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24/04/2024 - 4 min read

Infertility - what is it and what causes it?

Infertility is a complex and multifaceted issue that affects millions of people worldwide. In the UK alone, approximately one in seven couples struggle with fertility issues. It's important to recognise that infertility does not discriminate – it can impact individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles.

Infertility is defined by the World Health Organisation as the inability to conceive after a year of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse. However, this definition may vary slightly depending on factors such as age and medical history. Infertility isn't solely a female issue—both men and women can contribute to fertility challenges. Sometimes there is more than one contributing factor and sometimes, despite extensive investigations, no cause is found.  

Understanding the causes

Female factors

Ovulation disorders: Irregular or absent ovulation can make it difficult for women to conceive. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can disrupt ovulation patterns.

Age: As women age, the number of eggs and their quality decreases.

Uterine or fallopian tube issues: Structural problems within the reproductive organs, such as blocked fallopian tubes or uterine abnormalities, can make conception harder.

Endometriosis: This condition occurs when the tissue lining the uterus grows outside of it, potentially causing inflammation and scarring that affects fertility.

Male factors

Low sperm count or poor sperm quality: Issues such as low sperm count, abnormal sperm morphology, or reduced sperm motility can impact male fertility.

Varicocele: A varicose vein in the testicles can lead to overheating, which may affect sperm production.

Ejaculation disorders: Problems with ejaculation, such as premature ejaculation or retrograde ejaculation (where semen enters the bladder instead of exiting through the penis), can interfere with fertility.

Genetic factors: Certain genetic conditions can affect sperm production or function, leading to infertility.

Shared factors:
Lifestyle factors: Habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, and poor diet can all negatively impact fertility in both men and women.

Weight: Being overweight or underweight can disrupt hormone levels and affect fertility.

Chronic Illness: Conditions such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and cancer can impact fertility through various mechanisms.

Previous medical history: Previous infections such as mumps or prior surgeries.

Environmental factors: Exposure to toxins, pollutants, or radiation can affect reproductive health.

Seeking help and treatment

For couples struggling with infertility, seeking help from a healthcare professional is crucial. Fertility specialists can conduct thorough evaluations to try to identify the underlying cause(s) of infertility and recommend the best course of treatments. These treatments may include lifestyle changes, medications to stimulate ovulation or improve sperm quality, surgical interventions to correct anatomical issues, or assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The emotional impact
Infertility can take a significant toll on individuals and couples, both physically and psychologically. The journey to parenthood can be filled with disappointment and uncertainty, leading to feelings of stress, grief, and even depression. It's essential for those experiencing infertility to prioritise their mental well-being and seek support from loved ones, support groups, or mental health professionals. At Care Fertility, we provide counselling for those about to embark, or those going through treatment.

Breaking the stigma
Despite the prevalence of infertility, it remains a topic that is often associated with guilt and shame. Breaking the stigma surrounding infertility is crucial in creating a supportive environment where individuals and couples feel comfortable seeking help and sharing their experiences.  

Remember, you are not alone, and your experiences matter.

At Care Fertility, our dedicated team of fertility specialists deeply understand the complexities and challenges of infertility, and we are here to offer unwavering support to individuals and couples on their journey to parenthood. 

With over two decades of experience, our experts provide compassionate care and treatment plans tailored to each person's unique needs and circumstances. Beyond medical interventions, our holistic approach includes emotional support, counselling services, and access to support groups, ensuring that our patients feel empowered and supported every step of the way.

Book a consultation now