What are the Different Types of Infertility?

by Dr. Deborah Smith

Infertility refers to the incapacity to have children, regardless of participating in unprotected sexual activities or attempting artificial insemination. Infertility is primarily divided into two broad categories, depending on the nature of infertility.

  • Primary Infertility – This occurs when a couple has no record of conception with them indulging in unprotected sex for one year or more.
  • Secondary Infertility – This is where the incapacity to conceive occurs after the couple has had one or more successful conceptions.

Under these two main categories, we can further categorize infertility according to causes of infertility from both the male and the female perspective.

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Types of Infertility in Males

Results from physical examinations and tests are instrumental in the determination of the male infertility condition. The most common types of male infertilities are given below.

  • Hormonal Deficiencies – These occur when there is a shortage of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) from the pituitary gland. These hormones control the testicular functions and their deficiency may result in shortages of sperm. This can, however, be addressed through the inoculation of hormone preparations. This type of infertility is very rare and affects about 1% of infertile men.
  • Obstruction– This is also referred to as obstructive azoospermia, which means lack of sperm within the semen due to a blockage. This occurs when a genital pathway is blocked which impedes the transit of sperm between the testicles and the penis. This blockage of the genital pathway can be subject to any of these three causes:
    • Improper development of the epididymis, vas, and seminal vesicles.
    • Scarring of the genital pathway due to inflammation.
    • Vasectomy, which is permanently cutting the tubes that transport sperm from the testicles to the individual’s penis.
  • Non-Obstructive Azoospermia – This is also a case whereby there is a lack of sperm within the semen. However, not due to a blockage of a genital pathway, but rather because no sperm was produced at all by the sperm-producing cells. This can occur due to the sperm-producing cells not developing fully because of genetic disorders or inflammation of the testicles.
  • Sperm Antibodies/Immunological Factors – Sperm antibodies develop in men who have undergone vasectomies, and may remain active and hinder fertility after the reversal of the vasectomy. These antibodies impede sperm production thereby decreasing the number of sperm and also lessening sperm mobility.
  • Ejaculation Disorders – Some ejaculation disorders like premature ejaculation (the male ejaculates before copulation) can lead to infertility. Retrograde ejaculation, whereby the semen is ejaculated in the reverse direction, also can disrupt the proper transit of sperm into the vagina.

Types of Infertility in Females

  • Ovulation Disorders – Ovulation disorders can be caused by disequilibrium of tBest Fertility Doctorhe female sex hormones, progesterone, estrogen, luteinizing hormone, as well as the follicle stimulating hormone, which are produced by the pituitary gland. These hormones are responsible for releasing the egg from the ovary at the appropriate time and the growth and development thereof. Hence, if there is an imbalance of these hormones, then ovulation disorders may occur which is the leading cause of such infertility in females.
  • Uterus and Cervical Disorders–There can be interference with the attachment of the embryo to the uterus if there are malignant growths on the uterine walls, and this can lead to infertility.  Also, irregularities in the general shape of the female cervix can hinder the sperm’s transit to the uterus.
  • Sperm Antibodies/Immunological factors – Sperm antibodies in the female’s vagina and cervix can lead to infertility. These antibodies are hostile to the sperm; hence, the sperm cannot make their way to fertilize the eggs.
  • Ovarian Failure – The ovaries are the housing for the eggs and any dis-functionality on their part will lead to infertility. Failure of the ovaries can occur due to previous treatment including chemotherapy and treatment for ovarian tumors as well.

These are the most common causes. Fertility Treatment is available at our Colorado and South Dakota fertility centers who specialize in treating individuals with infertility difficulties.

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