There are many possible causes of female infertility. However, they are not restricted to the woman’s body. Almost half of cases result from problems with the father’s reproductive system. Multiple factors – sometimes relating to issues with both the man and the woman – affect about a third of couples not able to conceive a child.
Unexplained infertility occurs about 5-10 percent of the time when no specific cause for infertility can be found.
Factors That May Cause Female Infertility
Among the possible causes of infertility are physical impairments or abnormalities, infections or problems with the body’s immune system, exposure to chemicals in the environment, lifestyle choices and psychological issues.
These conditions include:
- problems ovulating, preventing the woman’s body from producing a healthy egg
- abnormal development of reproductive organs, most commonly with the fallopian tubes
- endometriosis, when tissue that should line the uterus forms on other reproductive organs
- birth defects
- exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) a drug the woman’s mother may have taken during her pregnancy that causes abnormal development in the uterus
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which may lead to ectopic pregnancy
- problems with the woman’s immune system
Certain lifestyle choices also factor into possible causes of infertility. Smoking cigarettes and excess caffeine and alcohol consumption play a role, along with diet as well extremely low body fat. Toxins or other workplace hazards may contribute. Health problems including sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and lupus, or hormonal imbalances also increase the risk of infertility for women.
Fertility problems affect about a third of couples where the woman is over age 35. As women age they have a smaller number of eggs that are not as healthy and their ovaries are less able to release them. They also are more likely to have health issues that can be causes of infertility.
High levels of stress may indirectly contribute to infertility by altering a woman’s hormone levels, affecting the rhythm of her normal cycle.
Infertility in men has many of the same causes. In addition, a man may have a condition known as cyrptorchism, or other factors that affect the ability of his sperm to fertilize the egg.
Because of the variety of possible causes of infertility, couples should try to refrain from letting the condition create undue anxiety. Medicine offers many options to treat infertility and help many women conceive and give birth to healthy babies. The advice and care of a competent obstetrician/gynecologist is the only reasonable course because often the condition can be treated successfully even when there is no known cause of infertility. Because the length of time a couple has experienced infertility affects how successful treatment may be, couples are best advised to seek evaluation as soon as they think infertility may be a concern.