Infertility is ultimately defined as the inability to conceive a pregnancy after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse. Infertility affects approximately 6 million men and women in the United States. Women who are over the age of 35 or who have known reproductive problems are considered to suffer from infertility after the inability to conceive in about six months. Most causes of infertility for both men and women are identifiable and treatable.
Most people equate infertility with women and it is true that there are more opportunities for things to go wrong with women but men are just as likely to have infertility problems. The fertility problems that typically plague men are conditions that have to do with sperm. There are men who do not produce sperm cells. This condition is called azoospermia. Another common sperm related problem is called oligospermia and is diagnosed in men who produce very few sperm cells. These men will produce sperm cells but just not usually enough to result in a pregnancy. There are some sperm cells that are malformed and others that die before they reach the female egg. Some genetic conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis will cause infertility in men. There are also some chromosomal abnormalities that will cause abnormalities in sperm as well. Men are more susceptible to infertility causing injuries. Underwear or jeans that are too tight can even effect sperm production and bathtubs or hot tubs that reach extreme levels of heat can reduce sperm production as well. Approximately one-third of infertility cases are attributed to the man.
Infertility in women can be a little more complicated simply because there are more places the infertility can originate from. Like men, about one-third of cases of infertility are attributed to the woman. The most common cause of infertility in women is an ovulation disorder. Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from the ovary and if any part of the ovulation process does not work properly, the egg will not release or will release prematurely and be unable to be fertilized. Blocked fallopian tubes are another common cause of female infertility and are usually caused from pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis. These conditions cause scar tissue and adhesions that can scar and block the fallopian tubes. Repeated miscarriage is considered a form of infertility and is commonly caused from uterine fibroids or birth defects involving the structure of the uterus. Another cause of female infertility that is not an issue for men is age. After the age of 35, the ability to produce eggs greatly declines and the quality of the eggs is less than adequate.
Successful conception and pregnancy is dependent upon many factors. If even one factor is impaired then the conception is in jeopardy and infertility can result. While one-third, of infertility cases are caused by men and one-third being caused by women, the remaining one-third of cases of infertility are of unknown origin. That is the most frustrating cause of infertility because without a known cause there is no known treatment.