Causes of Infertility in Males & Females

Medically Reviewed By
Dr Aradhya Achuri(Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/ObstetricianOur Panel of Experts
At FirstCry Parenting, our aim is to give you the most elevant, accurate and up to date information.

Every article that we publish, confirms to stringent guidelines & involves several levels of reviews, both from our Editorial team & Experts. We welcome your suggestions in making this platform more useful for all our users. Write in to us at parenting.care@firstcry.com
Sad couple

Last Updated on

Many couples struggle to get pregnant due to infertility issues. And a couple is diagnosed infertile if their efforts toward attaining a pregnancy have been unsuccessful over the course of one year. For a newlywed couple looking to start a family, infertility can be outright devastating. But learning the causes of infertility in both males and females can help tackle the issues and increase the chances of conception.

Reasons for Infertility in Females

Cyclical ovulation and menses, and the changes that are triggered when the womb accepts the sperm are extremely complex and can be affected by lots of different factors. An unfortunate physiological slip-up in any of these complex processes is what causes female infertility.

1. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Also known as PCOS, it is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.

What is it? 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that can affect women during their childbearing years and affects the woman’s ovaries.

Possible Signs Include:

  • Irregular periods with the heavy flow (caused by uterus lining building up over a longer time).
  • Presence of high levels of male hormones causing extra hair growth on the face, back and chest while also triggering male pattern baldness.
  • Weight gain and formation of dark patches which is caused by insulin resistance which often accompanies PCOS.
  • Other signs include headaches and acne.

Treatment

Women with PCOS are sometimes prescribed birth control pills to regularise periods. This is accompanied by medication to combat insulin resistance and cholesterol. Lifestyle changes and hormonal therapy could reverse some signs of PCOS too.

Success Rate: 

Unfortunately, there is no specific cure for PCOS yet. Reversing the imbalance of hormones through medication and lifestyle changes can increase one’s chances of becoming pregnant. The effects of these vary from person to person.

2. Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Hypothalamic amenorrhea refers to an impairment in the functioning of the hypothalamus leading to cessation of menstruation for several months.

What is it? 

The hypothalamus is present in the brain and regulates the production of hormones in the body. The hypothalamus is easily affected by factors such as stress, diet, sudden weight gain or loss, and over-exercise. This can lead to a situation where the menstrual cycle of women is affected, leading to problems such as infertility.

Possible Signs: 

  • Increase in appetite
  • Cold chills
  • Poor sex drive
  • Depression

Treatment: 

A lifestyle change is needed to address the problem and is usually the first step in treatment. Hormonal therapy, using injections is another option for treatment.

Success Rate: 

Hypothalamic amenorrhea is reversible, and success rates for attaining pregnancy are quite good.

3. Premature Ovarian Failure

Premature Ovarian failure is a condition where there is a lack of a sufficient number of eggs in the ovaries before the age of 40.

What is it? 

A condition which happens when a woman’s ovaries stop functioning normally before she is 40. Please note that this should not be confused with premature menopause. Menopause is the complete cessation of periods. Women with premature ovarian failure, on the other hand, may have irregular or occasional periods.

Possible Signs: 

The symptoms of premature ovarian failure include:

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Lowered sex drive
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Irregular periods

Treatment: 

Treatment for this condition addresses the insufficiency of oestrogen that arises from the condition. IVF is also a viable treatment option.

Success Rate: 

Unlike menopause, there are instances where women still experience menstrual bleeding and conception is possible.

Sad woman

4. Overproduction of Prolactin

Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland.

What is it? 

If prolactin production is higher than normal, it will suppress the production of oestrogen, which in turn affects the regularity of one’s menstrual cycle and fertility.

Possible Signs:

  • Irregular or no periods
  • Vaginal dryness
  • The growth of hair on face and body, accompanied by acne.
  • Milky discharge from breasts (though the person is not lactating)

Treatment: 

This condition can be treated by medication and even surgery. The drug Cabergoline is used for women who suffer this condition and want to boost their fertility.

Success Rate: 

The normal pituitary function can be restored, and fertility regained in most cases.

5. Tubal Infertility

As the name suggests, it concerns the fallopian tube.

What is it? 

A block in your fallopian tube or a damaged fallopian tube will hinder the transfer of egg from your ovary to the womb and thus pregnancy.

Possible Signs: 

Most women do not have any symptoms. Chronic pelvic pain is seen when there is extensive or chronic infection

Treatment: 

Blocked fallopian tubes can be treated by operation. Damaged tubes are not easily repairable and doing so poses a risk for further complications.

Success Rate: 

Success in achieving pregnancy after treatment for blocked fallopian tubes is not guaranteed. In-Vitro fertilization is recommended to avoid the risk of complications of a damaged fallopian tube.

6. Endometriosis

Endometriosis usually affects the fallopian tubes, ovaries and other tissues in the pelvic region.

What is it?

The endometrium tissue is a mucous membrane tissue that lines the uterus and is required for the implantation of the egg. When the endometrium tissue grows outside the uterus, it results in endometriosis. When the tissue grows in the ovaries, it can lead to the formation of ovarian cysts which can affect fertility.

Possible Signs: 

  • Painful periods
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Pain with urination and bowel movements
  • Heavy bleeding during periods and sometimes bleeding between periods

Treatment: 

As endometriosis is caused by an overabundance of oestrogen, hormone therapy is the definitive treatment for it, barring surgery. Patients will also need pain relief medication.

Success Rate: 

Opting for in vitro fertilization is advised over constructive surgery. Doctors also advise women suffering from this condition to opt for pregnancy earlier rather than later as the condition could worsen over time, impairing their ability to carry a pregnancy to term. If it is not possible to plan pregnancy early on, egg freezing can be done to retain fertility.

Woman at doctor

Reasons for Male Infertility

Inability to conceive a child could also mean infertility issues in males. It also comes with some societal stigma despite the fact that many people are unaware of what causes male infertility. However, there are many forms of infertility that can be treated.

1. Varicocele

If you feel a sharp growing pain in your testicles you may be experiencing varicocele.

What is it?

Varicocele is a condition where the veins surrounding the testicles in the scrotum get enlarged and hinder the quality of one’s sperm.

Possible Signs: 

Varicocele shows almost no outward signs in most cases. It may sometimes cause pain in and around the testis. This pain appears in the following ways:

  • Varies from sharp to dull
  • Increases with a long time spent standing or doing physical activity
  • Pain can be relieved only while lying down

Treatment: 

Mild forms of varicocele do not need treatment and may not cause an inability to conceive. If the condition becomes severe or painful, surgery is used to treat it.

Success Rate: 

If treated surgically, the alleviation of varicocele can improve the quality of one’s sperm and bolster one’s ability to father a child.

2. Infection

Some infections can affect sperm quality, quantity, and delivery in men.

What is it?

An infection is caused by the action of foreign bodies such as virus and bacteria. Infections that cause male infertility are:

  • Mycoplasma
  • Tuberculosis
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Urinary tract Infections
  • Chlamydia

Treatment: 

Treatments for genital infections vary depending on the nature of the infection.

Success Rate: 

Most infections can be treated and reversed with proper medical care. If one suspects an infection, they should seek help immediately, as its development and the damages it causes over time may prove irreversible.

3. Retrograde Ejaculation

This is related to the improper ejaculation of the semen.

What is it?

Certain conditions may cause a man’s semen to enter the bladder instead of being released out through the penis.

Possible Signs: 

  • Little to no semen ejaculated during orgasm.
  • Cloudy urine after orgasm, caused by semen in the bladder.

Treatment: 

Medications may help somewhat in correcting the problem, where it is caused by nerve damage.

Success Rate: 

Retrieving sperm, in order to use it for In Vitro fertilization, effectively bypasses the problem of infertility caused due to retrograde ejaculation.

Sad man

4. Tumours

These include benign and malignant tumours.

What is it? 

The swelling of a part of a body without any considerable inflammation, and when is caused by the abnormal growth of tissue, is called a tumour.

Possible Signs: 

A painless lump in the testicle or feeling of weight in the scrotum. it can be detected by ultrasound.

Treatment: 

Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are all used to treat tumours.

Success Rate: 

Non-malignant tumours can be removed by surgery and are highly unlikely to cause long-term damage to one’s fertility. Cancer patients who have been exposed to radiation or chemotherapy need to freeze their semen sample before starting cancer treatment. The time taken in regaining fertility increases with the age of the patient.

5. Hormonal Imbalance

Just like women, men also suffer from hormonal imbalances.

What is it? 

When hormones that influence sperm production are thrown off the normal range of required quantity, it could cause infertility.

Possible Signs: 

Symptoms of hormonal imbalances vary widely, and it is commonly diagnosed when seeking medical attention for infertility. Reasons that could cause hormonal imbalance range from genetics to lifestyle choices.

Treatment: 

Hormonal therapy can help restore the proper balance of hormones in an affected person’s body.

Success Rate: 

Treatment of hormonal imbalance has a high rate of success. However, restoring sperm production and potency may take a year or longer.

Female infertility causes and treatment differs from person to person and case to case. As despairing as coming to terms with such circumstances may be, please do not opt to rely on unscientific, “one cure for all” infertility treatments that could damage one’s health further. For men, sperm production, delivery and quality are all factors that determine male fertility. Most can be treated with surgery or medication. As long as production of viable sperm hasn’t been determinedly disqualified, options such as IVF can provide solutions.

Also Read: Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) Process for Infertility Treatment

Previous articleFibre-Rich Foods for Babies
Next articleFabric Conditioners for Babies – All You Need to Know