caused by a bacterial infection in female reproductive organs, including the fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, and uterus.
Bacteria that cause STDs, such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia, are the primary causes of PID.
Endometriosis causes the growth of uterine tissues around the ovaries, pelvis, and bowel, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and affecting the ovulation process.
Uterine fibroids refer to a benign growth in the uterine. In many cases, these fibroids do not cause any symptoms. Larger fibroids may, however, cause severe abdominal pain and heavy periods.
Explore options on how you can address reasons for infertility
Improving fertility should be a collaborative effort across both individuals, as both are equally at risk of experiencing various issues. As someone trying to conceive, you need to make the right lifestyle and health choices to improve the chances of pregnancy.
According to fertility experts, reducing or avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption, for example, can reduce these risks significantly. Eating a balanced diet and staying physically and mentally fit can have an effect on your chances as well.
If medical conditions are the reasons for infertility you or your partner may be experiencing, consult fertility experts to get an understanding of what you can do.