Causes of infertility - Origin private fertility clinic guide

Fertility Care in Northern Ireland

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Basic types of infertility

When should we become concerned about not becoming pregnant?

Causes of infertility

The process of reproduction is highly complex and there are many different reasons why you could be having difficulty conceiving. Either or both partners may have a problem that doctors can identify with tests. About a third of cases relate to female factors, a third to male factors, and the other third may be a combination of both or some external causes, like environment or lifestyle.

Occasionally, doctors just can't work out why you're finding it hard to get pregnant. This, not surprisingly, is called ‘unexplained’ infertility

Three women of different ages

Common female infertility problems

Ovulatory problems

If you can't get pregnant because you have problems ovulating, it means that your ovaries are either not releasing eggs at all or not releasing them regularly. This problem is very common. About one-third of women who can't get pregnant have problems with ovulation.

Early Menopause

The menopause is when your ovaries stop releasing eggs. It happens to all women, normally between the ages of 45 and 55, but some women begin the menopause earlier.

Low hormone levels

A small number of women make too little or none of the two hormones that make ovulation happen. This can happen if you lose a lot of weight or if you have a condition called anorexia, or can happen for no known reason.

Damaged or blocked tubes

About 15 percent of women who haven't been able to get pregnant have damaged or blocked fallopian tubes. These are the tubes that connect your ovaries to your womb. If your tubes are damaged or blocked, eggs won't be able to reach the womb.


About 1 in 20 women who can't get pregnant have a condition called endometriosis. The endometrium is the lining of the womb. In a woman with endometriosis, the cells that normally grow in the endometrium are growing in other places outside the womb. Doctors aren't sure why endometriosis lowers the chances of a woman getting pregnant. It may affect the quality of the egg, damage the sperm, cause scarring, or make it more difficult for the sperm to fertilise the egg.


These are large, benign growths some women have in their womb. Fibroids may sometimes stop a fertilised egg implanting or growing in the womb. Doctors don't know why fibroids happen but they may be caused by changes in levels of hormones.

The female age factor

Female age is the single most important factor. A woman’s fertility is at its highest in her late teens and early twenties but, for many women having a baby at this stage of life is not an option. Many women are postponing having their family until their late 30’s and then finding it difficult to conceive.
These facts are illustrated by the national IVF figures provided by the HFEA’s (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority), showing that the success of IVF also declines with increasing age.

Male with Origin logo

Common male infertility problems

Problems with sperm

Some men have a low sperm count. This does not mean that you and your partner can't get pregnant, it just might take longer. A low sperm count may be caused by an imbalance of hormones, previous damage to the testicles, or an infection of the testicles. A low sperm count sometimes runs in families. Others may have problems such as low motility or abnormally shaped sperm which may prevent them from fertilising an egg.

Sperm DNA damage

Sperm DNA damage can reduce the success rates of Fertility Treatments and many couples trying for a baby through fertility treatments may be missing out on information that could improve their chances.
While a conventional semen analysis test will reveal basic problems – like not enough sperm – the quality of the sperm can only be assessed by looking at its DNA. A DNA damage test can reveal hidden problems that can be the cause of ‘unexplained infertility’, which is unsatisfactory for couples and clinics alike. It has now been shown that up to 80% of couples with unexplained infertility have problems in their sperm DNA. If the sperm DNA damage level is high, then the best chance of fertility success might be going straight to ICSI treatment rather than starting with IVF. Also, men can make simple lifestyle changes to improve their sperm DNA when given the right information.

Problems getting sperm to the right place

Some men make sperm, but can't get them into their partner's vagina. This may be because they can't get an erection or there is a blockage in the tubes between their testicles and their penis. This can happen for several reasons, such as a vasectomy (sterilisation operation), congenital absence of the tube, or an infection.

Anti sperm antibodies

A few men produce antibodies that destroy or damage their own sperm, usually as a result of damage to the testicles or through an infection.

What next?

To discuss how Origin can help you or your partner with any of the problems above:

get in touch with our team

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