Struggling to Conceive? Learn About the Common Reasons for Difficulty in Getting Pregnant

By Dr. Gayatri Deshpande in Gynaecology & Obstetrics

Apr 24 , 2023 | 4 min read

Are you struggling to conceive despite trying every possible method? You're not alone. Many factors can impact fertility, including age, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions. In this article, we'll explore some common reasons for difficulty in getting pregnant and strategies to treat infertility.

What is Infertility?

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sex for women under 35 or six months for women 35 or older. According to research, around 84% of couples conceive naturally within a year of trying.

Common Reasons for Difficulty in Getting Pregnant:

  • Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a medical condition where the uterus lining grows outside the uterus, affecting fertility. Around 30-50% of women with endometriosis experience infertility.
  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid imbalance, kidney disease, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus can contribute to infertility. An undetected sexually transmitted infection (STI) can also cause infertility. Additionally, chronic stress, anxiety, and depression may negatively impact fertility.
  • Use of Certain Medications: Certain prescription medications can affect ovulation or sperm health in men and women, leading to infertility. Studies suggest that antidepressants can reduce the probability of natural conception in women.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Age, weight issues, nutrition, exercise, sleep disorders, environmental exposure, and other lifestyle factors can all affect fertility. Additionally, smoking tobacco or marijuana, drinking alcohol, illicit drug use, and caffeine consumption can negatively impact fertility.
  • Unexplained Infertility: Around 10-30% of people remain unaware of the reasons for their difficulty in conceiving, even after comprehensive fertility testing. This condition is referred to as unexplained infertility.

Medical Conditions That Affect Fertility

Blocked fallopian tubes:

Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes are a common cause of infertility. They prevent sperm from reaching the egg, thus hindering fertilization. Endometriosis, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), pelvic inflammatory disease, previous ectopic pregnancy, previous abdominal surgery, or fibroids can cause fallopian tube obstruction.

Uterine abnormalities:

Scar tissue from infections or surgeries, uterine fibroids, or an abnormally shaped uterus can cause uterine abnormalities. This can prevent the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus's wall.

Ovulation disorders:

Various factors can affect ovulation and its regularity, including hormonal imbalances, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), stress, excessive exercise, obesity, or low body weight. These factors can impact fertility and prevent women from getting pregnant.

Male factor infertility:

Over 30% of infertility cases are due to male factor infertility. Low sperm count, abnormal sperm shape or movement, unhealthy habits such as heavy smoking or excessive drinking, or underlying medical conditions such as diabetes can cause male infertility.

Impact of stress on fertility

Stress and anxiety can impact fertility and can be reasons for difficulty in getting pregnant. These factors can increase the challenges that a person may be experiencing while trying to conceive.

Age-related decline in fertility

Fertility declines significantly for women after their mid-30s and drops sharply after the age of 37 years. This is mainly due to lower egg quantity and quality, as well as potential health issues. Men over 40 years of age tend to be less fertile than younger men.

Do you need treatment for infertility?

If you are unable to conceive, it's a good idea to get an infertility evaluation done after a year of trying or after 6 months if the woman is 35 years or older. A thorough evaluation can help determine the reasons for not getting pregnant.

Once the reasons for not getting pregnant have been determined, several treatment options are available, including:

Medications for ovulation

Fertility drugs are available in oral and injectable forms. They work like natural hormones that stimulate or regulate ovulation, increasing the chances of getting pregnant.

Intrauterine insemination

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a kind of artificial insemination that introduces healthy sperm directly into the uterus around the time of ovulation. It can be done as a standalone procedure or with ovulation medications.

In-vitro fertilization

In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is a popular infertility treatment that involves retrieving eggs from a woman's ovaries and fertilizing them with sperm in a lab. The fertilized egg or embryo is then implanted in the uterus to develop.

Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility

What are the reasons for infertility despite regular periods?

Ans. Having regular periods does not guarantee pregnancy, as several factors can prevent conception. These include irregular ovulation, underlying medical conditions, low sperm count, or structural issues in the reproductive system. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure that you are trying to conceive at the right times and frequency.

What are the reasons for infertility despite ovulating?

Ans. Although ovulation is a necessary condition for conception, it may not be occurring regularly or consistently, thereby hindering your chances of getting pregnant. Other factors that may impact your ability to conceive include residual effects of birth control medications, improper timing of intercourse with ovulation, stress, and certain health conditions.

How can I increase my chances of getting pregnant?

Ans. Several lifestyle changes can boost fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant. These include adopting a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, taking multivitamins, engaging in physical activity, losing weight, reducing stress, avoiding caffeine and excessive alcohol, quitting smoking, and taking time to relax.

How can I determine if I am infertile?

Ans. The primary indicator of infertility is the inability to get pregnant. In women, other signs of infertility may include heavy, long, or painful periods, an irregular menstrual cycle, painful intercourse, obesity, and hormonal changes. In men, infertility signs may include ejaculation problems, erectile dysfunction, testicular changes, obesity, and hormonal imbalances.

What are the leading causes of infertility?

Ans. Age is the most common cause of infertility in both men and women. Other significant causes of infertility in women include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid problems, premature ovarian failure, endometriosis, and weight issues. The primary causes of infertility in men are low testosterone levels, low sperm count, and ejaculation problems.