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What causes infertility?
Infertility can arise from problems with reproductive organs: the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and the uterus, as well as sperm health.
A wide range of conditions can affect these organs. An experienced fertility specialist plays an important role in helping diagnose fertility issues so that an effective treatment plan can be implemented.
Common conditions such as stress and obesity can have a negative impact on sexuality and sperm production. Attention to lifestyle can significantly improve sperm health.
Ovulation is when an egg (ovum) is released from the ovaries. Normal ovulation is usually indicated by regular and predictable periods occurring at a frequency of 24–32 days. If a patient has irregular periods it may mean they are not ovulating regularly.
There is a range of conditions which can disturb normal ovarian function including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), premature ovarian insufficiency, diminished ovarian reserve and stress-induced irregular periods or amenorrhea. Menopause also reduces and is eventually responsible for ceasing ovarian function.
Fallopian tube issues
Normally functioning fallopian tubes are also important for fertility. Fallopian tube dysfunction, usually due to a blockage or swelling, is another potential cause of infertility. Tubal occlusion (which is a partial or full tubal blockage) is potentially caused by a history of pelvic inflammation or previous surgery.
Endometriosis or past sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause fallopian tube dysfunction and contribute to infertility. Your fertility specialist may need to scan your uterus and fallopian tubes, through an x-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes (known as a hysterosalpingogram or HSG) or via laparoscopy.
Fibroids and other abnormalities in the uterus can also contribute to infertility. If your fertility specialist suspects fibroids or anatomic abnormalities in the uterus, they may investigate via an ultrasound or other scans to evaluate the uterine environment and suggest a plan for treatment.
Nearly 50% of infertility is related to sperm health.
At times, infertility can be due to more complicated issues such as blockage of sperm production or genetic conditions that require more involved treatment such as testicular sperm extraction or preimplantation genetic diagnosis.
Many other factors may increase the risk of infertility. In particular, age is increasingly becoming a cause of infertility as child-bearing is delayed until later in life. As eggs age they become less healthy and the eggs become more difficult to release. Furthermore, with increasing age the number of eggs available declines, and health conditions that might affect fertility become more likely. Age is also a factor in the likelihood of miscarriage.
Lifestyle factors can also play a part in increasing the risk of infertility, with smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, extreme physical or emotional stress and significant weight fluctuations being among the main culprits.
RPAH Medical Centre
100 Carillon Avenue
Newtown, NSW 2042
Ph: (02) 9519-9707 Fax: (02) 8088-8005