Causes of Infertility

There are many possible causes of infertility. A single cause may not be linked to either the man or the woman. Often the problem stems from a combination of factors in either or both partners. You and your partner will be diagnosed as a couple to determine the best treatment for you.

Infertility in the Man

A man may be infertile because he does not have enough sperm; because the sperm are not active enough; because the passage, or vas deferens, is blocked; or because of problems with ejaculation.

A number of factors can cause or contribute to male infertility:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia
  • Fevers and infections, such as mumps occurring after puberty
  • Surgery of the reproductive tract, such as that for undescended testes, hernia repair, disorders of the prostate gland, or cancer
  • Damage to the vas deferens, most often by vasectomy
  • Varicose veins in the scrotum (varicocele)
  • Use of certain drugs, such as those for depression or high blood pressure
  • Exposure of the testes to high temperatures, such as those that result from the wearing of tight, unventilated clothing; excessive use of hot tubs; or conditions in the workplace
  • Use of tobacco, marijuana, or alcohol
  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes
  • Genetic or hormonal problems
  • Injury to the testes, such as that resulting from physical trauma or exposure to radiation, can also cause infertility in the man.

Infertility in the Woman

A woman may be infertile because of hormone imbalances or problems in the reproductive tract.

Factors that can cause or add to female infertility include:

  • Hormone levels that prevent the release of an egg from an ovary or the implantation of a fertilized egg in the lining of the uterus
  • Extra weight (more than 30% over her ideal body weight), which may cause problems with ovulation
  • Scarring or tumors of the uterus or defects of the uterus present from birth
  • Too little or poor-quality cervical mucus, sometimes due to surgery or other treatment
  • Endometriosis-a condition in which tissue like that normally lining the uterus (the endometrium) is found outside the uterus
  • Adhesions-bands of scar tissue from previous surgery, endometriosis, or infections that bind together tissues inside the abdomen
  • Infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a severe infection of the female reproductive organs that may be caused by sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea or chlamydia; or appendicitis, which can result in scarring of the internal pelvic organs
  • Production of antibodies that attack her partner’s sperm
  • Medical conditions, such as thyroid disease or diabetes
  • Genetic conditions such as Turner’s syndrome, in which a woman has only one X chromosome and may not completely develop breasts or pubic hair
  • Use of tobacco, marijuana, or alcohol