12 Underlying Causes of Infertility in Women and Men

When you’re trying to conceive but don’t find success for an extended period of time, it can be disheartening for everyone involved. If you don’t conceive within 12 months of unprotected sex, you may have a problem with infertility. And you’re not alone. According to Conceive Health, a fertility clinic in Toronto, “Infertility impacts millions of couples around the world.”

Luckily infertility isn’t always forever — it’s not the same as being sterile. Although it may be harder to conceive, it’s not impossible. Conception can be achieved naturally with perseverance or with medical aid. 

Approximately 10% to 15% of couples in the United States are infertile, so if you’re struggling with infertility you are not alone. In approximately 15% of infertile couples, however, the infertility is unexplained, as no cause is found once all the tests are done.

From low sperm count to a lack of ovulation, there are a number of reasons in both men and women that cause infertility, many of which have underlying causes you may not realize are an issue. Below you will find some of these causes of infertility to help you understand the issues you may have. 

6 Underlying Causes of Female Infertility

Female infertility can be hard on a woman, and often difficult to understand and diagnose. Luckily, it’s not as uncommon as you think, and with the right help it can be remedied in some cases. Here are some underlying causes of female infertility: 

1. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition where an egg is not released from an ovary on a regular basis. This makes conception very difficult, as the time of ovulation is quite unpredictable. 

2. Endometriosis

Fallopian tubes can become blocked by scar tissue from a previous infection, or from a condition called endometriosis. Endometriosis happens when tissue that usually grows within the uterus grows outside of it, blocking the fallopian tubes.

3. Hormonal Issues

Thyroid disorders and disorders of other glands can cause hormonal imbalances that can interfere with your menstrual cycle, making it difficult to conceive. Problems with the hypothalamus, pituitary gland or adrenal gland can all contribute to this issue.

4. Disease

Sickle cell, kidney and celiac disease can all negatively influence a woman’s fertility and likelihood of conception. 

5. Structural Issues

From abnormal anatomy of the cervix or uterus caused by genetics or injury — or benign growths such as polyps or fibroids — there are a number of structural issues that can prevent sperm from reaching an egg, or an egg from being properly released from an ovary.

6. Stress

It’s little known that stress can impact a woman’s ability to conceive. Thankfully this is a temporary cause of infertility. Alpha-amylase, an enzyme correlating with stress, can make it harder to get pregnant.

6 Underlying Causes of Male Infertility

The reasons for infertility in men are typically more commonly known, but that doesn’t mean that the underlying causes are. Male infertility can be just as hard on men as female infertility is on women. Sometimes this infertility can be temporary, but it is often permanent. Here are some underlying causes of male infertility:

1. Low Sperm Count 

Low sperm count means you don’t have enough sperm in your semen to conceive as easily as those with a regular sperm count. You may have too few sperm, or even none at all. 

2. Low Sperm Motility 

Sometimes you may have an adequate amount of sperm, but they don’t move as well as they should. This can cause difficulties in the sperm reaching their destination in time. It does not make conception impossible, but it’s more difficult than it would typically be. Low sperm motility can be an issue you are born with, or it can be caused by testicular trauma. 

3. Variococeles 

Variococeles is the name for a condition where the veins in the testicles are enlarged. This can increase blood flow and heat, influencing the number and shape of the sperm. Abnormally shaped sperm is a cause of infertility, along with your testicles being too hot for too long.

4. Substance Abuse

Overuse of substances such as alcohol, marijuana and tobacco can all lead to infertility issues in men, as well as other health issues in the long run.

5. Steroid Use

Some men use steroids to aid in hobbies and activities such as body building, but they are also used as the main treatment for some inflammatory conditions or conditions where the body’s defense system malfunctions. As a result, tissue damage is sometimes caused. But it seems to be lesser known that use of steroids can negatively impact fertility in men. 

6. Undescended Testicles

Undescended testicles are linked to a range of health problems, including infertility. The exact cause of undescended testicles is unknown.