Follow TV Tropes


Sterility Plague

Go To

"They need you. Me. They need us all. Awhile back, there was some sort of pox epidemic that killed a bunch of them and left a lot more infertile. New breeding stock. That's how they see us."
Dalton, Mockingjay

For one reason or another, people can't give birth anymore. This is often but not always due to a plague inflicted upon a species due to a Depopulation Bomb dropped on them by their enemies, hence the name. However, this can just as easily be caused by a natural plague, biological changes in a species which might prevent sex, or a cultural phenomenon causing people to be terrified of heterosexual sex (or at least pregnancy). Most horrifyingly, perhaps your enemies just decided to come along and castrate all your males.

Of course, the most popular agent for this problem by far is genetically engineered disease. If you are considering what type of Depopulation Bomb to use on your enemies, you may consider the Sterility Plague the best option for many reasons. First of all, it is a very covert and completely humanitarian method of mass genocide. It will not kill a single enemy civilian or combatant. It is incurable, except where the forces of pure good are involved (But really, what can't they fix?). Your enemies will live just as long as they would have otherwise, but they will not multiply and will cease to be any threat at all after a generation or two. If your race is particularly long-lived then you might consider waiting for everyone to die to be not such a big deal.

Then again, if you are short lived, this might not seem like much of a solution. Also, it does not do much to kill or disable the enemy besides lowering their morale. In fact, it might just really piss them off. And, if they have artificial means of reproduction (or can develop one before the existing population dies out), a Sterility Plague may be a really dumb idea.

If your civilization for one reason or another has decided to completely abandon sexual reproduction (possibly in favor of artificial means), expect this to become a major issue soon after the story starts. In fact, unless sexual reproduction can be rediscovered by your race, expect disastrous if not nightmarish consequences. This is probably a little homophobic (especially if you have only abandoned heterosexual sex) and a lot allegorical.

Lastly, you can expect any Knight Errant or civilization-redeeming Messiah figure who comes along to cure the Sterility Plague in the space of a single episode or two-hour feature film. The forces of good make fertility a point of focus, often impregnating virgins, men, and the infertile, so you shouldn't be surprised when they pull double duty by curing a plague and bringing pregnancy to the downtrodden masses.

Compare Gendercide and The Plague. Likely to result in a Childless Dystopia and/or a Breeding Cult. Sometimes may result in Mandatory Motherhood, or those that are fertile (women in particular) being forcibly used as baby factories. A successful, intentional one of these may result in the creator becoming The Great Exterminator.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Animal Land, the Zelyda Disease is what killed off the original humans of the world.
  • In Attack on Titan it's revealed that Zeke Yeager's master plan is to Mercy Kill his entire race by using the power of the Founding Titan to render all Eldians infertile so that future generations wouldn't exist just to suffer at the hands of the other races.
  • Fafner in the Azure: Dead Aggressor: The Festum did this to Japan, prompting the Alvis project which gave rise to artificial reproduction, and, by the same token, genetically engineered supersoldiers (i.e. our heroes) born to fight the Festum. The plague is cured somehow by the final episode as a Someone to Remember Him By.
    • Specifically, what happened was that when Japan was turned sterile, the rest of the world got scared shitless that the Festum had that kind of power, and were even more scared that it was contagious (it wasn't). Their solution? Nuke Japan into nonexistence. The surviving Japanese basically said "screw this, we want to live", and then went ahead violating every ethical code in the book when it came to bio-engineering and cloning in order to ensure their survival.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Third-generation Coordinators (like Lacus Clyne) suffer from this, due to their modified genes and the human body being unable to handle the changes correctly. During both it and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, there has been no cure to this infliction and many Coordinators (such as Patrick Zala) refuse to entertain the idea of mating with Naturals (unmodified humans). "Marriage laws" to boost fertility are mentioned in passing several times, although what exactly these laws are isn't ever explained. It might explain why Athrun and Lacus were engaged at a young age, though, and the fact that Yzak's mother gave birth to him at 17 is apparently a result of their aggressive pro-birth policies.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, it's mentioned that early in the history of the Space Colonies, natural pregnancy and childbirth was difficult and pretty much always deadly, because of microgravity, cosmic radiation, and so on that humans just aren't adapted to. The way around this was to grow babies in Uterine Replicators, until at some point, a way to have a safe natural pregnancy was discovered. All 29 of Quatre's sisters were grown in Uterine Replicators. Quatre's mom wanted to give birth to her husband's son (and heir) naturally, and she did, but because she didn't have the workaround (whatever it was) she died right afterwards, with her husband asking her if it was really worth it. He elects not to tell Quatre about the circumstances of his birth, so that he wouldn't blame himself, which results in Quatre Angsting about being easily replaceable, until the Manguanacs set him straight.
  • In The Boyfriend Story, one of the stories in the horror manga anthology Screaming Lessons, this is brought about by humans perfecting a cell app that allows for the creation of perfect holographic replicas to serve as the existing humans' companions of any sort. Friends, lovers, spouses, children. With this, the need for meaningful human interaction and consequently birth rates plummet, leading to a world populated solely by replicas.
  • Sunday Without God: For whatever reason, when people stopped being able to die, they also stopped being able to give birth. This makes Ai's existence even more perplexing, as she was born three years after that fateful day God supposedly abandoned humanity.
  • Vandread: The heroes come across a planet in the second season which had this done to them by Earth. Needless to say, they cure it.

    Asian Animation 
  • GG Bond: In Season 13 episode 11, Planet Dobudo native Momo explains that they're the only survivor of a tragedy where the planet's mushroom people lost their ability to produce spores, wiping out almost the entire population.

    Comic Books 
  • A major plot point in the Gallimaufry arc of Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire is the outbreak of an engineered virus that completely eliminates human sex drive.
  • In one storyline in Captain America, Superia attempted to release a plague that would sterilize the world's female population except for her and her cadre of supervillainesses. As the only fertile women in the world, they would essentially have been able to hold the world to ransom. She didn't seem to have considered the idea that the world would probably decide to hold her prisoner in order to use her as breeding stock to prevent the human species from dying out.
  • An EC Comics story (based on a prose short story) has female sterility happen as a result of cosmic radiation—after enough years that even the last born child is a senior citizen, they finally develop a time travel gate with the catch that they can only set it up once, and it will be immobile. And travel to the future renders one amnesiac. So the future people set up their gate/trap in New York City in the 1950s; lots of people there to grab. But everyone who comes through the gate is male! Turns out they've set their time gate up in the men's room at Grand Central Station, a place no woman would voluntarily enter.
  • In almost the Exact Words of the Laconic ("No more mutants!"), the Scarlet Witch used her Reality Warping powers to not only depopulate the mutant species, but also to prevent mutant births from happening in the future. Since House of M ended, there have only been six mutant births in total. This was undone at the end of Avengers vs. X-Men.
    • The All-New, All-Different Marvel era gives us the M-Pox, a disease caused by the the Terrigen Mists which causes sterility in mutants. A lot of the X-Men's story during this era has been trying to stop this while trying to play nice with Queen Medusa and the royal family.
  • Bad guys once dropped a bomb on Vartox's home planet Valeron, rendering his people sterile. Vartox attempted to seduce Power Girl into breeding the next generation, but she instead found a way to cure his people's sterility.
  • In Star Wars Legends, the Theelin were a Rubber-Forehead Alien race that suffered from a series of mutations that made them genetically incompatible with each other, and crossbreeding with humans and other "Near-Humans" resulted in high infant mortality rates. By the time of Dark Empire pureblooded Theelin are said to be extinct.
  • In a Bad Future in Thunderbolts an alien device exploding suffused the entire planet with radiation that rendered humans, but not mutants, sterile. Humans were forced to cloister themselves in domed cities while cloning themselves to stave off extinction while the mutant populace was forced into the wasteland the rest of the world became.

    Fan Works 
  • The Stargate SG-1 fanfic Bless the Children by Maureen T sees SG-1 meet the Cedarnans, a race of humans with a fertility problem due to a rare chemical contaminating the planet's soil. The SGC are able to find a treatment for their sterility, but the Cedarnans' attempts to deal with their sterility by creating child-clones of key visitors to their planet drives the plot of the story when they create a clone of Daniel Jackson at eight years old, with memories ending at apparently the moment when 'Danny' witnessed the deaths of his parents.
  • In Earth-27, Kherans afflicted the Daemonites with one of these, leading to Daemonite scientist Arctus, who would be later known as Helspont, to look for a cure on Earth, with the intention of taking it over.
  • In The Negotiations-verse, it's revealed that all of the newfoals are sterile and haven't even had much desire to mate in the years since their conversions. Celestia states in the third story Truth that she never intended for this to happen and hoped to rectify it after the war, but it becomes a moot point after Equestria is defeated by humanity and Twilight gets to working on a potion that can give the converts their real bodies and minds back.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The whole premise of Children of Men. It's 2027, and the last child was born 18 years ago. For some reason, women all over the world just stopped being able to have kids. The world has descended into nihilistic mayhem, Britain is the only still-barely-functioning nation state (and it's an oppressive fascist hellhole) and most people are just sitting around in depression, waiting for the human race to die out.
  • The Colony (2021): Earth's wealthy fled to a new planet as cataclysms ravaged Earth but are forced to contemplate returning to Earth due to women being unable to get pregnant on their new homeworld.
  • The "castrate your enemies" version is referred to in Conspiracy (2001) (meaning that this crosses over with Real Life). The Nazi leaders at the Wannsee Conference discuss the possibility of using radiation and/or injections to render Jews sterile, which would leave them alive when there's a chronic shortage of slave labour. However, in addition to the technical problems with this, Heydrich lacks the patience for such a slow process, and insists on a more direct approach.
    "Dead men don't hump, dead women don't get pregnant. Death is the most reliable form of sterilization—put it that way."
  • The Handmaid's Tale's movie adaptation has this as part of its backstory, just like the original book. Birth rates have drastically fallen due to pollution and sexually transmitted diseases rendering much of the population sterile. This spurs an extreme religious sect to seize power, making the remaining fertile women into "handmaids", or sex slaves of the regime's male leaders.
  • In Logan, mutantkind is dying out because no new mutants have been born for twenty years. This is due to Transigen using GMO corn syrup to suppress the X-gene. However it's never clearly established whether mutant parents simply have non-mutant children, or if they can't have children at all.
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Blofeld's Evil Plan involves Virus Omega, which is designed to render crops and livestock all over the world completely infertile. James Bond points out that will lead to The End of the World as We Know It, but Blofeld just laughs this off as his demands are so minor in comparison (a pardon for all his crimes) he knows the United Nations will acquiesce long before then.

  • In Alien Chronicles, the Dancing Death severely reduced the population of the Viis, and is believed to be responsible for their now much lower fertility and high rates of mutation. They keep many races of slaves, one of which is ironically an Explosive Breeder.
  • In William Barton and Michael Capobianco's Alpha Centauri the organization known as Indigo developed "autoviroids" that replicate in infected men's sperm and destroy the eggs of women they have sex with. This is intended to solve the solar system's overpopulation crisis. Their agent Mies manages to infect all but one of the women on the Alpha Centauri expedition.
  • In The Belgariad's past, when Gorim of the godless finally got a god to accept him, he asked for his people to follow and cursed those who refused with sterility. In Belgarath The Sorcerer he expresses regret on this and surprise that the curse wasn't lifted.
  • In Bumped, a virus went around causing all adults to be sterile. As a result, adults will pay lots of money to teenagers (and in extreme cases, preteens) to be surrogates.
  • Due to insufficient research on long term effects, the "cure" for AIDS turns out to be one of these in the first third of the novel The Breeds Of Man by making it impossible for women to have more than one child. The second third is about trying to find a cure for the cure before it's too late, and the last third is about trying to find a way to cure the cure for the cure (since the protagonists just can't stop breaking things).
  • A Brother's Price has a variant where women can have babies just fine, but most male babies are stillborn or miscarried. This doesn't seem to affect the population much, though, as sisters usually share a husband. The cause of the Sterility Plague is unclear, the characers don't remember a time where it was different. Due to the nature of the sterility, it is likely that it was caused by environmental pollution, see the real life example for low male birthrate below.
  • In Childhood's End it is mentioned that there is no biological reason for more children to be born, when the existing children start to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Le Dernier Homme is an 1805 science fiction novel written as a prose poem where humanity as a whole is going sterile. It involves the voyage of the last fertile man to meet the last fertile woman only to meet with Adam, who has been charged by God to convince the couple to not reproduce, thereby allowing the world to end and be reborn.
  • The villain in one of the Dirk Pitt Adventures novels intended to sterilize the human race this way, or at least half of it, as more "humane" than wiping them out. Pitt calls him a "freak" for this.
  • Vashti and Champagne discover in Edenborn that the combination of Black Ep and its treatment leaves women incapable of carrying a child to term.
  • "Fade to White", an Alternate History short story by Catherynne M. Valente is set in a post-World War III United States that maintains the facade of The Fabulous Fifties. The few men who are not infertile serve as fathers in rotation to several families, who pretend the others don't exist and the father is working at a non-existent job while away.
  • This comes to afflict all of humanity in Galápagos, with the only people unafflicted being a tour group marooned on the eponymous island. As the narrator is a ghost who observes said tour group and their descendants, he gets to observe how humanity further evolves from these few survivors.
  • In Gulliver's Travels, the Houyhnhnms decide the best way of wiping out the Yahoos is to castrate them all. They got the inspiration for this from Gulliver's description of how horses are treated in England (male horses were castrated to break their spirits and control the population.)
  • The Handmaid's Tale: A main cause of the revolution that created the Republic of Gilead was widespread sterility. The few fertile women, dubbed Handmaids, are assigned to the households of powerful men for the express purpose of producing children. Unfortunately, if the men aren't fertile, the women are blamed for it. However, Gileadean doctrine forbids men to be mentioned as the ones who are sterile and instead places all the blame on women.
  • The Hunger Games: Sometime before the events of the books, District 13 was hit by a plague which killed off a lot of people while leaving others sterile. This is why they accept refugees from the other Districts with open arms, as it will increase their population's genetic diversity.
  • In Inferno (2013), the titular bioweapon modifies the DNA of about a third of its victims, preventing them from having children.
  • N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy: All the gods and godlings have been sterile since the death of Enefa, Goddess of Life and Death. Zig-zagged at the end of the first book when Yeine ascends to godhood in her place.
  • The Kingston Cycle by C.L. Polk: The nobility of Aeland are threatened with a Curse of sterility by the Amaranthine for the crime of stealing witches' souls for power. It's not an idle threat: when an Amaranthine once told an offending king that "You will wither", his wife miscarried on the spot, his entire bloodline became infertile, and his dynasty fell out of power well before it died out.
  • In the novel Mr. Adam, a journalist discovers that no woman has become pregnant since the accidental explosion of a nuclear weapons stockpile.
  • "But, you see, there aren't any children. They aren't born." The last line and premise of Stephen Vincent Benet's anti-war poem Nightmare for Future Reference, first published in the April 2, 1938 issue of The New Yorker magazine.
  • Earth in Old Man's War had a more limited version of this a few decades ago; male fertility was sharply reduced, and birth rates still aren't quite back yet in the developed world. Since it was an alien virus, the planet remains under quarantine to avoid a more thorough sequel. Except it wasn't alien at all; the colonial authority created it to justify the quarantine in a bid to snatch power from terrestrial governments.
  • The villains of the Clive Cussler novel Plague Ship are planning to sterilize half the human race, honestly thinking they'll be hailed as heroes.
  • In Prized, the sequel to Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien, Gaia travels to Sylum, a matriarchy where 9 out of every 10 babies are male, so females are prized members of society. On top of that, a couple hundred of the men are infertile. It is revealed that some sort of problem with the water is causing the men to be intersex, thus making them infertile.
  • The Elven Kingdom of the book series Sanctuary, whose males have all been rendered sterile by a curse from the God of Death have been unable to produce any pure blooded children for hundreds of years, with many Elven woman turning to the lesser mortal races to produce half-breed children instead. One of their most holy figures is the Youngest Elf in the world, the only full-blooded Elven child born since the issue began, who they believe will one day save them from their sterility. It is later revealed that a small isolated community of elves, who have existed on the edge of the Elven race and are largely ignored, have been able to reproduce the whole time, but have kept it a secret because they feel they owe nothing to the Elven Kingdom, which has long treated them as disposable assets.
  • In James Tiptree Jr.'s short story "The Screwfly Solution", a Hate Plague turns male sexual urges into murderous violence against women. The female protagonist concludes that it's meant to depopulate the Earth prior to colonization by aliens. The title comes from the techniques used to eradicate insects via this trope (see Real Life).
  • In The Ship Who... Killed, a colony in the Nekkar system was hit by an unexpected radiation flare that sterilized the population, and then a freak power outage led to all their banked sperm and ova dying. Being in a setting with casual space travel and plenty of other colonies, this was an emergency but not civilization-ending - Helva was dispatched on a "stork run" to pick up about thirty thousand fertilized ova donated by people of similar genotypes and deliver them to the Nekkarese.
  • Semiosis: The second and third generations of human colonists on the planet Pax have high rates of sterility among the men as their bodies adapt to local conditions. It's not severe enough to threaten the colony, but Higgins has conflicted feelings about being effectively put to stud as a fertile man.
  • The final story of Tuf Voyaging features this, as the protagonist at that point figures that the inhabitants of the world of S'uthlam will only react by having more children if he solves their overpopulation crisis by providing a miracle food (this is the third time he was recruited to do that, and both previous times population growth spiked yet higher when he left). His solution? He does provide a food even more miraculous than the last time... with just the minor quirk that it causes sterility in 95% of the humans that consume it.
  • When She Woke has this as the source of its plot. A sexually transmitted disease caused many people to become sterile and birth rates fall dramatically. Due to this, a constitutional amendment has been passed in the US forbidding abortion. Those who have illegal abortions, like the main character, are punished with a gene therapy that turns their skin red (other crimes get some different colors). It's based on The Scarlet Letter, updated to a dystopian future world.
  • Though the female aufwaders in Robin Jarvis's Whitby Witches trilogy can still conceive, the curse on their race means that, unless they end the pregnancy, their blood will turn to brine, causing an agonizing, and ultimately fatal, illness. As if that wasn't bad enough, the mother will be reduced to a briny sludge and the child, if it survives to term, will crumble to dust within minutes of birth. Only one aufwader born since the laying of the curse has survived infancy.
  • A virus spreads through the world in one sci-fi story that causes women to spontaneously abort with the only cure being the women having to consume a diet containing a rare fruit for the duration they want to get pregnant and have a child. It's not a real cure as they'll promptly reinfect as soon as they stop eating. The kicker? It was created and released by the scientist who 'discovered' the cure because he didn't want there to be anymore unwanted children in the world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "The Leisure Hive", the Argolians are a Dying Race who were rendered sterile by radiation in the aftermath of the twenty-minute war they fought with the Foamasi.
  • Earth: Final Conflict:
    • The Companions are sterile; Zo'or is the last one to have been born.
    • One episode reveals the Taelons have purposefully been venting material from their mothership over the east coast on North America to create sterile females. Several fertility clinics were set up to accommodate these people, and the Taelons used these to secretly implant modified humans into the females.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: Birth rates in the US had plummeted to catastrophic lows by 2015. And of the babies that are born now, many didn't survive long past birth. This is apparently due to environmental toxins. The Republic of Gilead says it's only women who are sterile, but the doctor Offred sees tells her most of the Commanders are as well.
  • In Lost, women who conceive on the island cannot give birth there. Those who try all die. It turns out that the island's electromagnetism sets off an immune response that attacks the fetus, killing both mother and child.
  • Orphan Black:
    • All the clones are apparently sterile, with the exception of Sarah, who has a daughter named Kira. Tomas immediately decided to hunt Kira down upon learning of her existence, and Delphine purposely hid the existence of Kira from Dr. Leekie when she was spying on Delphine. It is revealed by Ethan, one of the original creators of the project, that the clones were intentionally made sterile, which also has led to the autoimmune disease that has killed many of the clones. Helena may also be fertile, due to having the same surrogate mother as Sarah.
    • In season 3, this trope is played more straight when Dr. Coady wants to turn the infertility defect (which in the Project CASTOR male clones is sexually transmitted) into a bioweapon.
  • The Outer Limits (1963): In "The Inheritors", the aliens were infected with a blight which rendered them sterile.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "Dark Rain", a chemical war has left most of humanity sterile, after which harsh dystopian measures are enacted to try and preserve the population. The last generation of pre-blight children are taught that it is their duty to become sexually active as soon as possible, contraceptives of all kinds are banned, and when once in a blue moon a woman does become pregnant, the government seizes both mother and child; the child to be tested for any passed-on genetic traits that could improve fertility, and the mother to be similarly tested and also to be forcibly inseminated by other proven-fertile doners to try and replicate her success.
    • In "The Origin of Species", humans began to experiment with genetic engineering in or before the 23rd Century, giving them superhuman abilities (which included having wings) but rendering them sterile. As such, humanity eventually died out. The ship which brought Hope and six students to the future Earth is able to take genetic samples from them to create babies, altering their DNA sufficiently to prevent inbreeding.
  • A second season episode of Spellbinder has the dimension-traveling protagonists find themselves in an Enlightenment-themed world where a deadly plague killed off a large amount of population before a cure was found. Strangely, the cure not only cured the plague but also made people immortal. Unfortunately, the Immortal Procreation Clause is in full effect, as humans are no longer able to conceive. Instead, they build automatons that play and entertain their "parents". When a scientist finds out that the protagonist (a teenage girl and a 20-some man) are fertile, he kidnaps them in order to set up People Farms to try repopulate the world and even breaks their inter-dimensional ship. They manage to fix it and escape.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • The Asgard suffer from the fact that they have totally abandoned sexual reproduction in favor of cloning.
    • In the Bad Future portrayed in the Stargate SG-1 episode "2010", the Aschen plan to surreptitiously conquer Earth involves one of these, distributed under cover of advanced medical tech. As shown in the later episode "2001", this is their modus operandi.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In "Up the Long Ladder", there's a group of colonists who had too few people to successfully build a colony, so instead of sex, they went the cloning route. Now due to replicative fading they can't do that anymore, so they steal DNA from people on the Enterprise. The resolution is that they marry their Space Amish cousins from Space Oireland.
    • In "When the Bough Breaks", there's a world where all the remaining adults are sterile, and steal the kids from the Enterprise to be their next generation (no pun intended). It turns out that this world's impressive tech was what was causing the sterility, ensuring the children would become sterile in due time.
  • The Network in Utopia have already created a very subtle one of these and are attempting to deploy it.
  • Utopia (US): It turns out that the latest virus Christie Corp made isn't to kill people, but sterilize them so overpopulation can be halted.
  • The second season finale of Zoo reveals that the Shepherds and Jackson's father have planned all along for the "cure" for the animal outbreak actually be to sterilize the human race and return Earth to the animals.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In the Book of Genesis, after Sarah is taken into the Royal Harem of a local Canaanite king by the name of Abimelech because her husband grabbed the Idiot Ball out of fear for his own safety, God prevents Abimelech from leaving her Defiled Forever by making him unable to perform sexually when he's with her. Not only that, but all the women in the harem are unable to conceive and/or have miscarriages. This goes on until Abimelech figures out that his latest addition to the harem is already married to someone else, and returns her to her rightful husband, after which things return to normal.

    Video Games 
  • In Half-Life 2, the Combine have set up a suppression field, which makes humans unable to reproduce by impeding conception. After the Citadel is destroyed at the end of the game, the suppression field is destroyed along with it; in the Mission-Pack Sequel Half-Life 2: Episode One, Dr. Kleiner suggests to people that have already escaped City 17 that it is "an excellent time for procreation" to revive humanity as a species.
    Alyx Vance: Did Dr. Kleiner just tell everyone to... get busy?
  • The Forced Evolutionary Virus in the Fallout series renders its subjects sterile, so the only way for Super Mutants to increase their ranks is to capture and mutate more humans. Just as well, they have biological immortality. The Troglodyte Degeneration Contagion in The Pitt sterilizes those residents who aren't turned into Trogs or Wildmen (except for Ashur and Sandra, whose infant daughter is resistant to TDC). Ghouls are also universally sterile, although this is caused by radiation rather than a traditional plague.
  • The Vampires of the Legacy of Kain series were inflicted this (along with immortality and blood-thirst) by their archenemies, the Hylden, when they banished them. The problem is, the Pillars of Nosgoth, which represent the balance of the world and serve as a seal to imprison the Hylden, chose their guardians among newborn Vampires. When the Vampires ceased to give birth, the Pillars started to choose humans: it did not end well at all.
  • Zigzagged with the Genophage in Mass Effect. Playing it straight, it's a genetically engineered virus that attacks pregnant krogan females, causing alterations to hormone production that result in offspring being too deformed to survive and thus stillborn, and in the second game its revealed that the Salarians had to disperse a new strain of the disease because the Krogan evolved an immunity to the old one. Subverting it, the genophage was intended as a sort of mandatory contraception enforcement — it's designed to allow a carefully calculated number of offspring to be viable enough to survive (which one of its creators notes was harder than just making it a standard sterility plague) - and its effects as a Depopulation Bomb actually owe more to krogan inability to learn from their mistakes (or admit to them in the first place) than its own inherent lethality. Mordin at one point outright states that completely sterilizing the krogan would have been considerably easier, the Genophage was designed to ensure that the krogan could survive, just at "pre-industrial" numbers. When asked why not go the whole way and wipe them out, he hotly replies he isn't a war criminal or mass murderer, and finds genocide morally repugnant.
  • In Not for Broadcast, the Golden Ending route reveals that the President Evil had experimented with the creation of sterilising crops as a form of opt-out contraception in a misguided attempt to curtail an Overpopulation Crisis. However, it is revealed that this botched test wound up causing the exact opposite problem: creating a virus that poisoned the nation's food and resulted in an underpopulation crisis, such that birthrates are reported alongside the weather and in one of the epilogues it is reported that incentives are given to have more children.
  • Waidwen's Legacy in Pillars of Eternity is a variation. Children are born, technically, but they're hollowborn, lacking souls and being nothing but empty shells. Attempts to give them souls ended... poorly.
  • Warframe: The reason that the Sentients haven't conquered the Origin System is that most of them are still in the Tau System, and when they try to cross the Void (the only method of FTL travel), they are rendered sterile. While the Sentients are nigh-Physical Gods and almost impossible to completely destroy, their greatest advantage was always their prodigious rate of reproduction. Furthermore, their main enemies are the Tenno, who are also almost impossible to completely destroy, and wield strange Void powers that cut through Sentient defenses. The few Sentients in the Origin System are forced to work behind the scenes since they can't just Zerg Rush the opposition.

  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, the Angels' birthrates have sharply declined to the point that they are becoming a Dying Race. It's later implied that the Dragons have something to do with that, and that the Angels aren't the only race they've rendered extinct.
  • In Drowtales, members of Zala'ess Vel'Sharen's bloodline start becoming affected by this as a result of their demonic taint, with the female members either miscarrying early into the pregnancy or giving birth to stillborn and horribly deformed children. It's unknown if this has any affect on the male members, but since drow trace lineage through the mother it wouldn't matter as much to them if it did. It's eventually revealed that this was intentionally done by Zala's sister Snadhya'rune, who chose this method as form of irony since Zala is known for her many many children.
  • This is part of the reason of the Elves isolationism in Errant Story (That and a healthy dose of Can't Argue with Elves). Misa was the last known full-blooded elf birth and she's 1500 years old. No one knows why and no one's been able to fix it. Note that Elves are only sterile with each other; they can cross-breed with humans with little issue.
  • Off-White: No human babies have been born in the last three years because the human white spirit was eaten alive.

    Web Original 

    Real Life 
  • This is a common method humans use to eliminate harmful organisms in their environment such as mosquitoes and viruses. Scientists tasked with wiping out a short-lived life form often focus on disabling its means of reproduction. They find ways of infecting, poisoning or destroying stagnant water to stop mosquitoes from breeding, and the only known means of effectively killing viruses is to interfere in their reproductive cycle (i.e. interferon medicines).
    • The sterile insect technique is a method that the US government used to extirpate the screw-worm fly by sterilizing male flies with radiation and then releasing them back into the wild to compete with non-sterile males, as the females only mate once. Thus saving billions of dollars every year to farm and cattle industry.
  • This is also the reason why the pesticide DDT was banned. The chemical bioaccumulates, meaning it remains in the body and active for a very long time after ingestion. This did not have many noticeable effects on insectivores that consumed DDT-killed insects, but as those insectivores fell prey to higher level predators the concentration of the chemical compounded. Apex predators like eagles, ospreys, and other raptors ended up with stunning amounts of DDT in their bodies that had passed through hundreds of other organisms with its potency intact. In birds, DDT causes a defect in the process that creates the hard shells of their eggs. Female raptors were laying eggs with shells so thin that they would break during routine incubation. Since these are species that usually bear rather small clutches, losing so many chicks before hatching caused their populations to plummet steeply. So steeply, in fact, that the US was for some time in danger of having its symbolic animal, the bald eagle, go extinct within its borders. Since the ban on DDT, most raptor populations have rebounded with some help from captive breeding programs and hefty fines on hunters.
  • The heavy pollution in Sarnia, Ontario's Chemical Valley has contributed to a high rate of miscarriages and low birth rate of males on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation reserve. Similarly, Love Canal, one of the most notorious toxic dump sites in the U.S., caused a high number of miscarriages among its residents.
  • It's not a plague per se, however, the constant spread of STDs chlamydia and gonorrhea can and sometimes will, if not treated properly or in time, cause sterility when the disease ravages the sexual organs. Likewise, the same can occur from HPV, as said virus can cause cervical cancer.
    • HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is effectively an example of this: although having HIV doesn't directly incapacitate a person's ability to reproduce, heterosexual survivors who refrain from unprotected sex to ensure their partners won't become infected are, in effect, removing themselves from the human gene pool.
  • The bacterial genus Wolbachia, which infects insects and nematodes, can cause infected male organisms to be infertile with anything except infected females. If such a male mates with a female that isn't infected, any potential eggs she carries are aborted.