Nowadays, many couples have problems conceiving. This might be because of infertility, pregnancy loss or failures in assisted reproduction techniques. In this blog, we are going to discuss the main reasons for infertility.
What does infertility mean?
According to World Health Organization, infertility is defined as a failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. After this period of time, consulting a specialist is recommended. He runs certain tests to acknowledge a problem and solve it if there is one. Infertility is not just a female issue. It can affect both partners. Experts agree that, on average, 30% of the cases of infertility can be attributed solely to female factors, 30% solely to male factors, 30% a combination of factors of both partners, and in 10% there is unexplained infertility.
Female factors of infertility:
- Irregular ovulation
Approximately 25% of women with fertility problems have irregular ovulation. Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from one of the ovaries every month. This process lasts from 12 to 24 hours. Then is your “fertile window”. If fertilization does not take place, menstruation occurs after 14 days. Numerous reasons can lead to irregular menstruation. They include genetic disorders, stress, irregular eating, etc. The main reason is hormonal imbalance. Low serum levels of estrogens and progesterone lead to irregular or lack of menstruation. Hormonal therapy is of great importance in this female factor of infertility.
- Blocked fallopian tubes
If a fallopian tube is blocked, the passage for sperm to get to the eggs, as well as the path back to the uterus for the fertilized egg, is blocked. The most common causes of blocked fallopian tubes are infections, surgeries, endometriosis, ectopic pregnancies, etc.
Endometriosis is a condition in which cells similar to those in the endometrium grow outside the uterus. Most often, it affects the ovaries and fallopian tubes. However, in rare cases, it occurs in other parts of the body like lungs, urinary bladder and intestines. Women experience worse endometriosis symptoms during their period since the endometriosis tissue that grows outside the uterus responds to hormonal signals, specifically estrogens. Main endometriosis symptoms are pelvic pain and infertility. Pathological cysts might occur when endometriosis affects the ovaries. Additionally, this disease can lead to blocked fallopian tubes.
- Infections and infertility
Inflammation of the vaginal mucosa (colpitis) can lead to changes in vaginal discharge. This can harm sperm movement and vitality.
Inflammatory condition of the lining of the uterus, called endometritis, can cause reduced sensitivity to estrogens. This might deteriorate implantation – a process in which the developing embryo makes contact with the uterine wall and remains attached to it until birth. Infections can also lead to adhesions in the uterus or blocked cervix.
Inflammation of the fallopian tubes can cause infertility. The fallopian tubes have simple columnar epithelium with hair-like extensions called cilia. They carry the fertilized egg to the uterus. Chronic inflammation can damage the cilia. This increases the risk of implantation of the fertilized egg in the tubes and leads to ectopic pregnancy.
Chlamydia (Chlamydia Trachomatis in Latin) is the main infectious agent that causes infertility. It is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. Unfortunately, only 70% of infected women have some type of symptoms like pelvic pain, unusual vaginal discharge or painful urination. Therefore, few people seek medical attention and infection spread easily. If left untreated, chlamydia can reach the uterus and block the fallopian tubes.
- Autoimmune diseases
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. Antibodies might attack your reproductive organs or gametes (sperm and egg cells). Antisperm antibodies are proved to cause infertility. Both men and women can produce them. In women, antibodies in the vagina can kill the sperm. In men, antibodies attack their sperm cells. Therefore, sperm cells adhere and semen gets thicker. Most commonly, infection sets off the immune response.
- Abnormalities of reproductive organs
Congenital or acquired disorders of external genital organs make sexual intercourses difficult or impossible. There are numerous conditions like vaginal adhesions, cervical blockage or congenital uterine abnormalities that stop sperm pathway and lead to infertility. Very rarely, scarring following surgical abortion causes infertility.
- Thyroid problems
The thyroid gland is one of the most important glands in the human body. Women with reduced thyroid function tend to have irregular or no menstruation. This also means irregular ovulation which reduces your chances of getting pregnant. Men with thyroid problems are uncommon, but when present, it harms sperm quality, libido and erectile function.
- High prolactin levels
Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. It is responsible for the development of mammary glands and milk production during and after pregnancy. Nonpregnant women with high prolactin levels experience symptoms like irregular menstruation, milk discharge, infertility and lower sex drive.
Male factors of infertility
Main male factors of infertility are hormonal imbalance, stress, overheating the testicles, alcohol abuse, smoking tobacco and drug addiction. Other factors are genetics, abnormalities of reproductive organs, anti-sperm antibodies, thyroid problems, etc.
Unexplained infertility is defined as a lack of an obvious cause for the couple’s infertility. However, there is always a reason for infertility. Infertile couples are much dependent on the quality and quantity of the applied diagnostic tests. Specialists recommend second medical opinion and reevaluation of the test that is already done. Also, there are multiple ways to naturally boost your fertility. Last but not least, eating healthy and providing your body with vitamins is extremely important when trying to get pregnant.