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Causes of Infertility

The causes of infertility are varied, and range from the relatively simple (allergies, hormonal imbalance, etc) to the complex (tubal blockage). A fertility specialist will need to run a series of tests on both partners before deciding which course of treatment to recommend.

Specialists typically divide the causes of infertility into three categories:

  • Female – failure to ovulate properly (hormonal, age-related, stress-related); cervical infertility (hostile mucus, cervical narrowing); pelvic problems (such as endometriosis or fallopian tube damage); and uterine factors (fibroids, misformed uterus). According to the Mayo Clinic, 40-50% of infertility cases are due to female causes.
  • Male – sperm abnormalities (low sperm count, poor motility, misshapen sperm); testicular (resulting from infection or injury); or blockage. The Mayo Clinic estimates 20% of cases are due to male factors.
  • Unexplained – may affect one or both partners. This is when all tests return with normal results yet there is still difficulty conceiving. 30-40% of cases are due to both male and female or unexplained factors.

Age, STDs, lifestyle, and environmental factors can contribute to all infertility. Pollution, chemicals in cleaning solutions, pesticides, and some forms of radiation are all examples of environmental factors that scientists suspected may lead to reproductive problems. While exposure to some of these can be limited, others are unavoidable.
Ultimately, regardless of the cause, infertility is a couple’s problem. It will be necessary for both partners to work together with their doctor in finding a solution. The sooner a cause is identified, the sooner treatment can begin.

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