Getting pregnant isn’t always as simple as we were taught it would be in sex ed. In fact, 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting or staying pregnant. Infertility is the medical diagnosis of not being able to conceive after one year of unprotected sex between male and female partners. While the causes of infertility can vary, it is important to highlight that infertility diagnoses are split evenly between men and women. Here are 5 common infertility diagnoses:
- Ovulatory dysfunction
Ovulatory disorders account for infertility in 25% of couples. Ovulation happens when the ovaries release a mature egg that is ready for fertilization during the menstrual cycle. In some cases, eggs don’t develop properly or are not released from the ovaries–this is called anovulation or the absence of ovulation. Common causes of anovulation include: low BMI or body weight, excessive exercise, hormonal imbalances, medical disorders, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome also known as PCOS.
- Male factor infertility
In most cases, there is no obvious sign that a man is experiencing infertility without testing. The quality and quantity of sperm are evaluated to determine the number and percentage that are healthy. When there is a low sperm count or a high percentage of abnormal sperm, the chances of the sperm fertilizing an egg are lower. There are several ways in which sperm production can be considered abnormal, the most common being:
-Azoospermia (no measurable level of sperm in the semen)
-Oligospermia (low concentration of sperm in the semen. Oftentimes, exhibiting a higher percentage of abnormal sperm cells)
-Necrospermia (when the sperm in the semen is either immobile or dead)
The most common causes of male factor infertility include: sperm production as a result of genetic abnormalities, infections, chemicals or medication; sperm transportation as a result of infections, prostate related problems and vasectomies.
Endometriosis is when tissue similar to the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of the uterine cavity. The tissue can grow on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, lower intestines, or pelvic muscles. This can cause symptoms such as pelvic pain and painful periods. Endometriosis can cause inflammation in the pelvis and infertility.
- Unexplained infertility
15-30 percent of couples experiencing infertility are diagnosed as having unexplained infertility, which is a non-diagnosis that happens when standard fertility testing has not been successful in identifying the direct cause for someone’s inability to conceive.
- Tubal factor infertility
Tubal factor infertility occurs when the fallopian tube(s) are blocked due to diseases, damage, or scarring. These obstructions can block sperm from fertilizing the egg or stop the embryo from traveling to the uterus for pregnancy. This condition accounts for 25-35% of female infertility, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Tubal blockage can result from a range of causes including: pelvic infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID); scarring caused by endometriosis; scarring caused by previous abdominal or pelvic surgeries; scarring caused by a ruptured appendix or other types of trauma.
Learn more about the reasons you may be struggling to conceive from Dr. Julie Rhee here.