Whether you’ve been trying to conceive for a while, are just starting out, or merely thinking about your fertility, it’s likely you’ve heard the word infertility thrown around a bit. You may have even heard that it’s on the rise, and unfortunately that’s true.
What often doesn’t get discussed, though, are the causes of infertility and even how infertility as a diagnosis isn’t one-size-fits-all. We’re here to help you learn about why infertility happens, why all infertility isn’t the same, and what you can do if you’re concerned.
Read on to learn more about four common causes of infertility!
What is infertility?
Infertility is the general term used if you’ve tried to conceive (or just had unprotected intercourse during your fertile time) for 12 months with no success. If you’re 35 or older, you may be diagnosed with infertility after 6 months of trying.
Infertility is fairly common–by many estimates about 10 to 15% of couples experience infertility, and around 20% of women of reproductive age. Infertility is more common among those who have never had children. But, it is also possible to experience infertility after you’ve had one or more children (secondary infertility).
Male factor infertility accounts for approximately 50% of infertility cases, and can be caused by a number of issues. The rest of this blog will focus on the female side.
Common Causes of Infertility
Since infertility simply means 12 months of trying, there can be many different reasons that someone can be experiencing infertility. This means that sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what the reason is–but on the flip side, sometimes it’s actually a fairly simple fix!
We’ll break down some of the most common causes of infertility, and where to start if you’re concerned about each issue.
Ovulatory dysfunction means that you ovulate infrequently or not at all. It is actually the leading cause of female infertility, and can be due to a number of factors. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common cause of lack of ovulation or irregular ovulation.
But ovulatory dysfunction can also be due to other hormonal imbalances, genetic conditions, or lifestyle factors such as diet or exercise.
With ovulatory dysfunction, challenges with conception come from two main places: lack of ovulation or irregular ovulation. Lack of ovulation means you’re not ovulating at all, and irregular ovulation means your ovulation day changes each cycle.
If you aren’t ovulating, you may need to talk to your doctor about ovulation induction treatment. If you’re not ovulating regularly (likely indicated by irregular periods), your challenge may be finding your fertile days. The good news is that tracking irregular cycles is still very possible, using hormone tests or other fertility signs (but probably not a period tracker).
If you aren't ovulating, you may need to talk to your doctor about ovulation induction treatment.
Fallopian Tube Issues
You might not think much about your fallopian tubes when you’re trying to get pregnant, but it turns out they’re pretty important too! The fallopian tubes, which lead from the ovary to the uterus, are the site of fertilization of the egg.
If fallopian tubes are blocked, conception will be very difficult. This is why fallopian tube issues are involved in 25-35% of infertility cases.
Unfortunately, even if you’re ovulating, your fallopian tubes may still be blocked. Fortunately, there are several possible tests and treatments, although you’ll need to talk to your doctor. You can learn more about how fallopian tube issues are diagnosed and treated here.
Uterus and Cervix Issues
While it’s true that hormones can have a lot to do with infertility, it’s important not to overlook potential structural issues as well. Conditions affecting the uterus or cervix can have a big impact on fertility.
In the uterus, conditions affecting the tissue of the uterine lining can make implantation more difficult. These can include uterine fibroids (benign muscular growths) or adenomyosis, a condition where the uterine lining tissue grows into the muscle lining the uterus.
Both fibroids and adenomyosis can cause pain and heavy periods. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s worth a conversation with your doctor. If you’re experiencing secondary infertility, you may also want to ask about possible complications from previous pregnancies, especially delivery via cesarean.
Your cervix can also play a role, since it’s the path by which sperm travel into the uterus on their way to fertilize an egg. Cervical stenosis is a narrowing of the cervix that can be pre-existing or due to surgery or trauma, and prevent efficient sperm transport.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
Primary ovarian insufficiency — sometimes called premature ovarian insufficiency — means your ovaries have stopped consistently producing eggs too soon (that is, too young).
Primary ovarian insufficiency means your ovaries have stopped consistently producing eggs too soon.
It’s natural for your ovarian reserve, or the number of eggs remaining with the potential to mature each month, to decrease as you age. But if your ovarian reserve gets too low too early, generally below age 40, this can cause fertility issues.
Primary ovarian insufficiency may not cause any symptoms, but fortunately you can learn more about your ovarian reserve by testing your follicle stimulating hormone levels. Proov Reserve is an easy, at-home test to help you do just that!
What should I do if I'm concerned about infertility?
It’s natural to be overwhelmed by the possible causes of infertility. The good news is there are several steps you can take, either proactive or reactive, if you’re concerned.
One of the first things you can do to increase your chances of conceiving is confirm that you’re ovulating successfully. Proov Confirm can help you do this at home! Confirming ovulation is more than just knowing when you’re ovulating, and is important for conceiving.
Regardless, if you’ve been trying for over 12 months or are experiencing symptoms that are causing worry, talk to your doctor about your options. Most common causes of infertility can be treated. You may just need a little extra information on your side, and that’s why Proov is here to help.