Causes of Female Infertility
Female infertility seems to be more and more common these days, or perhaps modern women are just more open to talking about it.
If you have been diagnosed with infertility, you may worry about the future of your family. In this article, we review a number of different causes of female infertility to help ease your mind.
What causes female infertility?
Some causes of female infertility are not necessarily preventable, such as advanced maternal age or inherited conditions. Other causes of female infertility, like smoking and STDs, are highly preventable.
Most commonly, female infertility problems include the following:
- Reproductive system problems (uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries)
- Ovulation problems
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Age (women over 35)
- Hormonal issues
Other causes of female infertility may include:
- Weight problems (being overweight or underweight)
- Alcohol, smoking or drug use
- DES exposure in the womb
Endometriosis and PCOS
Many women are affected by two common female infertility problems: endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). We explain these conditions below.
Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a common cause of female infertility that may leave up to 30 to 40 percent of affected women infertile. Symptoms of endometriosis include pelvic pain, abnormal menstrual cycles and bleeding, and pain during bowel movements or intercourse.
Polycystic ovary syndrome. Women with PCOS often do not ovulate, making it difficult to conceive. Symptoms of PCOS include excessive facial and body hair, hair loss, acne and obesity.
STDs and fertility
Did you know that STDs cause up to 50 percent of preventable female infertility cases in the U.S.? STDs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is a common cause of female infertility that can be prevented. Common symptoms of PID include:
- Pelvic pain
- Abnormal bleeding
- Discharge with odor
- Painful urination
Often women do not have symptoms of STDs. Or a woman's STD symptoms may be mild, not seeming to be a cause for concern. Because of the lack of clearcut symptoms, it is important to be screened regularly for STDs.
Symptoms of female infertility
If you and your partner have been having unprotected sex for a year and have not yet conceived, talk to your a reproductive endocrinologist (RE). An RE is able to diagnose and treat fertility problems.
If you have one or more of the following symptoms, seek help sooner, rather than later:
- Unexpected bleeding
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
- Unexplained fever
- Abnormal discharge
- Pain and itching in the vagina
- Irregular or absent periods
- Increased hair growth
- Breast secretion
- A history of miscarriage
Boost your chances of pregnancy
Many women find it helpful to talk to a reproductive endocrinologist when pregnancy does not come easily. To improve your chances of getting pregnant, talk openly with your doctor. Get screened for STDs, quit smoking and get to a healthy weight. Some experts also recommend avoiding caffeine to increase the chances of getting pregnant.
In many cases, planning ahead and preventing female fertility problems early on can help set the stage for a healthy pregnancy. Learn more about how to prevent infertility.Sources
- NIH: Infertility/Fertility.
- CDC: Infertility and Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
- Americanpregnancy.org: Female Infertility.
- Endometriosis.org: Endometriosis.
- Vorvick, L, Storck, S., Zieve, D. Infertility. Medline Plus; 2009
- Bruce, DF, Thatcher, S. & Berg, B. Making a Baby: Everything you need to know to get pregnant.
- Thatcher, S. PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: The Hidden Epidemic.
- Weschler, T. Taking Charge of your Fertility.