The frustration that arises when a couple is having difficulty getting pregnant can be overwhelming. The desperation to find a solution and have a healthy baby can sometimes lead to pointing fingers and blaming the other partner. You’re not alone in this, though. At the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, we want every couple who visits us to know that it doesn’t matter if the cause lies with the male or female partner; either way, we’ll be able to evaluate the situation and help you achieve a pregnancy.
Here’s what you should know about the possible male and female causes behind infertility.
Possible Female Factors
In young, healthy women who have regular menstrual cycles, we’re less worried about problems with ovulation or decreased fertility because of age. However, when women wait too long to have children, age does become a factor. At that point, we’ll test the woman to determine how many eggs she may have left and what the quality of those eggs might be.
If a woman has irregular cycles, we can infer that there’s a problem with regular ovulation. It could be the result of a hormonal imbalance that may also be interfering with her achieving or maintaining a pregnancy. This potential cause is typically easy to initially identify since most women are highly conscious of their cycles.
Even women who are young, healthy, and have regular menstrual cycles may be at risk for endometriosis. The condition can be difficult to diagnose based solely on symptoms (like heavy cramping) but it’s actually one of the most common causes of infertility we see in young women.
Potential Male Factors
There are several medical conditions that are notorious for causing infertility problems, especially related to sperm count in men. For instance, diabetes directly affects a man’s fertility, and so do medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. When we’re looking at a man’s health, we’ll take any related injuries and infections or hazardous job conditions into account as well.
It’s important to remember that as men age, their likelihood of developing a condition that decreases fertility increases. Just because a man has a child from a previous relationship, does not mean the cause may not lie with him at this time.
After evaluating the man’s medical history, we’ll ask him to come for a sperm count. Sperm counts can vary day to day and may be affected by a recent illness or stress, so we may administer this test more than once.
Many times, we’ll have men come in who have low sperm counts due to testosterone. There are several doctors or clinics who prescribe testosterone to men who no longer feel virile or young. We’ve found that the longer a man has taken testosterone, the lower his sperm count will be; and it’s not uncommon to have patients with a sperm count of zero if they’ve taken the hormone for more than a couple years.
Issues with Compatibility
When everything is seemingly fine on both the male and female side of things, there is always a chance of incompatibility. We may find that the man has a high sperm count in the lab, but they’re still having issues reaching the female reproductive tract at the time of intercourse.
When this appears to be the case, we can conduct a post-coital test (PCT) to analyze whether the mucus from the woman’s cervix is hospitable or hostile toward the man’s sperm. The test itself is rather simple; we’ll recommend the couple have intercourse the night before or morning of the exam, and then the woman will visit us the next morning so we can retrieve a mucus sample through a procedure that is very similar to a pap smear. Once it’s done, we’ll bring the couple in together to view the results, at which time they can see the number of sperm in the sample and whether they’re swimming or dead. Often, this test will allow us to determine what may be the affecting the sperm’s viability and correct the issue.
Creating a Plan to Achieve a Pregnancy
During a couple’s first visit to AZCREI, we’ll discuss both the male and female’s medical and fertility history. Based on what we learn, we’ll schedule the appropriate tests; but usually, after our first meeting, we’ll have a fairly accurate idea of the probable causes. Typically, the testing can all be completed during a single cycle, and the results help steer us in a more finite direction of how we can solve the issue behind the infertility.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if it’s him or her. Sometimes there’s a combination of factors that are causing the difficulty behind conceiving. As we’re going through the testing and creating a plan, we’re trying to optimize fertility—on both sides—to correct any problems and achieve a pregnancy. For more information on how AZCREI can help you have a baby or to schedule a visit, contact us online or call (520) 326-0001.