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What causes infertility?

By |September 26th, 2022

There are many factors that can cause infertility – including some that are within your control to resolve.

Parenting naturally presents many challenges along with its great joys. Sometimes those challenges begin as early as the conception process, leaving even the most prepared parent-to-be frustrated. Infertility is officially defined as the inability to conceive after twelve months of well-timed unprotected sex, and is experienced by 12-15% of couples trying to get pregnant. While infertility isn’t something anyone wants to think about, the more you know about its root causes, the better prepared you'll be to face it.

Why am I having trouble getting pregnant?

Much of the onus of trying to get pregnant inevitably falls on the birthing parent. It’s typically up to you to keep a close watch on your menstrual cycle, figure out when you’re ovulating, and inform your partner when the opportunity to conceive arises. It’s often a stressful and time-consuming process, and after months of carefully timed intercourse, it can be deeply discouraging not to achieve results. The truth is, you may be doing everything right. There are factors outside of your immediate influence that may be negatively affecting your ability to conceive.

Your reproductive system is miraculously complex, but this also means there are multiple points of potential failure. The most common causes of female infertility are related to ovulation. If your menstrual cycle is irregular, it can be more difficult to time intercourse effectively. Unreliable ovulation is one of the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is experienced by 5-10% of women. Irregular menstrual cycles become more common as you get older, even without PCOS.

Structural irregularities in your reproductive system, such as polyps, uterine fibroids, or a blocked fallopian tube, also can make conception more difficult. When these are present, eggs may be released and fertilized properly but fail to implant in the uterine wall.

How can I improve my chances of conceiving?

Unfortunately, relatively few personally controlled lifestyle changes are clinically proven to increase a woman's fertility. Some studies find that increased exercise can be a boon to fertility, but that too much can do the opposite. The same goes for weight loss: Obesity can reduce fertility, but so can being underweight. However, if you habitually smoke tobacco, quitting smoking can improve your odds of becoming pregnant and help prevent a variety of smoking-related complications during pregnancy.
If you and your partner have been struggling to conceive after having well-timed, unprotected sex for over 6 months, consider speaking with one of our specialists, who can help you to identify and troubleshoot any obstacles to your fertility. Because fertility naturally declines with age, aspiring parents over 35 may want to get in touch even sooner.

Why am I having trouble getting my partner pregnant?

As the fertilizing parent, your work is simpler than your partner’s. While you’ll be supporting your partner during their months of pregnancy and sharing in everything that comes next, in a biological sense, conception is your time to shine. This can make struggling to conceive very frustrating. “This is my one job,” you may wonder to yourself. “What am I doing wrong?”

You have no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed. In fact, male fertility issues are more common than you might think. According to recent studies, in 40% of infertility cases among couples, the male partner is either a contributor or even the sole source of the issue.

Is there anything I can do to combat male infertility?

Sometimes a fertility problem can be resolved via a lifestyle change. As simple as it sounds, wearing looser underwear really does have a measurable benefit to fertility. Spending time in high-temperature environments can reduce sperm count, so avoiding hot tubs, saunas, or even long, hot showers can improve your sperm’s viability. Studies also show that regular, heavy cannabis use can be detrimental to fertility, resulting in reduced semen volume, decreased hormone production, and testicular atrophy. Tobacco use may also negatively affect sperm production and performance.

Of course, there are many contributing physiological factors to fertility that are harder to manage on your own. One of the most common causes of lower sperm counts is varicocele, enlarged veins in the scrotum. Infertility can also be caused by a naturally occurring blockage in the vas deferens that prevents sperm from being distributed during ejaculation. There may even be contributing factors that are much bigger than your body. The negative effect of environmental toxins on sperm quality has been measured on a global scale.
While not every cause of fertility can be addressed on your own, many of them are treatable with the help of a qualified fertility specialist. Start a conversation with a member of our team to learn more about taking control of your reproductive health.