Fertility Concerns

The Causes of Male and Female Infertility

Once a couple believe they may be having problems with infertility, the next question is naturally, 'Is it me?' Sometimes the male has infertility issues, whereas sometimes it is the woman; sometimes it is both hopeful-parents. Once you've realised there is a problem with conceiving (technically, this is classed as after 6-12 months of trying to conceive), there are specific problems a doctor may look for when trying to determine the reasons for infertility.

Factors that affect infertility in both men and women


Often, the cause of infertility is lifestyle, for both the male and the female. Drugs, alcohol, medications, smoking, and even stress can inhibit both male and female reproductive health.

General health

Illness and disease that aren't thought of as fertility problems can still cause infertility by interfering with hormones or impairing intercourse.

Factors that affect male fertility


Obstruction in the vas deferens tubes (tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the urethra) can cause infertility. These blockages are from damage caused by trauma, STIs, or scarring from a reversed vasectomy. Obstructive problems can also be congenital, as seen in cases where the vas deferens tubes never formed.

Disease and injury

Mumps and other illnesses, including STIs can cause a condition of the testes called orchitis, which often results in infertility. Sudden trauma or torsion (twisting) of the testicles can also cause infertility by cutting off the supply of blood to the testicles.


It seems too simple to even mention, but tight underpants or trousers and over-heating can cause fertility problems. The testicles require lower temperatures than the rest of the body to produce sperm. Keep them cool by wearing loose-fitting clothing. There have been times when the only treatment necessary to correct a fertility problem was a change of style in underwear!

Sperm defects

If a man is producing sperm that is misshapen or that doesn't 'swim' properly, pregnancy can be hard to achieve. Sometimes sperm isn't viable due to chromosomal abnormalities. It is also possible that sperm is not being produced at all, for various reasons. A doctor can examine the semen under a microscope to determine if sperm is both present and healthy.

Sexual problems

Erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and inability to ejaculate prevent sperm from being delivered to the uterus. Your doctor will help you determine what can be done to heal these problems. These problems can be physiological or psychological, and they can also be side effects of certain medications.

Factors that affect female fertility

Hormonal problems

Conception is heavily dependent on hormonal health. Illnesses and syndromes such as thyroid disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome (which involves over-production of testosterone), and various other hormonal abnormalities may contribute to an inability to either conceive or maintain a pregnancy. Irregular menstrual cycles are a strong indication that hormonal difficulties are the culprit.


Endometriosis is a condition that causes uterine tissue to grow on organs outside of the uterus. When the tissue is found in or around the ovaries, fallopian tubes or cervix, it can cause a blockage which prevents fertilisation or implantation.

Blockage of fallopian tubes

Other factors besides endometriosis can obstruct the fallopian tubes. Among these are previous tubal ligation, scarring from STIs or infections, and abdominal surgery such as appendectomy.

Egg quality

Egg quality is often related to the age of the female. Baby girls are born with all the eggs they'll ever have, and as they age, the eggs age along with them. An older woman who is trying to conceive may have more difficulty because she has fewer viable eggs. Eggs may lack viability even in a young woman, though, due to chromosomal abnormalities or other problems. Your doctor can perform tests to determine egg quality.

In up to half of the cases of infertility seen by doctors, both partners have at least one factor contributing to their inability to conceive. Specific causes can be hard to determine, and there are times when even a fertility specialist can't determine a physical cause for infertility.

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This internet site provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child, you should always consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.