When you’re trying to get pregnant, each month that passes without a positive test can be increasingly upsetting. Infertility is usually defined as the absence of a pregnancy after 12 consecutive months of unprotected sexual intercourse. This condition, which affects up to 10 percent of couples, may have a single cause or be related to a combination of factors.
In about a third of cases, an infertility diagnosis can be traced to the male partner. Common causes of male infertility include:
-Abnormal sperm production or function, which can be caused by undescended testicles; genetic defects; health problems, including diabetes; prior infections, such as mumps; or trauma or prior surgeries in the groin area.
-Sexual problems that lead to disruption of sperm delivery, such as premature ejaculation; retrograde ejaculation, which occurs when semen enters the bladder instead of exiting the penis; certain genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis; structural problems, such as a blockage in part of the testicle; or damage or injury to the reproductive organs.
-Frequent exposure to heat, as well as to certain chemicals and toxins, including pesticides, radiation, tobacco smoke, alcohol, marijuana and steroids, as well as exposure to chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer.
Another third of infertility cases are caused by the female partner. Common causes of female infertility include:
-Failure of the ovaries to release an egg, a condition that can be caused by hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome or hyperprolactinemia; excessive exercise; an eating disorder; or an injury or growth.
-Abnormalities of the cervix or uterus, as well as benign tumors known as uterine fibroids.
-Fallopian tube damage or blockage, usually caused by an infection that develops pelvic inflammatory disease, usually linked to pelvic inflammatory disease caused by sexually transmitted infection.
-Endometriosis, a condition in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus in other areas of the pelvis, leading to damage to the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.
-Early menopause, also known as primary ovarian insufficiency, a condition in which menopause begins before age 40.
-Bands of scar tissue called pelvic adhesions that develop as a result of pelvic infection, appendicitis or abdominal or pelvic surgery.
Since there are so many causes of infertility, it can be difficult for doctors to pin down the correct cause. And in the final third of cases, the cause is either mixed or unknown. The good news is that many of the underlying causes of infertility are treatable.