Approximately 10% of couples have problems becoming pregnant. Infertility is defined as inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. Infertility can be the result of a female factor, a male factor, or a combination of both. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 7.5% of men age 45 years and younger have seen a fertility specialist during their lifetime, which is around 4 million men.
Maternal age is the most important element of fertility. Many women are delaying childbirth until later in life, but the ovaries’ ability to produce healthy eggs declines with age. In addition, older women have an increased risk for chromosomal abnormalities. The chances of a successful pregnancy begins to decrease in the early 30s. As years continue to pass, the rate of fertility decline also increases, with a rapid acceleration around age 37 and an acute fall after 42 years of age. Women age 35 years and older should consider a fertility evaluate after attempting to conceive for six consecutive months.
A significant factor for female fertility is weight. Overweight women have a decreased chance for conception and an increased risk of miscarriage. In addition, having a low body weight is also associated with miscarriage and infertility. Our experts recommend that the woman maintain a healthy body weight and live a healthy lifestyle.
Irregularities in the hormone system are characterized by irregular menstrual cycles, long periods, short periods, or excessively heavy periods. Hormone imbalance also affects ovulation.
Certain autoimmune diseases can cause infertility. These include:
Systemic lupus erythematosus
Some medications will cause temporary infertility. These include painkillers, antibiotics, and antidepressants.
Environmental Hazards and Exposures
Excessive alcohol consumption
Heavy electromagnetic or microwave emissions
Fallopian Tube Disease
Approximately 20% of all infertility is related to fallopian tube disease. Inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes causes scarring and dysfunction. In addition, pelvic surgery for an ectopic pregnancy or ovarian cyst can result in scarring.
The tissue that lines the uterus is called endometrial tissue. When this tissue grows in other places, it is considered endometriosis. Research shows that endometriosis contributes to 10-25% of female infertility. Scar tissue forms along the reproductive structures with this disease, and endometrial implants (cysts) can prevent the release of the egg form the ovary. In addition, a fertilized egg may not be able to progress along the fallopian tube if endometriosis is present.
Male Infertility Factors
Around 33% of infertility is traced to a male factor, and another 33% is attributed to problems with both partners. Male risk factors include:
Smoking – This impairs the sperm’s ability to move.
Alcohol use – The quantity and quality of sperm is affected by drinking alcohol, and this leads to low testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction.
Illegal drugs – Marijuana and cocaine can both reduce the sperm count and decrease the quality of sperm by around 50%.
Prescription drugs – Certain medications for psoriasis and ulcers will slow down or prevent sperm production.
Exposure to toxic substances – Hazards on the job and exposure to toxins will impact sperm quality and count. This includes cadmium, lead, mercury, pesticides, hydrocarbons, and radioactivity.
Exposing genitals to heat – This includes the use of steam rooms, saunas, whirlpools, and hot baths.
Certain medical illnesses and conditions – This includes prostatitis, genital infection, mumps after puberty, surgery on a hernia, undescended testicles, and varicocele.