Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying (or 6 months for women age 35 or older).
There are multiple steps that must happen in order to get pregnant, and infertility may be a result of one or many of these steps:
- A woman’s body must release an egg from one of her ovaries
- A man’s sperm must join with the egg along the way (called “fertilization”)
- The fertilized egg must travel through a fallopian tube toward the uterus (womb)
- The embryo must attach to the inside of the uterus (called “implantation”)
In the United States, about 1 in 5 women will experience infertility, and 1 in 4 will have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.
- Excess alcohol use
- Poor diet
- Athletic training
- Being overweight or underweight
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Health problems that cause hormonal changes, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and primary ovarian insufficiency
Men can experience infertility, too. In men, infertility is caused by problems with sperm. There may be a low number of sperm, or the sperm may not be shaped or able to move correctly.
A man’s sperm can be affected by his overall health and lifestyle. Some things that may affect the health of sperm include:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Smoking cigarettes
- Environmental toxins, such as pesticides and lead
- Health problems, such as mumps, kidney disease or hormone problems
- Certain medications
- Radiation treatment or chemotherapy for cancer