What Causes Infertility?

This section deals with unintentional causes of sterility. For more information about surgical techniques for preventing procreation, see sterilization.

Common causes of infertility:

  • Ovulation problems
  • tubal blockage
  • male associated infertility
  • age-related factors
  • uterine problems
  • previous tubal ligation
  • previous vasectomy
  • unexplained infertility
  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Male Hypospadias

Virus/Mutation

German scientists have reported that a virus called Adeno-associated virus might have a role in male infertility, though it is otherwise not harmful.

Mutation that alters human DNA adversely can cause infertility, the human body thus preventing the tainted DNA from being passed on. This could explain why some radiation victims from Chernobyl incident could not produce children.

Causes in either sex

For a woman to conceive, certain things have to happen: intercourse must take place around the time when an egg is released from her ovary; the systems that produce eggs and sperm have to be working at optimum levels; and her hormones must be balanced.

There are several possible reasons why it may not be happening naturally. In one-third of cases, it can be because of male problems such as low sperm count.

Some women are infertile because their ovaries do not mature and release eggs. In this case synthetic FSH by injection or Clomid (Clomiphene citrate) via a pill can be given to stimulate follicles to mature in the ovaries.

Problems affecting women include endometriosis or damage to the fallopian tubes (which may have been caused by infections such as chlamydia).

Other factors that can affect a woman's chances of conceiving include being over- or underweight for her age - female fertility declines sharply after the age of 35. Sometimes it can be a combination of factors, and sometimes a clear cause is never established.

Factors that can cause male as well as female infertility are:

  • Genetic Factors
    • A Robertsonian translocation in either partner may cause recurrent spontaneous abortions or complete infertility.
    • General factors
      • Diabetes mellitus, thyroid disorders, adrenal disease
      • Hypothalamic-pituitary factors
        • Kallmann syndrome
        • Hyperprolactinemia
        • Hypopituitarism
        • Environmental Factors
          • Toxins such as glues, volatile organic solvents or silicones, physical agents, chemical dusts, and pesticides.

Combined infertility

In some cases, both the man and woman may be infertile or sub-fertile, and the couple's infertility arises from the combination of these conditions. In other cases, the cause is suspected to be immunological or genetic; it may be that each partner is independently fertile but the couple cannot conceive together without assistance.

Unexplained infertility

Up to 26% of infertile couples have unexplained infertility.In these cases abnormalities are likely to be present but not detected by current methods.

Possible problems could be that the egg is not released at the optimum time for fertilization, that it may not enter the fallopian tube, sperm may not be able to reach the egg, fertilization may fail to occur, transport of the zygote may be disturbed, or implantation fails.

It is increasingly recognized that egg quality is of critical importance and women of advanced maternal age have eggs of reduced capacity for normal and successful fertilization.

Further Reading


This article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article on "Infertility" All material adapted used from Wikipedia is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Wikipedia® itself is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011

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