InfertilityInfertility can affect both men and women, making it difficult to conceive without treatment.
Infertility is generally defined as the inability to conceive a baby after one year of regular sexual intercourse without birth control. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 12% of women in the United States between the ages of 15 and 44 have difficulty getting pregnant.
Infertility is linked to a wide range of medical conditions, behaviors and characteristics. For women, difficulty conceiving may be caused by:
- Ovulation disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)
- Fallopian tube blockages resulting from factors like endometriosis and sexually transmitted infections
- Uterine or cervical irregularities, such as fibroids, polyps and anatomical abnormalities
Male infertility is also common—in fact, about one-third of infertility cases are caused by problems with the man (usually one of the following):
- Abnormal sperm
- Low sperm count
- Low sperm mobility
Several types of hormonal disorders, genetic factors, testicular conditions and ejaculatory issues can negatively impact sperm health and male fertility.
For both men and women, there are certain factors that can increase the likelihood of infertility. These include:
- Being older (fertility typically begins to decline after age 32 for women and age 40 for men)
- Drinking alcohol
- Smoking tobacco or marijuana
- Being overweight or underweight
- Exercising too often or intensely
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Having an eating disorder
- Being exposed to certain chemicals in pesticides and solvents
- Frequently experiencing stress
- Undergoing radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer
Beyond difficulty conceiving, infertility usually does not cause noticeable symptoms. Some men may experience hormonal changes that affect sexual health or hair growth, while women may have irregular or skipped periods.
Diagnosing the cause of infertility in women typically involves a combination of:
- Blood tests to measure hormone levels and ovulation
- Ovarian reserve testing to evaluate egg quantity
- Imaging tests to look for abnormalities in uterus and fallopian tubes
For men, the diagnostic process may involve:
- Semen analysis
- Genetic testing to identify possible hereditary causes
- Blood tests to measure male hormone levels
Infertility is a widespread problem, but the good news is that many couples are eventually able to conceive with the right treatment plan. At Tampa General Hospital, our multidisciplinary team includes reproductive endocrinologists who specialize in treating infertility.
Some common treatment approaches include:
- Medicine to boost fertility or address underlying medical problems
- Surgery to address problems such as endometriosis
- Assisted conception, such as intrauterine insemination