A diagnosis of infertility can be devastating.
Many individuals ask our providers, at Dallas Fort-Worth Fertility Associates, for guidance as to what can cause infertility. Let’s discuss some of the common causes and how they can be treated.
Why Am I Having Trouble Getting Pregnant?
A diagnosis of infertility is given when individuals or couples have been attempting unprotected intercourse, for a designated length of time, without achieving a clinical pregnancy. This varies based on age:
- Under 35 year of age (attempting unprotected intercourse for 1 year without a clinical pregnancy)
- Over 35 years of age (attempting unprotected intercourse for 6 months without a clinical pregnancy)
In about two-thirds of cases, the causes of infertility can be identified. Unfortunately, about one-third of infertility causes will remain unexplained. However, modern technology provides many options for all patients who are diagnosed as infertile.
What Do I Need In Order To Achieve A Healthy Pregnancy?
There are four components to achieving a pregnancy.
- A healthy egg
- Healthy sperm
- Clear fallopian tubes to transport the sperm to the egg
- Embryo implantation
If any of these components are not working correctly, it can lead to a diagnosis of infertility. Here are the most common causes of infertility:
Causes of infertility: Age
Age has the strongest correlation with pregnancy rates. While it does affect both male and female partners, age has a much stronger correlation with the female partner. This is because women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. This is different than men who regenerate new sperm every 60-70 days.
At 25 years old, a woman has a 20% chance of conceiving naturally every month. Compare this to age 40, where a woman’s chance of conceiving naturally is less than 5% each month. Increased age leads to diminished ovarian reserve. While recent studies link the age of men’s sperm to genetic abnormalities, it is the age of the egg that determines the likelihood of a live birth.
Causes of infertility:Ovulation
Ovulation happens midway through a woman’s monthly cycle. Ovulation occurs when one egg is released from the ovary and travels through the fallopian tubes in hopes of meeting a sperm. If no fertilization occurs, the body signals to the brain that there is no pregnancy and the endometrial lining is shed. On average, this process repeats itself every 25 – 33 days.
Regular periods are a good indication that you are ovulating properly. If you do not have regular periods, it’s possible you have a condition that is preventing you from ovulating. Common conditions include PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and DOR (Diminished Ovarian Reserve). Without ovulation, it’s impossible to get pregnant without medical intervention.
Causes of infertility: Sperm Quality
Approximately 30% of infertility diagnoses are due to male factor infertility. If this is thought to be the case, a semen analysis will be ordered. This simple analysis will test the male partner’s sperm to look for a healthy shape, movement, and volume. Based on the results of these tests, your provider will consult with you about the best next steps.
There are several physical factors that may prevent fertilization.
Causes of infertility: Blocked fallopian tubes
The fallopian tubes transport the egg to the uterus, where it hopes to meet the sperm and achieve fertilization. If the fallopian tubes are blocked, and the sperm can’t meet the egg, fertilization won’t occur. Possible causes of blocked fallopian tubes include past pelvic infections or abdominal surgeries, STDs, and Endometriosis. There are several tests that can diagnose blocked fallopian tubes such as HSGs (hysterosalpingography) or chromopertubation during laparoscopy.
Polyps or Fibroids
Both polyps and fibroids are growths that occur within the uterus. These growths can prevent the embryo from implanting. While fibroids are often more serious than polyps, your physician will recommend the next course of action to remove or control these obstructions to increase your likelihood of pregnancy.
Causes of infertility: Environmental & Lifestyle Factors
Research shows common lifestyle factors such as sleep, nutrients from diet, stress, and exposure to toxins directly can impact your health, which also impacts fertility. In order to combat these, do your best to live a clean, healthy lifestyle.
Whether your infertility is caused by one of the factors listed or is diagnosed as unexplained, Dallas Fort-Worth Fertility Associates has experienced fertility specialists on staff who will guide you towards the best next step in your fertility journey. Contact us today to meet with a fertility specialist.
About the Author:
Samuel Chantilis, M.D. is a highly trained and experienced infertility specialist in his hometown of Dallas, TX. He is board certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and has been practicing in Texas since completing his training in 1993. Dr. Chantilis was a faculty member at UT Southwestern Medical School for five and a half years before entering private practice in January 1999 at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Dr. Chantilis has been the leading provider of IVF services at the Presbyterian Hospital ARTS program since 1999, having conducted approximately 2,500 egg retrievals.