What are the causes of infertility and sterility?
- What is infertility? The inability to take a pregnancy to full term with the birth of a healthy child.
- What is sterility? The inability to get pregnant.
Why am I not getting pregnant?
There are many reasons for infertility and sterility and they tend to have their origin in the female partner in 30% of cases, in the male partner in another 30% of cases, in both partners in a further 30% of cases and in 10% of cases the cause is unknown.
Origin in the female partner
Diseases of the ovary and the uterus:
- Endometriosis: growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Premature menopause and ovarian failure.
- Hereditary causes resulting from chromosome or genetic abnormalities.
- Structural abnormalities of the uterus such as a T-shaped uterus, a septate uterus, Asherman's syndrome or myomas.
- Fallopian tube factors such as abnormalities in the Fallopian tubes, hydrosalpinx, tubal occlusion or salpingitis.
Socio-economic, cultural and environmental factors:
- An advanced age.
- An unhealthy lifestyle, poor eating habits and exposure to toxins such as alcohol, tobacco and other environmental contaminants.
Origin in the male partner
A semen analysis is the first test for detecting the causes of male factor but it does not always reflect exactly where the problem lies. Further, additional tests are needed in order to come to this determination.
- Semen quality is affected by a man's quality of life and environmental factors such as smoking, alcohol, drugs, poor eating habits, spending long periods of time sitting down and an elevated temperature in the testes.
- Stress and being overweight.
- Infections of the testes. The most common of these is testicular infection or orchitis.
- Congenital disorders and chryptorchidism.
- Chromosomal causes such as Kleinfelter syndrome.
- Genetic causes such as cystic fibrosis or Y chromosome microdeletion that originate depletion of chromosome material.
Combined causes of infertility and sterility
The subfertility issue in one person can be improved or worsened depending on his/her couple's circumstances. This is what is known as a combined cause.
Unexplained causes of infertility and sterility
A basic fertility analysis cannot provide an answer for all causes of infertility and some remain unexplained. The final diagnosis is often determined following in vitro fertilisation (IVF) when it is possible to get an idea of the couple's ability to fertilise and the quality of their embryos.