What Causes Infertility?

Fertility Advice

What Causes Infertility?

If you’re looking to find out what causes infertility, be careful not to overanalyze or be overly critical of yourself. Your infertility may be the result of several known or unknown factors. Quite often, infertility is due to unexplained causes, which may be related to psychological factors. However, there are many health and medical reasons that could be responsible for your infertility.

Aging as a cause of infertility

Age is one factor that has a direct impact on your fertility levels. The number and quality of a woman’s eggs reduce with age and women have less chance of conceiving after a certain age.  With aging, a woman’s ovaries lose the ability to release eggs and she’s also more likely to have health conditions impacting fertility. The chances of miscarriage also go up with age.

Hormonal causes

Changes in hormones may obstruct ovulation in some cases. This happens when hormonal changes lead to the release of an egg from the ovary and is not synchronized with the thickening of the uterus lining or the endometrium. Hormonal problems may be related to your thyroid, pituitary gland or the adrenal gland. Such changes usually come to light during basal body temperature checks or blood tests. Ovulation predictor kits may also be used to diagnose the problem.

Damaged or obstructed fallopian tubes

At times, the fallopian tubes get obstructed or damaged and are thus unable to carry the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. In the absence of contact between the egg and the sperm, fertilization fails to take place, leading to infertility. Such damage or obstruction may be the result of pelvic infections or surgeries, or in some cases it may take place due to endometriosis or growth of tissue outside the uterus.

Infected ovarian cyst and PCOS

Though an ovarian cyst by itself does not cause infertility, infection in the cyst may lead to scarring in the fallopian tubes, leading to loss of fertility. Endometriosis in the cyst can also lead to infertility in women. PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is, however, a major cause of infertility as it leads to irregular ovulation or lack of ovulation due to production of excessive androgens.

Uterine abnormalities

Any kind of abnormality in your uterus can also become a culprit when it comes to infertility. An inherent abnormal shape of the uterus could cause difficulties in conception. The presence of fibroids (tissues and muscles on the uterus walls) or polyps also leads to problems in ovulation. Some women also suffer from primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) when their ovaries stop normal functioning before the age of 40.

Cervical problems

Though not so common, infertility may also result from cervical causes, where the sperm can’t pass the cervical canal either due to abnormal mucus production or prior surgery in the cervix. Intrauterine inseminations are useful in treating such problems.

Pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID)

PID can cause the formation of scar tissue in the pelvic organs, resulting in infertility. The problem is caused by the entry of bacteria into the reproductive organs through your cervix. Infection in the cervix also exposes the uterus and fallopian tubes to the risk of infection as bacteria from your vagina can easily get into these organs. Some of the common causes of PID include sexually transmitted infections, bacterial vaginosis, a recent abortion or IUD insertion and douche.

Endometriosis linked with infertility

Endometriosis, or formation of tissue and muscle lumps outside the uterus or on its lining, can cause problems with egg development. It may also obstruct the implantation of the embryo in the uterus wall, causing infertility. Endometriosis also causes changes in the pelvic organs, such as the fallopian tubes, thus reducing your fertility levels.

Excessive alcohol or smoking

Among the common contemporary reasons for infertility is excessive smoking or alcohol consumption. A study conducted by Harvard University in 2009 of couples undergoing IVF showed that women who consumed more than six units of alcohol per week were 18% less likely to conceive. For men, the infertility levels were found to be 14% less. Smoking is also known to have a detrimental effect on fertility. The chemicals in cigarette smoke, including nicotine, cyanide and carbon monoxide, expedite the loss rate of eggs in women, leading to an early menopause.

Stress can lead to infertility

Go figure, right? Though no detailed findings are available to link infertility with stress, hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine are believed to increase during chronic stress, impacting fertility. A reduction in stress can also lead to increase in proteins in the uterine lining and in the flow of blood to the uterus, which in turn can help boost your fertility. So if you’re looking to conceive, try to keep your stress levels under check, as far as possible.

Intensive exercises can hamper fertility

Extreme exercise or too much athletic activity can hamper your chances of conceiving and are best avoided if you’re trying to have a baby. Highly-intensive workouts can change your hormonal balance, thus impacting your ovulation and menstruation processes. The key to fertility is moderate exercises as a sedentary lifestyle can also cause infertility and hence, it’s important to maintain a balance between both if you want to get pregnant.


A proper diagnosis is required to ascertain the cause of your infertility but one or more of the above mentioned causes are likely to be behind your failure to conceive. Food habits, lifestyle, stress, pathological problems and physical causes may be working in isolation or as a combination of factors to adversely affect your chances of conceiving.

Multiple miscarriages have also been seen to cause infertility, as do some previous surgeries. Any obstruction in the fallopian tubes, either due to scarring or damage of some kind, will prevent your egg from traveling to your uterus, thus leading to reduced fertility.

It’s important to understand that you cannot always compare yourself with other women. We are all unique individuals and let’s face it, women are complex beings.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *