Infertility FAQs

What causes infertility in women?

The most common female infertility factor is an ovulation disorder. Other causes of female infertility include blocked fallopian tubes, which can occur when a woman has had pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis (a sometimes painful condition causing adhesions and cysts). Congenital anomalies (birth defects) involving the structure of the uterus and uterine fibroids are associated with repeated miscarriages.

What increases a woman’s risk of infertility?

Many things may affect a woman’s fertility. Some of these include:

  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Stress
  • Poor diet
  • Athletic training
  • Being overweight or underweight
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Health problems that cause hormonal changes, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and primary ovarian insufficiency

What causes infertility in men?

The most common male infertility factors include azoospermia (no sperm cells are produced) and oligospermia (few sperm cells are produced). Sometimes, sperm cells are malformed or they die before they can reach the egg. In rare cases, infertility in men is caused by a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis or a chromosomal abnormality.

What increases a man’s risk of infertility?

A man’s sperm may be affected by his overall health and lifestyle. Some things that may reduce the quality or number of sperm include:

  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Drugs
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Age
  • Environmental toxins, including pesticides and lead
  • Health problems such as mumps, serious conditions like kidney disease, or hormone problems
  • Some medications
  • Radiation treatment and chemotherapy for cancer

How do doctors determine if a couple has fertility problems?

A doctor will begin by taking your medical history and giving a physical exam. For a woman, a doctor may use one or more test to evaluate ovulation and hormone levels. In addition, an evaluation of the fallopian tubes and uterus is sometimes done. In men, doctors usually begin by testing the semen. They look at the number, shape, and movement of the sperm. Sometimes doctors also suggest testing the level of a man’s hormones. Some common tests of fertility in women include: hysterosalpingography, an X-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes; laparoscopy, a minor surgery to see inside the abdomen; and sonohysterogram, a procedure using vaginal ultrasound.