Female Infertility Overview
Female infertility is caused by conditions that affect a female partner, creating a barrier to pregnancy. To get pregnant, certain conditions must be met. If one of these conditions is not met, then pregnancy cannot take place.
To understand more about female infertility, let’s look at how the conception process works. There are four requirements to get pregnant:
- A sperm capable of fertilizing an egg
- An egg capable of being fertilized
- An open passage to allow the egg and sperm to meet
- A uterus to nurture the developing pregnancy
Your doctor can evaluate and treat many potential infertility problems to increase your chances of having a healthy baby. Here are some of the more common causes of infertility in women:
- Ovulation problems
- Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) – The ovaries stop functioning before a natural menopause.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – The ovaries do not release a healthy egg or the ovaries don’t release an egg regularly.
- Problems with the uterus including uterine fibroids (noncancerous growths)
- Blocked tubes from endometriosis, surgery, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Are you at risk for female infertility?
Different risk factors put a you at a higher chance of having female infertility problems, including the following:
- Age (female fertility declines after age 35 and dramatically declines after age 40)
- Extreme dieting or eating a poor diet
- Being overweight or underweight
- Cigarette smoking, drugs, and alcohol
- High caffeine intake
- Health problems and medications
- Environmental toxins
- Genetic conditions
- Sexually transmitted diseases
In most cases of female infertility, your doctor can do a fertility workup. After a physical examination and many tests, doctors may determine the cause of the problem. Then, treatment with medications, surgery or high-tech procedures may help you get pregnant.
Some infertility problems are preventable
Some causes of female infertility cannot be changed, such as your age, family history, or history of miscarriage. Other causes of female infertility are preventable.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): You can prevent sexually transmitted diseases that can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection or inflammation that can permanently scar the reproductive tract (the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes) and lead to female infertility. PID is one of the most common illnesses that affect female fertility today. PID is most prevalent among young women under age 25 who have had more than one sex partner. It’s also more common in women who have had STDs and a prior case of PID.
Hormonal issues: Some causes of female infertility, such as hormonal imbalances, can be treated. Fertility drugs and special diets are helping many women get pregnant and have families.
Surgery: Some types of female infertility can be surgically treated. Tubal problems and endometriosis are the most common types that can be treated by surgery.
Knowledge is power
After a diagnosis of infertility, much of your anxiety may stem from lack of knowledge. Not only are you frightened about a possible inability to conceive yourself, but you may be uneasy about whether you will ever become a mom.
When it comes to infertility, there are often answers. Talk with your fertility specialist. In many cases, planning ahead and preventing female fertility problems early on can help set the stage for a healthy pregnancy.Sources
- NIH: Infertility/Fertility
- RESOLVE: Frequently Asked Questions about Infertility
- WomensHealth.gov: Infertility
- Rasch, V. Cigarette, alcohol, and caffeine consumption: risk factors for spontaneous abortion. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 2003; 82:182