If you are having trouble getting pregnant, you may be infertile. Find out the causes of female infertility
If you have been having unprotected intercourse for a year or more and have not been able to get pregnant, you could be infertile. Infertility affects around 15% of all couples, and female infertility is a factor in around 50% of them, with the rest being due to male infertility. There can be many causes of female infertility.
What causes female infertility?
There are multiple steps required for pregnancy to take place normally:
- The woman ovulates as part of the menstrual cycle, producing a healthy, mature egg
- The man produces healthy sperm and is able to ejaculate the sperm into the vagina during sexual intercourse
- The sperm is able to swim through the uterus into the fallopian tube, where it fertilises the egg
- The fertilised egg is able to travel down the fallopian tube to the uterus where it is implanted and grows.
As you can see, since pregnancy largely occurs in the female body, there are many possible causes of female infertility.
Age as a female infertility cause:
Age is one of the most common causes of female infertility. After all, a woman is generally unable to get pregnant after reaching menopause. It was previously thought that a woman was born with all the eggs that would mature in her lifetime, but recent studies have pointed to the possibility of women continuing to produce eggs. Still, age causes the female reproductive organs to deteriorate, resulting in poorer quality eggs and less chance of a successful implantation after fertilisation. The common symptom of female infertility in a woman below the age of 35 is the inability to get pregnant after having regular, unprotected intercourse for 6 months. For women over the age of 35, the threshold is 1 year. It is uncommon for women over the age of 40 to get pregnant normally.
Hormonal problems causing female infertility:
Hormonal problems can be caused by a woman’s physical changes as she ages, especially as she approaches menopause. However, they can also be caused by other things such as mental stress, malnutrition, obesity, or disorders in the parts of the body that produces hormones. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder that affects ovulation, and it is one of the most common causes of female infertility.
Hormonal problems can lead to irregular menstrual periods, non-ovulation, loss of healthy mature eggs, and also a change in the acidity of the uterus lining that either prevents the sperm from travelling into the fallopian tube or prevents a fertilised egg from implanting successfully in the uterus.
Damaged fallopian tubes resulting in infertility:
Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes prevent the sperm from reaching the egg, or they may prevent a fertilised egg from travelling to the uterus. A woman’s fallopian tubes can become blocked or damaged due to inflammation from sexually transmitted infections. If the woman has had a previous ectopic pregnancy, where a fertilised egg develops in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus, the resulting surgery will cause the fallopian tube be damaged.
Uterine disorders causing infertility:
The uterus is where the embryo is attached to and develops in during a normal, healthy pregnancy. Disorders in the uterus can prevent the successful implantation or development of the embryo.
Endometriosis, where the uterus tissue grows abnormally, can cause female infertility. Sometimes, the endometriosis tissue disrupts the uterine lining, preventing the embryo from implanting. Surgery to remove endometriosis can also cause damage to the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing blockages.
Uterine fibroids are tumours, usually benign, that develop in the uterus. These fibroids can cause symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pain during intercourse, and female infertility. Uterine fibroids can be treated with medication, but surgery may be advised in cases with severe symptoms. Like with endometriosis, the surgery can affect fertility by damaging the uterus.
How to treat female infertility?
There are many treatment options available to women who are infertile. Hormonal problems, caused either by age or other hormonal disorders, can often be treated with medications that restore the hormonal balance and help regulate ovulation and menstrual periods.
In cases where there are blockages or scar tissue, minimally invasive surgery can be used to remove the blockage or scar tissue. When surgery is not recommended for the blockage, it is possible to extract a healthy egg directly from the ovaries using a special flexible tube connected to a needle. The egg can then be mixed with healthy sperm as part of IVF treatment.
Women who suspect that they are infertile should consult an experienced fertility specialist, who will then order a comprehensive set of tests to determine the exact cause of infertility. Once the cause is known, it will be easier to develop a treatment plan that can help the couple achieve their dream of becoming parents.
Our fertility specialists can help you deal with female infertility. Make an appointment now and take the next step to becoming a parent!