Infertility can be caused by many different things. An infertility diagnosis can be devastating with 1 in 6 couples now being diagnosed with infertility. For 15% of couples, a cause can not be identified. Here are some of the causes of infertility:
There are a variety of reasons a woman may not ovulate or have irregular ovulation cycles. Hormone imbalance is the number one reason women have an ovulation disorder.
There are many factors which play a role in regulating the menstrual cycle. When the delicate communication between the pituitary gland, the ovaries and the follicles does not work properly, ovulation does not occur.
Here are some reasons why hormonal balance may occur, causing ovulation disorder:
-Poor egg health
-Problems with one or more of the endocrine glands
-Poor lifestyle choices
-Low Body Weight
-Long-term use of fertility medications containing hormones, for example birth control.
Infertility in women is also linked to age. The biggest decrease in fertility begins during the mid-thirties. Among women who are 35, 95% will get pregnant after three years of having regular unprotected sexual intercourse. For women who are 38, only 75% will get pregnant after three years of having regular unprotected sexual intercourse.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
This syndrome is attributed to hormonal imbalance in the female body. The hormone imbalance may cause menstrual cycle irregularities, weight gain, insulin resistance, skin problems, small cysts in the ovaries, and hirsutism (excessive body hair/thinning head hair). Not all women who are diagnosed with PCOS have all of the symptoms or may only have a couple. PCOS is not very well understood and because each woman varies in her symptoms it can be difficult to properly diagnose and treat.
PCOS is a very common condition, affecting 4-18% of reproductive age women.
Endometriosis is a condition where small pieces of the womb lining, known as the endometrium, start growing in other places, such as the ovaries.
This can cause infertility because the new growths form adhesions (sticky areas of tissue) or cysts (fluid-filled sacs) that can block or distort the pelvis. These make it difficult for an egg to be released and become implanted into the womb.
It can disturb the way that a follicle (fluid-filled space in which an egg develops) matures and releases an egg.
35-50% of infertility cases in women are due to endometriosis.
Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumours that grow in, or around, the womb. Submucosal fibroids develop in the muscle beneath the inner lining of the womb wall and grow into the middle of the womb.
Submucosal fibroids can reduce fertility, although exactly how they do this is not yet known. It is possible that a fibroid may prevent an embryo from implanting itself into your womb.
Cervical Mucus Problems
When you're ovulating, mucus in your cervix becomes thinner so sperm can swim through it more easily. If there's a problem with the mucus, it can make it harder to conceive.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the upper female genital tract, which includes the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. It is often the result of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). PID can damage and scar the fallopian tubes, making it virtually impossible for an egg to travel down into the womb.
Scarring From Surgery
Pelvic surgery can damage and scar the fallopian tubes, which link the ovaries to the womb.
Cervical surgery can also sometimes cause scarring or shorten the neck of the womb (the cervix).
Blocked Fallopian Tubes
The fallopian tubes are the pathways in which the ova travel from the ovaries down into the uterus, and if there is a blockage in these tubes it can prevent this from occurring.
The main cause of blocked fallopian tubes:
-Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), often from STD’s
25% of infertility cases are due to blocked fallopian tubes.
Poor Egg Health
There are many factors that may impact the health of the ovaries and eggs including environmental factors, hormones in the diet, stress, lifestyle choices and aging.
Important note: Poor ovarian reserve (low follicle count) with poor egg health before the age of 40 may be a sign of Premature Ovarian Failure (POF). This is something you will want to talk to your doctor about, including testing options to rule this out.
Poor egg health may be due some or a combination of the following reasons:
-Poor lifestyle choices; smoking, drinking alcohol, poor diet, stress, environmental pollution and sedentary lifestyle (poor circulation).
-Damage to the reproductive organs
-Illness, for example cancer treated with chemotherapy
-Age plays a role
In some people semen can cause an immune response. This can happen in both men and women. Antibodies are triggered during the immune response that work to kill off the sperm. High numbers of sperm antibodies can make it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg, and/or fertilize the egg. Antisperm antibodies also may damage sperm that survive, which increases chances of miscarriage.
A man’s body may create antisperm antibodies when the sperm come into contact with his immune system cells. This happens when the testicles are injured, after surgery (biopsy, vasectomy), or if the prostate gland has an infection. The testicles protect the sperm from immune cells, when they are damaged they may no longer be able to do that.Over 70% of all men who get a vasectomy will develop antisperm antibodies.
Some women’s bodies have an allergic reaction to her partner’s sperm. This stimulates the immune system to create antisperm antibodies that attack her partner’s sperm. This may also cause her vaginal tissues to react to the semen, which may result in rash, sores, or painful sexual intercourse. Doctors are not sure why this happens.
Medicines and Drugs
The side effects of some types of medication and drugs can affect your fertility. These medicines are outlined below.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Long-term use or a high dosage of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, can make it more difficult for you to conceive.
Chemotherapy. Medicines used for chemotherapy (a treatment for cancer) can sometimes cause ovarian failure, which means your ovaries will no longer be able to function properly. Ovarian failure can be permanent.
Neuroleptic medicines are antipsychotic medicines often used to treat psychosis. They can sometimes cause missed periods or infertility.
Spironolactone – this is a type of medicine used to treat fluid retention (oedema). Fertility should recover around two months after you stop taking spironolactone.
Illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine can seriously affect fertility, making ovulation (the monthly cycle where an egg is released from the ovaries) more difficult.
Some women choose to be sterilised if they do not wish to have any more children.
Sterilisation involves blocking the fallopian tubes to make it impossible for an egg to travel to the womb. This process is rarely reversible, and if you do have a sterilisation reversed, it will not necessarily mean that you will become fertile again.
The testicles are responsible for producing and storing sperm. If they are damaged, it can seriously affect the quality of your semen. This may occur if you have, or have had in the past, any of the following:
-an infection of your testicles
-a congenital defect (a problem with your testicles that you were born with)
-undescended testicles (when one or both of your testicles has not descended into the scrotum)
-trauma (injury) to your testicles
Male infertility can be caused by abnormal semen (the fluid containing sperm that is ejaculated during intercourse).
Possible reasons for abnormal semen include:
-Decreased number of sperm – you may have a very low sperm count, or no sperm at all.
-Decreased sperm mobility – this will make it harder for your sperm to swim to the egg.
-Abnormal sperm – sperm can sometimes be an abnormal shape, making it harder for them to move and fertilise an egg.
Many cases of abnormal semen are unexplained, but can be due to a variety of factors.
Some men experience ejaculation problems that can make it difficult for them to release semen during sex (ejaculate).
Hypogonadism is an abnormally low level of testosterone, the male sex hormone involved in making sperm.
It could be caused by a tumour, taking illegal drugs, or Klinefelter syndrome, a rare syndrome where a man is born with an extra female chromosome.
Some men choose to have a vasectomy if they don't want children or any more children.
It involves cutting and sealing off the tubes that carry sperm out of your testicles (the vas deferens) so your semen will no longer contain any sperm.
A vasectomy can be reversed, but reversals aren't usually successful.
This is when both partners have been diagnosed with one or more fertility issues. About 20-30% of infertility cases are due to combination infertility. This diagnosis can feel devastating, but there is always hope! Please review the individual fertility issue for more information.
Of all the the couples diagnosed with infertility, 15% are diagnosed with unexplained infertility. This means the doctors cannot find a reason why pregnancy is not occurring. Both partners have done all the tests and nothing comes back as a definitive cause of infertility. While it may feel good to know you don’t have a specific problem, it can be confusing on what to do next. This is where natural therapies can be very effective. The focus with natural therapies is geared toward bringing the body back into balance.