The Factors That Affect Fertility: A Complex Issue

There are numerous situations or factors that affect fertility, both in men and women. Let's take a look at this complex issue.
The Factors That Affect Fertility: A Complex Issue

Last update: 06 August, 2021

Did you know that fertility’s the consequence of numerous anatomical and physiological factors? For this reason, several common situations can influence it and, little by little, lead to the appearance of infertility. If you’re interested in this topic, keep reading! We’ll share some basic concepts and tell you what factors affect fertility.

The complexity of fertility

The term fertility refers to the ability of a given person (in the case of humans) to give birth to offspring. While we tend to associate it more with women, men also have varying degrees of fertility.

To understand fertility and the process of conception, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how the reproductive system works in both sexes. The biggest “must-have” in order for the proper initiation of pregnancy to occur is the presence of sex cells: Sperm in the case of men, and eggs in the case of women.

A gynecologist talking to a couple about infertility.

After sexual intercourse, these usually come together in the uterine tubes and the development of the future baby begins. Of course, there are many elements (anatomical and physiological) that can make this process easier or more difficult, depending on the case.

What factors can influence fertility?

Although in the vast majority of cases fertility isn’t a problem, some people may experience difficulty conceiving. Below, we’ll explain some of the most common reasons that can lead to this issue.

Alcohol consumption

According to a scientific review article published in Science and Research, chronic alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of infertility. This affects both sexes, although women are more susceptible to the damage.

We can explain this with the fact that the processing or metabolization of alcohol in women is much slower than in men. Therefore, the substance remains in the body for a longer period of time. This increases its toxicity considerably.

In men, studies have shown that it can contribute to lower production of testosterone. This, in turn, has an impact on the development of spermatozoa.


The effect of nutrition may not be as obvious as with alcohol, but it also plays an important role in fertility. According to a study published in the journal Hospital Nutrition, the consumption of saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, and animal proteins can be detrimental.

There are also nutrients with an apparent protective effect, such as complex carbohydrates, fiber, monounsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids. In any case, following a balanced and healthy diet is something that positively affects health, far beyond fertility.

Psychological problems

According to the study entitled What do we know today about the relationship between stress and infertility? which appeared in Revista Médica Clínica Las Condes, the influence of psychological factors on fertility has been the subject of many studies in recent decades.

However, with advances in medicine, in many of the cases that had been classified as psychogenic, it was possible to determine an organic cause. Even so, today, experts still consider stress, depression, and anxiety to be factors capable of influencing fertility.

Although we’re still unaware of the exact mechanisms by which they affect fertility, experts have suggested that their role in the quality of the couple’s relationship, adherence to (infertility) treatments, and the response to treatments as explanations in couples who find it difficult to have children.

Find out more: Vitamin E and Fertility

Cancer treatments

According to a publication by the American Cancer Society, women with cancer are susceptible to multiple treatments that can affect their fertility. For example, when the disease involves the reproductive organs, surgical interventions such as hysterectomy (removing the uterus) may be necessary. This is something that directly affects fertility.

The same applies to radiation therapy. In some cases, it’s necessary to apply it to the pelvis. Therefore, the occurrence of infertility depends on how much radiation the ovaries absorb. Something similar occurs when radiation therapy’s applied to the brain. This is because it can affect the hormone production of the pituitary gland.

There are some drugs that make up part of chemotherapy regimens that can also significantly affect fertility. This group includes bulsufan, carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, and doxorubicin.

In short, if you have any problems conceiving naturally, it’s important to see a reproductive specialist as soon as possible. Some of these causes are reversible with a wide variety of treatments. And these tend to be more effective the younger the person is when they receive them.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.