June 25, 2018


It might come as a surprise to many that infertility is a big issue in our society, but this is not news to those of us in medical practice, especially in women health services. The causes of this high incidence are many and they vary from social to environmental and to medical factors, either separately or combined.

Infertility is described as when efforts to get pregnant fail repeatedly for up to one year or more, of regular unprotected intercourse. While the challenge affects both men and women in more ways than one, almost half of all the cases are traceable to the female folks. And an alarming report claims that one in every six women has had to deal with infertility at one point of her life.

But one reason the problem persists in most cases is not unconnected to the fact that many women or couples refuse to acknowledge that it is a problem the fact they are struggling to conceive, till well into the woman’s late thirties or forties when the quality of her eggs is naturally diminished.

Some of the causes are attached to lifestyle patterns and habits, and others are health challenges that could be medically avoided or treated. However, whether you’re just considering having your own kids, or you have already encountered infertility in some ways, understanding the causes from the medical perspectives will put you in a better position to achieve the pregnancy you so desire.

In that case, this article will give you some ideas of what usually causes infertility. When it happens, you have a list to run through first without having to panic.

Harmful Consumption Habits

Before we even talk about diseases and other unnatural issues associated with infertility, you should realize that your eating and/or drinking habits could be the problem. Saving yourself from infertility could be as simple as switching this into the positive.

How do you expect your system to remain balanced when you love heavy smoking? Oh, you don’t smoke yourself? But you hang out in lounges and nightclubs… those environments where side-stream smoke is the air people breathe and which sadly is actually more harmful to the human body.

Smoking and inhaling smokes damage the efficiency of female hormones that are connected to your reproduction system. And the same goes for the consumption of excess sugar and/or high cholesterol, which could lead to diabetes and/or being overweight, both of which could hamper the normal activities of the female reproductive systems.


If you have undergone certain medical procedures involving radiation such as chemotherapy, your reproductive system might have been affected.

Radiation is capable of disrupting the interactions between hormones and body systems that regulate ovulation.

And you will agree that without that taking place efficiently, pregnancy remains far away.

Genetic Disorders

Have you checked the possibility of your infertility being hereditary? Does your mother, or older siblings have a similar experience?

A defect in genetics could pass down through generations, which signifies an inherent infertility. It could be a recurring malfunction of the ovaries, fallopian tubes or any other body parts.

Excess Prolactin Hormone

There is a little bit of irony here in this case also referred to as hyperprolactinemia, the condition when a woman has the prolactin hormone in excess.

This is because prolactin is one of the major hormones that make women, women. It develops the breasts and helps produce breast milk.

Ideally, the level is higher during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and this is so as to make you less likely to conceive while breastfeeding a baby or you are currently pregnant.

However, when the hormone is active at a time you’re not doing any of the two, the reproductive system is suppressed. Ovulation becomes irregular, before completely stopping, and this will lead to infertility.

Premature Ovarian Syndrome

This is when the quality and number of eggs produced in the ovary are abysmally low in a young woman. The two factors reduces the possibility for conception.

It could be as a result of surgical injuries to the ovaries or exposure to toxins during surgical procedures. The syndrome is also congenital, transferring down the family line.

Some of the symptoms you may find include irregular or absent periods, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, mood swings, and insomnia.

Blockage of the Fallopian Tube

Fallopian tubes help with transmitting eggs and sperms. It is also the nexus for the two to fertilize. However, when there is a blockage of the tube in one area or perhaps each side, natural pregnancy is not likely.

This could have been caused by sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as Chlamydia, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). The more you allow such infections to linger in your body, the more you are at risk of tubal occlusion.

Abnormal Growth of Endometrium

The endometrium is the tissue that lines the uterus. It thickens and grows every menstrual cycle, preparing the uterus for the fertilised egg. But when there is no pregnancy, it is ejected through menstruation.

The abnormality comes when endometrium grows outside of the uterus, into the lungs, fallopian tubes or ovaries. Extremely painful menstrual period, pelvic pains, and pain during defecation or urination accompany it.

Growing outside the uterus means it blocks away the uterus, and this may prevent an egg from getting to the fallopian tubes. Hence, pregnancy can’t happen.

Dysfunction of the Thyroid

Thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system. It produces hormones that regulate metabolism and energy in the body.

However, the challenge comes when this hormone is being produced in inadequate proportion. It leads to irregular ovulation, thereby making it difficult to conceive.

If you have thyroid dysfunction, you may experience fatigue, weight gain, frequently feeling cold, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and unusual weight.

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormones like androgen are male hormones for the development of physiological characteristics. It should ideally be at the lowest level in women, but when the case is otherwise, infertility is bound to happen.

When you have irregular or absent menstrual cycles, acne, oily skin, abnormal hair growth, and obesity, it is very likely that your androgen levels are higher than normal.

Likewise when the delicate communication between the pituitary gland, the ovaries and the follicles does not work properly, ovulation does not occur.

Imbalance hormone causes irregular ovulation, or sometimes stops it from happening at all. The condition is so virulent that it is sometimes responsible for miscarriages.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

A significant number of STIs are deadlier than people generally acknowledge, hence are not strongly prevented or treated.

For example, chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the most virulent STIs responsible for infertility. They eat deep into the female reproductive systems, disrupting the normal flow of activities.

If you want to know whether you have either of these, you can look out for symptoms like pelvic pain, spotting, and unusual discharges.

There is also the Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which clogs the fallopian tube, and prevents fertilization from taking place.


Now that you have learnt about the most common causes of infertility we have seen over the years. If taken to heart, you can be more observant and aware of yourself, your body and organs in particular whenever you’re having issues conceiving or suspect such to be the case.

More importantly, it is strongly advised that you take any concerns you might have or suspect to your medical doctor or a trusted relevant medical practitioner in good time, so that a proper check and analysis can be made regarding what the issue could be.

I believe that this will help you make informed decisions when seeking treatment, or trying to prevent infertility from happening at all. Just like in general healthcare, the earlier the better. This is true for issues relating to infertility in women or problems with conception.

Our approach at St Ives IVF/Fertility practice is result-oriented because we are focused on getting you results. We only stop when you have the bundle of joy you desire in your loving arms. You just need to book an appointment now, and you can be one of our remarkable success stories.

About The Author

Dr. Osahon Ede-Edokpolor is an obstetrician-gynecologist, and a fertility expert with the ST. Ives IVF/Fertility Unit. He is also the Chief Medical Officer at St. Ives Specialist Hospital, Ikoyi, Lagos.

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