Causes for Infertility and Finding Support
Couples around the world have struggled with infertility for centuries, and it’s an incredibly common issue – even if it may not seem that way. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 6 million women under the age of 44 have difficulty getting pregnant and staying pregnant.1 Unfortunately, women often feel silenced and as a result don’t speak up to get the support they need – from friends, family and their doctor. We can start to lessen the stigma and shame often associated with reproductive issues by talking about it. Let’s start the conversation by digging into some of causes for infertility, potential testing and treatment options, and how you can find support if you or a loved one is struggling with these issues.
What Causes Infertility?
Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after one year of trying,1 though some couples may struggle much longer before seeking help. Although all couples have different circumstances, some common causes for infertility in women include ovulation disorders, like hormonal and thyroid disorders,2 or uterine or cervical abnormalities such as fibroids or polyps.2 Additionally, conditions like endometriosis, primary ovarian sufficiency (which occurs near menopause), and fallopian tube blockage may affect fertility.2 In less common scenarios, conditions like cancer, diabetes or celiac’s disease may also play a role in infertility.2
Infertility affects both men and women, and often puts strain on couples in their journey to conceive. Causes also vary in men, but common contributing factors include varicocele, or the swelling of the vein that drains the testicle, antibodies that attack the sperm, hormonal imbalances, problems with sexual intercourse, tubule defects that prevent movement of the sperm, and more.3
Some risk factors can exist in the absence of these conditions – such as older age, extreme or fluctuating weight, alcohol and drug use, stress, diet or sexually transmitted infections.1
Testing and Treatment
With all these possible causes of infertility, couples might consider talking with an OBGYN or fertility specialist about tests to help identify which underlying condition is contributing to their fertility challenges. Types of tests include hysteroscopy, laparoscopy and genetic testing.2
Fertility treatment options vary depending upon a couple’s circumstances, and in some cases, women may have to go through several rounds of varying treatment before finding success. Treatments include ovulation stimulants, intrauterine insemination or surgery to restore fertility.2 In addition to treatments, couples may also consider looking into assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization, if their situation allows.
Women suffering from fibroids can visit our treatment page to learn more about treatment options that preserve fertility.
Infertility can be stressful and at times isolating for couples, so finding support is critical. If you or a loved one has experienced fertility issues, consider talking to a support group in your community to connect with other people going through the same thing. Hearing the stories of others who have been in similar situations can be comforting, and a reminder that you’re not alone.
- Office on Women’s Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Infertility. Accessed February 5, 2019. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/infertility.
- Mayo Clinic. Infertility. Accessed February 5, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/infertility/symptoms-causes/syc-20354317.
- Mayo Clinic. Male Infertility. Accessed February 5, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-infertility/symptoms-causes/syc-20374773.