Definition of infertility

A diagnosis of infertility means you haven’t been able to get pregnant after a year of testing. If you are a woman over 35, it means that you could not have become pregnant after 6 months of trying.
Women may also be diagnosed with infertility who are able to conceive but not carry a pregnancy.
A woman will be diagnosed with primary infertility if she has never been able to get pregnant. A woman who in the past has had at least one successful pregnancy will be diagnosed with secondary infertility.
Infertility is not just a woman’s problem. Men can also be infertile. In fact, both men and women are equally susceptible to fertility issues.
According to the Women’s Health Bureau, about one-third of infertility cases can be attributed to female infertility, while men’s problems account for another third of infertility cases.
The remaining third of cases may be caused by a combination of female and male infertility, or they may have no known cause.

Causes of male infertility

Generally speaking, infertility in men is linked to the following problems:

  • efficient sperm production
  • sperm count or sperm count
  • sperm shape
  • semen movement, which includes both the movement of the semen itself and the transport of sperm through the tubes of the male reproductive system

There are a variety of medical conditions, medications, and risk factors that can also affect fertility.

Risk factors

Risk factors associated with infertility in men include, but are not limited to:

  • older age
  • smoke cigarettes
  • excessive consumption of alcohol
  • being overweight or obese
  • exposure to toxins, such as herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals

Medical conditions

Some examples of medical conditions that can cause male infertility are:

  • retrograde ejaculation
  • varicocele or swelling of the veins around the testicles
  • testicles that have not descended into the scrotum
  • have antibodies that attack and destroy your sperm
  • a hormonal imbalance, such as low testosterone production

Drugs and Medication

Various drugs and medications can also affect male fertility, such as:

  • chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which is used in case of cancer
  • sulfasalazine (Azulfidine, Azulfidine EN-Tabs), used for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or ulcerative colitis (UC)
  • calcium channel blockers, used for high blood pressure
  • tricyclic antidepressants
  • anabolic steroids, which are used to improve athletic performance or hormonal problems such as delayed puberty
  • recreational drugs like marijuana and cocaine

The bottom line

Any of these things in men, or even a combination of them, could lead to infertility.

Causes of female infertility

Female infertility can be caused by various factors that affect or interfere with the following biological processes:

  • ovulation, when the mature egg releases from the ovary
  • fertilization, which occurs when the sperm meets the egg in the fallopian tube after passing through the cervix and uterus
  • implantation, which occurs when a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus where it can then grow and turn into a baby

Risk factors

Risk factors for female infertility include:

  • increasing age
  • smoke cigarettes
  • excessive consumption of alcohol
  • being overweight, obese, or underweight
  • have certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can damage the reproductive system

Medical conditions

The female reproductive system can be affected by a variety of medical conditions and cause infertility in women.
Examples include:

  • ovulation disorders, which can be caused by hormonal imbalances or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • endometriosis
  • uterine fibroids
  • premature ovarian failure
  • scars from previous surgery

Drugs and Medication

Some drugs and medications that can affect female infertility include:

  • chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • long-term use of high-dose nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin (Bayer) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • antipsychotic drugs
  • recreational drugs like marijuana and cocaine

The bottom line

According to the Mayo Clinic, problems with ovulation are responsible for about a quarter of infertility problems seen in couples. Two signs that a woman may not be ovulating are an irregular or absent period.


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