Infertility Risk Factors

Submitted by Jenifer on January 18, 2013

Infertility is defined as an inability to get pregnant despite having frequent unprotected sex for a period of one year. This figure drops to six months In the case of women who are 35 or older. Going by this definition, it is estimated that up to 15 percent of all couples in the United States are infertile.


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Infertility can affect both men and women and may be caused by either a single cause such as a blocked fallopian tubes in the woman or a low sperm count in the man, to a combination of causes such as poor dietary habits combined with poor lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking alcohol. In many cases, there is no apparent cause for infertility that can be determined.

Amongst men, the commonest causes of infertility involve abnormalities in the sperm.

These abnormalities include a low sperm count, poor sperm motility and abnormal sperm shape. Other rarer causes of male infertility include hormonal imbalances, problems affecting the reproductive organs and genetic defects.

In the case of women, blocked fallopian tubes, hormonal imbalances caused by malfunctions in the endocrine system, problems affecting the reproductive organs and genetic defects are some of the causes of infertility.

There are several risk factors that are associated with infertility. Some of these risk factors are specific to each sex, while others are common to both sexes.

Risk factors that can increase chances of infertility in women include:

  • Age - Studies show that women in their late 30s are generally less fertile than women in their 20s
  • Endometriosis - This condition occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus
  • Diseases - Fallopian tube disease and chronic conditions such as lupus, diabetes, hypertension and asthma
  • Hormonal imbalances - These may be caused by conditions that affect the endocrine glands such as the pituitary gland
  • Unhealthy lifestyles - Sedentary lifestyles, smoking, drug and alcohol consumption
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Environmental hazards - Prolonged exposure to toxic substances
  • Pap smears - Abnormal pap smears that have been treated with a cone biopsy or cryosurgery
  • Abortions - Having several abortions
  • Miscarriages - Having had one or more miscarriages
  • Diet - Poor dietary habits leading to excessive or very low body fat

Risk factors that can increase chances of infertility in men include:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases , genital infections and prostate disorders
  • Exposure to toxic substances such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs
  • Prolonged exposure to hazardous substances such as radioactive substances and toxic chemicals
  • Prolonged exposure of the genitals to high temperatures
  • Surgery to repair hernias
  • Medications for ulcers and psoriasis
  • Testicles that have not descended into the scrotal sac
  • Contracting mumps after puberty


Studies have shown that a woman’s fertility declines after the age of 30. This is due to a variety of factors such as conditions that interfere with fertility and also due to the higher rate of chromosomal abnormalities that occur in the ova as they age. Age also affects a man’s fertility levels with men over the age of 40 usually experiencing a decline in fertility levels.


If either partner smokes or chews tobacco, their chances of conceiving are reduced. Chances of conceiving reduce further if both partners smoke. The many toxic chemicals found in tobacco can cause problems with the functioning of the reproductive system in women and also cause hormonal imbalances that make conception difficult at best. Smoking also increases the chances of miscarriage and can reduce the potential benefit of fertility treatments.


This is a leading cause of infertility amongst American women and is usually a result of sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits. Being overweight can also affect sperm counts and cause infertility in men.

Extra Exercise

Studies have shown that women who exercise for more than seven hours every week may have problems ovulating. While regular exercise is essential for maintaining optimal health, women should refrain from overdoing it if they want to improve their chances of conceiving.

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