Home > Female Fertility > What is Infertility? Causes of Infertility in Women and Men

What is Infertility? Causes of Infertility in Women and Men

Asking “what is infertility?” may bring you one step closer to getting pregnant. Here are the causes infertility in women and men – including the effect of age on fertility levels.

First, here’s the Mayo Clinic’s basic definition of infertility:

“Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year.”


If you’re trying to get pregnant, you must read Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health — it covers everything you need to know about healthy fertility and conceiving a baby.

And, here is a longer, more detailed definition of infertility, plus several causes of infertility in women and men…

What is Infertility?

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or become pregnant within one full year of actively trying. Infertility can also include the inability to get pregnant after two or more miscarriages.

Over 90 million couples worldwide are trying to conceive at any given time. Out of these couples, 1 in 6 (17%) experience fertility problems.

When no fertility problems are present, the average couple between ages 29 and 33 has about a 20 to 25 percent chance of conceiving a baby during a menstrual cycle.

The chances of getting pregnant (fertility levels) decrease dramatically, by one third to one half, as women approach their mid 30’s and early 40’s.

Causes of Infertility in Both Women and Men

About 20 percent of women in the United States have their first child after age 35, so age is an increasingly common cause of fertility problems. With advancing age, there is a decline in the ability of a woman’s ovaries to release eggs ready for fertilization, and eggs become weaker, and less able to form a healthy embryo. The health and number of the actual eggs also declines and there is an increased chance of miscarriages.

If you’re concerned about the quantity of your eggs because of your age, you may wish to test your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. FSH is a hormone that helps to stimulate the growth of your eggs. Through a simple blood test at the doctor’s office or the use of home tests, you may determine your egg quantity.

Causes of Female Infertility

Many people don’t realize that women and men are equally likely to be the source of infertility issues.

In women, some of the most common causes of infertility include:


  • The hormone disorder PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • Endometriosis, which is a condition where the endometrial tissue is found outside of the uterine cavity.
  • Luteal Phase Defect, which can be a result of below-normal progesterone secretion, and other uterine abnormalities and factors.

To learn more about female infertility, read Tips on How to Get Pregnant.

Causes of Male Infertility

In men, issues may involve:

  • Oligiospermia, or low sperm count/motility
  • Azoospermia, which is the absence of sperm
  • Blockages and structural abnormalities
  • Ejaculation disorders

To learn more about male infertility, read How to Increase Male Fertility and Improve Sperm Count.

What Do You Do If You Can’t Get Pregnant?

If you can’t get pregnant, understanding infertility issues is the best way to overcome possible obstacles to conceive a baby. Whether or not you have been diagnosed with one of the aforementioned health disorders, or are considered perfectly healthy, you do have options.

You may wish to see a specialist to discuss your reproductive health and obtain a fertility workup. Sometimes doctors can find the cause of infertility by doing a complete evaluation, which includes physical exams and health and sexual histories. If there are no obvious problems, such as poorly timed intercourse or absence of ovulation, tests are then done which may lead to recommendations of prescription medications and/or procedures such as IVF or IUI. That said, more couples are increasingly choosing natural alternatives to clinical prescriptions and costly or invasive procedures.

Research has shown that natural treatment options such as fertility supplements, acupuncture, and yoga, along with taking steps towards optimal dietary and physical health significantly aid conception efforts.


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To learn more about the causes and treatments of infertility in women and men, read Why Can’t I Get Pregnant? Male and Female Fertility Problems.

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