There can be several underlying causes of infertility for both men and women.

Causes of Infertility

A person’s infertility issues may be the result of many different reasons, which can make getting pregnant much harder than expected. If you have been trying for more than a year—and are still trying—maybe it’s time to talk to a trusted healthcare provider about the next steps. Consult your doctor early to get a complete fertility work-up and diagnosis if you suspect you may have infertility.

Some of the common causes of infertility in women are:
  • You need to ovulate each month to release an egg.
  • Ovulation disorders can cause infrequent and irregular ovulation.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles can result in anovulation or the absence of ovulation.
  • The number and quality of eggs decreases naturally with age.
  • It’s a gradual and progressive decline that happens before menopause, even though you have regular periods.
  • If you are over 35 years of age and have not fallen pregnant within six months of trying, you are encouraged to seek medical advice. If you are under 35, you may wait up to 12 months before consulting a specialist.
  • Fallopian tubes connect the ovaries to the uterus.
  • If your tubes are blocked for some reason, your eggs can’t make their way from the ovaries to the uterus, nor can sperm reach the egg.
  • Scarring from previous surgeries and infections can damage the fallopian tubes and cause them to be blocked by scar tissues.
  • Some untreated STIs can lead to infertility, organ damage, or even death.
  • Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which is an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes.
  • It occurs when tissue that usually lines the inside of your uterus, grows in other places of the body.
  • Endometriosis can affect the lining of the uterus and disrupt the fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus.
  • PCOS is a complex hormonal condition that causes a hormone imbalance.
  • High levels of androgens (a type of male hormone) interfere with the development of ovarian follicles and release of eggs during ovulation.
  • They are noncancerous growths which form inside the uterus.
  • Fibroids can impact fertility if they change the position of the cervix, change the shape of the uterus, block the fallopian tubes or interfere with blood flow to the uterus.
  • These disorders can cause the body to make antibodies that attack both the sperm and reproductive organs.

Many people think infertility is a woman’s problem. In fact, male infertility is more common than you might think.

Male factor infertility accounts for approximately 40% to 50% of all infertility cases.9

Some of the common causes of infertility in men are:10-11

1. Semen and sperm disorders

  • The fluid which contains sperm that is ejaculated during sexual intercourse is called semen.
  • Poor quality semen can be attributed to:
    • A low sperm count.
    • Low sperm motility (sperm doesn’t move properly so it’s harder for the sperm to swim to and penetrate the egg).
    • Abnormal sperm (a different shape hampers the sperm from moving and fertilising an egg).

2. Ejaculation disorders

  • Ejaculation is the process of releasing semen during intercourse.
  • Common setbacks are premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation or retrograde ejaculation.
Other less common causes of male infertility include low level of male hormones, genetic conditions, complications from other medications or chemotherapy, and infectious diseases. Your doctor will be able to identify these problems through a fertility work-up and diagnostic tests, and suggest available treatment options.
Why should you know about the risks of infertility?

Lifestyle choices may have an impact on your chances of conceiving.
By changing your habits, you may be able to optimise your chance of a successful pregnancy. Here are a few risk factors that could affect a woman’s ability to conceive,
and impair a man’s potency:

1
Smoking
2
Excessive use of alcohol
3
Extreme weight gain or loss
4
Excessive physical or emotional stress
5
Multiple sexual partners

How to improve your chances of getting pregnant?

Have an open and trusting relationship
Eat healthy, balanced meals
Exercise regularly
Try meditating, yoga, tai chi or painting to reduce stress
Stop excessive smoking
Speak to a trusted healthcare provider
Reduce caffeine intake
Drink moderately
  1. David Unuane, Herman Tournaye, Brigitte Velkeniers, Kris Poppe. Endocrine disorders & female infertility. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 25, Issue 6, 2011, Pages 861-873, ISSN 1521-690X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beem.2011.08.001.
  2. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. What are some possible causes of female infertility? Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/infertility/conditioninfo/causes/causes-female. Accessed April 2020.
  3. George K, Kamath MS. Fertility and age J Hum Reprod Sci. 2010;3(3):121‐123. doi:10.4103/0974-1208.74152.
  4. American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). Aging and infertility in women. Fertility and Sterility Vol. 86, Suppl 4, November 2006. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2006.08.024.
  5. World Health Organization. Sexually transmitted infections. STIs. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis) Accessed April 2020.
  6. Mayo Clinic. Sexually transmitted disease symptoms. STDs. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/in-depth/std-symptoms/art-20047081 Accessed April 2020.
  7. Dennett CC, Simon J. The role of polycystic ovary syndrome in reproductive and metabolic health: overview and approaches for treatment. Diabetes Spectr. 2015;28(2):116–120. doi:10.2337/diaspect.28.2.116.
  8. American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). Fibroids and fertility. 2015. Available at: http://www.fertilityanswers.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/fibroids-and-fertility.pdf Accessed: April 2020.
  9. Kumar N, Singh AK. Trends of male factor infertility, an important cause of infertility: A review of literature. J Hum Reprod Sci. 2015;8(4):191‐196. doi:10.4103/0974-1208.170370.
  10. National Health Service. Causes. Infertility. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/causes/. Accessed: April 2020.
  11. Barazani Y, Stahl PJ, Nagler HM, Stember DS. Management of ejaculatory disorders in infertile men. Asian J Androl. 2012;14(4):525–529. doi:10.1038/aja.2012.29.