Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Fertility health centre

Infertility

Infertility is when a couple cannot conceive or become pregnant despite having regular unprotected sex.

Infertility can be an issue for the man, the woman or both partners.

Infertility is fairly common with around 1 in 7 couples having difficulty getting pregnant.

A person who has infertility has a reduced ability to have a child. It usually doesn't mean a person is sterile - that is, physically unable ever to have a child.

For many couples, infertility is a crisis. Fertility problems often come with feelings of guilt or inadequacy, but a diagnosis of infertility is not necessarily a verdict of sterility.

Men and women are equally likely to have a fertility problem. In about 1 in 5 infertile couples, both partners have contributing problems, and in about 15% of couples, no cause is found after all tests have been done, called 'unexplained infertility'.

Seek medical advice if you've been trying for a baby for a year without getting pregnant.

What causes fertility problems in men?

In men, the most common reasons for infertility are sperm disorders. These problems include:

  • Low sperm count. This means there are too few or no spermatozoa in the semen.
  • Low sperm motility. This means that the sperm don't move as well as they should.
  • Malformation of the sperm.
  • Blocked sperm ducts.

Another common problem is a temporary drop in sperm production. This happens when the testicles have been injured, such as when the testicles have been too hot for too long or the man has been exposed to chemicals or medications that affect sperm production.

Spending a long time in a hot tub, for example, or wearing pants that hold the testicles too close to the body can increase the testicular temperatures and impair sperm production. Sometimes there is a physical reason. In the relatively common condition called varicocele, veins around the vas deferens - the duct that carries sperm from testicle to urethra - becomes dilated, similar to a varicose vein in the leg. The pooling of blood in these veins keeps the temperature inside the scrotum too high.

Certain lifestyles such as increased alcohol intake and smoking can also have a negative effect on sperm count. Men who are 40 or older often have decreased fertility.

WebMD Medical Reference

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman_holding_head_in_pain
How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
boost your metabolism
Foods to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
period_questions_answered
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
sick child
Dos and don'ts for childhood eczema
girl_sneezing_into_tissue
Treating your child's cold or fever
bucket with cleaning supplies in it
Cleaning and organising tips
adult man contemplating
When illness makes it hard to eat
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
cold sore
What you need to know