What Causes Infertility?
Infertility can occur in both men and women. It can be caused by either the male or female reproductive system. Infertility can be a devastating problem for couples, and medical treatment may never resolve the problem. There are a number of causes of infertility in both men and women.
The most common infertility problem in men is a low sperm count. It is very rare for absolutely no sperm to be present, but this problem does affect some men. One common cause of low sperm count is injury to the testicular area. Exposure to radiation or toxic chemicals can also cause a low sperm count. Men may also suffer from problems with the pituitary gland, which may be unable to produce the hormones that enable the testicles to produce testosterone.
Other known causes of low sperm count are drug related. Smoking is known to cause a low sperm count. Prescription medications and heavy intake of alcohol or other drugs are often major factors in a low sperm count. Men may also experience a condition known as retrograde ejaculation, in which the sperm is released into the bladder instead of through the penis.
In women, the most common cause of infertility is problems with the Fallopian tubes. There may be a blockage in the Fallopian tubes, or they may be infected due to sexually transmitted diseases. Endometriosis, a growth of tissue that becomes attached to the ovaries or Fallopian tubes, is also a common cause of infertility in women.
Previous pelvic surgery may have left scars on the Fallopian tubes that may be a contributing factor to infertility in women. Problems with ovulation are the cause of infertility in 40% of women. These may be due to some form of hormonal imbalance. Abnormal structure of the ovaries can also present a problem. There may also be other abnormalities in the structure of the reproductive organs that can lead to problems with the ovaries.
Between 1948 and 1971, a medication called Diethylstilbestrol (DES) was prescribed to prevent miscarriage or premature births. Diethylstilbestrol is no longer prescribed, as medical problems became apparent in the children of the women to whom it was prescribed. Among the medical problems found in the daughters of the women who took DES is cancer in the cervix or vagina. Structural problems in the reproductive organs that can lead to infertility are also present in the daughters of women who took DES.
Fertility also decreases with age. A woman is at her fertile peak in her twenties, and fertility significantly decreases by her thirties. Also, in her mid-thirties, a woman’s eggs are not as healthy as they were in her twenties. Chances of conceiving for both men and women begin to deteriorate as the aging process takes its toll. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may prolong fertility rates, but deterioration is inevitable and a natural part of the aging process.
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