How Male and Female Fertility is Different

Read on to learn more about the differences between male and female fertility (and infertility).

The World Health Organization defines infertility as inability to achieve a pregnancy after 12 or more months of regular unprotected intercourse. Up to 15% of couples in the U.S. have trouble getting pregnant, with male factor fertility accounting for about a third of these cases.

What are some possible causes of male infertility?

Male infertility is can be related to many factors, including:

  • Problems with ejaculation (such as obstruction in the tubes that carry semen)
  • Low sperm count
  • Abnormal sperm morphology (shape of the sperm)
  • Abnormal sperm motility (movement of sperm)
  • Low reproductive hormones, especially conditions that affect testosterone
  • Damage to sperm producing cells (from things like chemotherapy)
  • Environmental and lifestyle factors (including alcohol consumption and smoking)
  • Age

What are some possible causes of female infertility?

Infertility in women also has a number of different causes, including:

  • Blocked fallopian tubes
  • Uterine conditions (like fibroids or endometriosis)
  • Disorders of the ovaries
  • Hormonal conditions that cause imbalances of reproductive hormones like estrogen, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which may result in a failure to ovulate
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhea and chlamydia
  • Lifestyle factors (including smoking and alcohol consumption)
  • Age

Are there any possible factors that impact both male and female fertility similarly?

Male and female infertility can vary in cause, but there are some commonalities. An example of this is age. Advancing age has an impact on male fertility and sperm quality. Advanced male age is linked to longer times to conceive and lower success rates on assisted reproductive technologies.

Data also suggests that fertility in women decreases gradually but significantly with age, especially after age 37.

Male and female fertility vary in many senses, including potential causes, but overlap in others, like fertility decline with age.

It takes two to make a baby

The causes of infertility can be attributed to a female factor, a male factor, a combination of both a male and female factor, or the cause of infertility may be unknown. Fertility evaluation may help to uncover the causes of infertility both on the male and female sides.