What is difference between infertility and sterility? What are the causes of infertility or sterility?

 What is difference between infertility and sterility? What are the causes of infertility or sterility?

Due to a misunderstanding of the meanings of the terms infertility and sterility, which differ in medical and demographic usage, estimates of the number of couples who are sterile have been overstated. In medical terms, sterility refers to the inability to bear a live child, whereas infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after a year without the use of contraception. Sterility is a term used in demographics to describe the inability to reproduce without the use of surgery.

Although the phrases “infertile” and “sterile” are frequently used interchangeably, there is a significant distinction between the two. If a person has been unable to conceive for 12 months or longer with unprotected, well-timed sex, they are deemed clinically infertile (6 months for those 35 and older).

What is infertility?

Infertility is very common, and if the cause of infertility is identified and addressed, the majority of previously infertile couples are able to conceive successfully. Infertility can affect both men and women, and it can be caused by a range of factors.

Although many people who are clinically infertile can still conceive spontaneously despite these issues, there are a variety of pharmacological and surgical methods available for treating infertility. To achieve a successful pregnancy, many infertile women will seek assisted reproductive technologies such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), intrafallopian gamete transfer (GIFT), or in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Infertility is diagnosed when a man or woman is unable to have a child naturally after engaging in planned, unprotected sexual activity for more than a year. Many causes can contribute to infertility. Infertility can be treated with medicine, hormone therapy, or surgery, depending on the conditions that cause it. IVF is frequently the best treatment in cases of unexplained infertility.

Infertility is common, but many cases go undetected because people believe they are sterile and do not seek medical help. 30 percent of couples who have been diagnosed with infertility have already had a child. Infertility can therefore be diagnosed even if a couple already has one or more children. Both men and women’s fertility is affected by their age. After the age of 30, a woman’s number of viable eggs decreases as she ages. Similarly, after the age of 40, the volume of a man’s sperm diminishes.

What is sterility?

Sterility is completely different. Whether by medical or surgical intervention or assisted reproductive technology, a person who is clinically sterile is unable to conceive. A medical condition or surgical operation, such as a vasectomy, hysterectomy, or ectopic pregnancy that results in the loss of a fallopian tube, is the most prevalent cause of sterility. Sterility can also be caused by chromosomal diseases like Kleinfelter’s syndrome.

Sterility refers to the absence of sperm in the sperm of males, and it refers to the absence of ovulation in the case of women. This could be due to birth problems like being born without ovaries, or it could be the result of surgical intervention like tubal ligation or a vasectomy. Although infertility is a kind of sterility, not everyone who is classified as infertile is also sterile. As a result, the latter is more prevalent.

To become pregnant, all of the steps during ovulation and fertilisation must be completed correctly. Some disorders that cause infertility in couples are present at birth, while others emerge later in life. One or both partners may be affected by infertility. There are times when no cause can be found.

Causes of male infertility and sterility:

  • Infections like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, mumps, or HIV can cause abnormal sperm production or function due to undescended testicles, genetic flaws, health issues including diabetes, or infections like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, mumps, or HIV. Varicocele, or enlargement of the veins in the testes, can potentially impact the quality of sperm.

  • Problems with sperm delivery caused by sexual issues, such as premature ejaculation; specific hereditary illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis; structural issues, such as a testicular obstruction; or damage or injury to the reproductive system.

  • Pesticides and other chemicals, as well as radiation, can cause overexposure to certain environmental conditions. Cigarette smoking, alcohol, marijuana, anabolic steroids, and antibiotics, as well as high blood pressure and depression, can all have an impact on fertility. Heat exposure, such as that seen in saunas or hot tubs, can boost body temperature and interfere with sperm production.

  • Testicular infection or orchitis are two disorders that affect the testes that are particularly important. When it occurs during adolescence, parotitis o mumps is also linked to male infertility.

  • Obesity and stress. Patients who are anxious had a higher frequency of reproduction disorders, according to a recent study in Sweden that looked at stress signals in saliva.

  • Cancer and its treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy, can cause damage. Cancer treatment can have a significant impact on sperm production.

Causes of female infertility and sterility:

  • Ovulation abnormalities are problems with egg release from the ovaries. Hormonal abnormalities such as polycystic ovary syndrome are among them. Hyperprolactinemia, or having too much prolactin — the hormone that stimulates breast milk production — can also cause ovulation problems. Thyroid hormone levels that are excessively high (hyperthyroidism) or too low (hypothyroidism) might disrupt the menstrual cycle and lead to infertility. Excessive exercise, eating disorders, and tumours are all possible underlying reasons.

  • Abnormalities with the cervix, polyps in the uterus, or the shape of the uterus are all examples of uterine or cervical abnormalities. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous (benign) tumours that block the fallopian tubes or prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus, resulting in infertility. Anomalies can be anatomical (septate uterus, T-shaped uterus, etc.) or pathological, causing problems with embryo implantation or pregnancy progression.

  • Inflammation of the fallopian tube is a common cause of fallopian tube injury or blockage (salpingitis). Pelvic inflammatory illness, which is typically caused by a sexually transmitted infection, endometriosis, or adhesions, can cause this.

  • Endometriosis affects the function of the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus. Endometriosis affects about 40% of women who have trouble getting pregnant.

  • The most prevalent cause of anovulation is polycystic ovarian syndrome, which produces infrequent or absent periods (an absence of ovulation).

  • When the ovaries stop working and menstruation stops before the age of 40, this is known as primary ovarian insufficiency (early menopause). Although the cause is generally unknown, immune system illnesses, some genetic conditions such as Turner syndrome or carriers of Fragile X syndrome, and radiation or chemotherapy treatment have all been linked to early menopause.

  • Pelvic adhesions are scar tissue bands that bind organs and can develop as a result of a pelvic infection, appendicitis, endometriosis, or abdominal or pelvic surgery.

  • The treatment of cancer. Female fertility is frequently harmed by certain diseases, particularly reproductive tumours. Radiation and chemotherapy both have the potential to impact fertility.

Combined causes of infertility and sterility

Subfertility is a common problem that can be alleviated or made worse depending on the circumstances of one’s spouse. For a woman who ovulates irregularly, for example, the quality of her partner’s ejaculate and the frequency with which she makes love can either exacerbate or improve her prognosis.


The distinction between infertility and sterility is important, although it is sometimes missed. Infertility does not imply that a person is unable to conceive; it simply means that it is more difficult. Sterility is defined as an inability to conceive despite medical or surgical intervention.


  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16083-infertility-causes

  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/infertility/symptoms-causes/syc-20354317

  3. https://www.institutobernabeu.com/en/causes-of-infertility-and-sterility

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