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Common Causes of Infertility and How to Treat Them
Article from medical experts from our clinic
2022-08-22

Common Causes of Infertility and How to Treat Them

When presented with the concept of infertility, it is only understandable that you may become upset and overwhelmed. However, it is also important to remember that many of the primary causes of infertility are very common and may be treated in a number of different ways.

Read on to learn more about the causes of infertility that you or your partner may be experiencing, or contact GENNET City Fertility today to book a consultation with one of our specialists.

What are the Main Causes of Infertility?

There are several causes of infertility in both men and women that might be described as the “main” causes, or at least the most common. These usually vary from patient to patient, as they depend on factors such as the person’s lifestyle, medical health and history, and environmental factors that may or may not be outside of their control. 

We have divided the most common causes of infertility in men and women below for your convenience:

Common Causes of Infertility in Women

The most common causes of infertility in women, or in patients who were born female but now identify as non-binary or transgender, are most often split into medical and lifestyle factors. 

For pregnancy to occur in the body, every step of the reproductive process has to happen correctly. This means a healthy, mature egg has to be released by one of the person’s ovaries, which must then be picked up by one of their fallopian tubes. At this stage, the egg must travel down and be met by sperm swimming up the cervix, through the uterus, and into the fallopian tube. Once it is fertilised by a sperm cell, the egg will then have to travel down through the rest of the fallopian tube and attach to the inside of the uterine lining (the wall of the uterus), where it will start to grow.

If any part of this process is disrupted, a pregnancy will most likely not take place. Most often, this disruption will be due to factors related to the person’s medical history or lifestyle. These include:

Health and Lifestyle Causes

  • Ageing (which is considered one of the primary causes of infertility in women)
  • Anxiety, depression, or stress
  • Drug use (including the use of tobacco)
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Stopping birth control (this may delay future fertility for a few months, but is not likely to be permanent)
  • Weight (being overweight or underweight has the potential to affect ovulation)

Medical Causes

  • Anovulation (when a patient does not ovulate at all in what would otherwise be a regular cycle)
  • Benign polyps or tumours
  • Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes
  • Damage to the uterus, or having a misshapen uterus
  • Hormonal imbalances (such as those found with thyroid issues)
  • Infections (including those that are sexually transmitted)
  • Ovulation disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, or primary ovarian insufficiency (in which young women experience reduced fertility)
  • Prior surgeries causing scarring

Unexplained Infertility

It is unfortunate, but for some couples, there may simply be no apparent reason why they are having difficulty conceiving. Even after tests and investigations have been carried out by doctors, on some occasions, the primary cause of infertility in a patient (or in patients) may not present themselves. This is known as “unexplained infertility” and is suggested to affect between 10% and 30% of those affected by infertility issues.

While it is frustrating and may be upsetting to hear of this potential cause, we wish to reassure you that a diagnosis of unexplained infertility does not mean that you will never be able to get pregnant. In many cases, unexplained infertility may correct itself over time, or a patient may simply require further testing or to undergo treatment for the cause to present itself.

For young women (medically speaking, this is women under the age of 35), it is highly recommended that you speak with your doctor or healthcare provider if you are having frequent, unprotected sex and do not become pregnant within a year of trying. 

Treatments for Female Infertility 

Whether or not a fertility specialist is able to uncover the main causes of a female patient’s infertility issues, there are many treatment options available that they will still be able to recommend. For many couples, this may begin with the doctor suggesting that they try to conceive naturally for a while longer. This is because even if a couple does not conceive within the first year of trying, they may succeed within the second year without any assistance.

For both young women and older women, there are several actions that can be taken in their day-to-day life which may improve their fertility potential:

  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Having sex every 2-3 days
  • Moderating alcohol consumption, or even avoiding it
  • Reducing sources of stress
  • Stopping smoking and avoiding recreational drugs

If these suggestions do not work, or a specialist has made a diagnosis which indicates that they will not work on their own, there are also a number of professionally-provided treatments which may overcome the causes of infertility in women. These may allow a patient to become pregnant by finding a way around the issue, or perhaps even cure the issue itself:

  • Assisted reproductive technologies (often shortened to ART, these treatments may include in-vitro fertilisation, which is commonly called IVF, and intrauterine insemination, which is often shortened to IUI)
  • Hormone treatments and medications
  • Surgery (especially in cases of blocked or scarred fallopian tubes, PCOS, or endometriosis)
  • Treatments for infections (antibiotics)

Common Causes of Infertility in Men

The most common causes of infertility in men, or in patients who were born male but now identify as non-binary or transgender, can be split into three groups. These are the patient’s health and lifestyle choices, medical causes, and environmental factors that they face on a day-to-day basis. 

Many different aspects of a patient’s everyday life may affect their sperm production without them even realising it. Because the way a male body produces sperm is so complex, it is even possible for one particular problem in one area of the reproductive system to cause male infertility as a result. 

To ensure the healthy production of sperm, the body requires healthy function in the testicles, the hypothalamus, and the pituitary glands (the organs in the brain that are responsible for the hormones that trigger sperm production). It also requires full functionality in the delicate system of tubes that transport the sperm until they mix with semen and are eventually ejaculated.

Common causes of infertility in men from each of the three-factor groups include:

Health and Lifestyle Causes

  • Ageing (though this is a lesser cause of infertility in men, when compared to women)
  • Anxiety, depression, or stress
  • Drug use (this is especially true if the patient is using anabolic steroids, which can cause the testicles to shrink, or cocaine or marijuana, both of which may reduce sperm quality or count)
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Weight (obesity is often one of the primary causes of infertility in overweight patients, as it can impact on their sperm or cause hormonal changes that reduce male fertility)

Medical Causes

  • Coeliac disease
  • Chromosome defects
  • Defective tubules that impede the transport of sperm
  • Having antibodies that attack sperm cells
  • Having undescended testicles
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Infections (including those that are sexually transmitted)
  • Medications taken (please speak to your doctor if this factor may be one of the main causes of your fertility problems)
  • Prior surgeries
  • Problems with ejaculation (such as retrograde ejaculation) or other sexual functions (such as erectile dysfunction)
  • Tumours
  • Varicocele (swelling of the veins that drain the testicles)

Environmental Causes

  • Exposure to heavy metals (such as lead)
  • Exposure to industrial chemicals (including herbicides and pesticides)
  • Radiation or x-rays
  • Overheating the testicles (such as by frequently using hot tubs or saunas)

Treatments for Male Infertility

Even if a fertility specialist is unable to find a clear cause of infertility in a male patient, they should still be able to recommend treatment options. In cases of couples looking to conceive, a doctor may begin by simply suggesting that they try to conceive naturally for a little while longer. 

There are a number of things a male patient can do to help this along, while potentially improving fertility factors such as sperm count. These are the same as the recommendations for female patients:

  • Exercise regularly and stay in shape
  • Have sex every 2-3 days
  • Keep to a healthy, balanced diet
  • Moderate alcohol consumption
  • Reducing sources of stress
  • Stop smoking

In the event that these suggestions do not work, or a diagnosis has been made which suggests they will not work, there are also a number of fertility treatments available to circumvent the causes of infertility in men, or even to cure them wherever possible. These include:

  • ART
  • Hormone treatments and medications
  • Surgery (especially in cases where the primary causes of infertility are varicoceles or prior vasectomies)
  • Treatments for infections 
  • Treatments for problems with sexual function (which may involve medication or counselling)

In some cases, our specialists at our private clinic in London may also suggest using a sperm donor, if it is discovered that the patient will not be able to use their own. 

Infertility After Your First Child

Even after achieving a successful pregnancy and having a baby, for some people there is always a possibility of secondary infertility. This is the inability to become pregnant after having your first child, and often shares many of the same main causes as primary infertility. As such, it is possible that you may experience infertility after having your first child for the following reasons:

  • Ageing
  • Changes in lifestyle (such as the gain or loss of weight, or use of medication)
  • Complications related to surgery in either partner
  • Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes in the female partner
  • Impaired sperm production or sexual function in the male partner
  • Ovulation disorders in the female partner
  • Uterine conditions or disorders in the female partner

There is also the possibility that complications involved in your prior pregnancy are causing issues related to infertility when trying again. In any of these cases, it is suggested that you and your partner speak with your doctor or healthcare provider and seek an evaluation.
 

How GENNET City Fertility Can Help

For those wishing to begin a fertility treatment as soon as possible, or even for those looking to monitor their own fertility, we are able to offer a range of professional assessments and investigations to offer both diagnoses and reassurance. For single patients, we would recommend either the Male Fertility Assessment or the Female Fertility Assessment

For couples, these aforementioned assessments may be combined (in the case of heterosexual couples) or doubled (in the case of couples belonging to the LGTBQ+ community), in order to become the Couples’ Initial Consultation Package. In this package, one Male and one Female, or two Male or two Female, Fertility Assessments will be carried out.

Our Male Fertility Assessment

In this straightforward procedure, a semen sample will be produced via masturbation in the privacy of one of our rooms at the clinic. This is then collected for analysis and tested for a number of different parameters and factors which may indicate male infertility, including sperm count, morphology (the shape of the sperm), and motility (the sperm’s ability to move). 

Once we have the results, we will then contact the patient over the phone or send them an email to explain and to talk them through their results. These results should help us to predict the chances of natural conception, or give us an indication of any underlying issues which may be preventing natural conception from taking place.

At this stage, the fertility specialist will also be able to offer advice on potential lifestyle changes which may increase a patient’s fertility potential.

Our Female Fertility Assessment

As with Male Fertility Assessments, our Female Fertility Assessments are also straightforward to conduct. A patient will first need to attend the clinic in order to have an Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) blood test carried out. This process predicts their ovarian reserve and is a reliable indicator of potential fertility. 

After this step is complete, the next will be to complete the fertility scan with an antral follicle count. This involves our specialists using the latest technology to provide a complete assessment of a patient’s egg reserve, the blood flow to their ovaries, and follicles. 

The results of both of these steps will then be discussed in a private consultation with one of our fertility specialists. They will also review the patient’s medical and fertility history, and offer advice on potential lifestyle changes which may increase the patient’s chances of conceiving naturally.
 

Book a Consultation

If you feel you may need some help and support when taking the next step on the road to parenthood, or even if you are simply interested in looking after every aspect of your own health, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Our friendly team will be fully prepared to book you in for your first free, 30-minute mini consultation and tour of our facilities. 

You’ll be invited to meet our staff as soon as you arrive at our clinic, before sitting to discuss your medical and fertility history with one of our discreet and understanding fertility specialists. They will then take you through your options for the tests, assessments, or treatments that could see you as healthy as you want to be, or on the way to forming the family you have always wanted

Article from medical experts from our clinic