Women: Infertility

The most common female infertility factor is ovulation disorders. Disruption in the part of the brain that regulates ovulation can cause deficiencies in luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Even slight irregularities in the hormone system can affect ovulation. Along with hormonal imbalance, medical problems such as a pituitary gland tumor can cause ovulation problems. Age is another important factor in female infertility. The ability of a woman’s ovaries to produce eggs decline after age 35. About 1/3 of couples where the woman is over 35 have problems with fertility. Without ovulation, eggs are not available to be fertilized. Signs of ovulation problems include irregular periods or no periods.
Other causes of female infertility include blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, which may occur when a woman has had pelvic inflammatory disease, sexually transmitted diseases (especially Chlamydia), an ectopic pregnancy, prior surgeries or endometriosis (a painful condition causing adhesions and cysts). If the fallopian tubes are blocked at one or both ends, the egg can’t travel through the tubes into the uterus.

Uterine problems and abnormalities can interfere with embryo implantation. Adhesions, scar tissue, fibroids and defects in the shape of the uterus can all result in repeated miscarriages. A condition called Asherman’s Syndrome, where the walls of the uterus adhere to each other is another problem that can lead to infertility. Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), used in the 50s and 60s to prevent miscarriage, can cause abnormalities in women’s reproductive organs such as deformities of the vagina, uterus or cervix, as well as many other complications.

Cervical problems can cause your cervical mucus to be of poor quality. Sometimes your cervical mucus may even contain antibodies which immobilize or kill the sperm. Usually around the time of ovulation, your cervix produces clear, stretchy mucus, which allows sperm to penetrate the cervix on their journey to meet up with the egg. If you have poor quality mucus or not enough mucus, sperm cannot get through your cervix.

There are many causes that can lead to temporary infertility in women including obesity and certain medications. In most cases, fertility is restored when the medication is stopped. Excess weight can lead to elevated estrogen levels which may prevent a woman from ovulating. Thyroid problems (either too much or too little thyroid hormone) can interrupt the menstrual cycle and cause infertility.

Infertility and Men
Treatment of Infertility