10 Common Causes Of Infertility In Women

By:    Published: February 1, 2012

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At some point in a person’s life, the urge to have a child becomes great. But for some people, conceiving a child is an impossible task. According to The Mayo Clinic, 10 to 15 percent of couples in the United States are infertile, and that may be due to any number of reasons that can affect one or both partners.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, the common causes of female infertility are issues with ovulation. A common sign of ovulation issues is typically abnormal menstrual periods, or the complete lack of menstrual periods.

Below is a list of common causes of infertility in women, most of which relate to issues with ovulation:

1. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a condition that causes the overproduction of the hormone androgen and is one of the top causes of female infertility. The hormone imbalance caused by PCOS leads to problems with ovulation, along with issues in a woman’s menstrual cycle and the development of male characteristics such as a deeper voice and male-pattern baldness. This condition is often associated with obesity and insulin resistance.

(To learn more about PCOS, read Polycystic Ovary Syndrome And Ovarian Cysts.)

2. Early Menopause

According to The Mayo Clinic, early menopause is defined as the lack or loss of menstruation and early depletion of ovarian follicles before a woman reaches the age of 40. Menopause is considered early if it starts before the age of 40. Certain immune diseases or even radiation therapy can trigger it.

3. Damage To The Fallopian Tubes

When the fallopian tubes become inflamed, this may be due to a blockage, damage or scarring, which, in turn, causes infertility. Such damage is often due to infection through a sexually transmitted disease, primarily chlamydia. Other issues that may cause a blockage to the fallopian tubes include pelvic inflammatory disease, or surgery required for ectopic pregnancy.

4. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition where the uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. This condition will usually affect the ovaries, eggs, fallopian tubes, uterus and even sperm function. In milder cases of endometriosis, conception is still possible since not all women will experience infertility. For such cases, laparoscopy can be used to remove any scar tissue caused by endometriosis to aid with conception.

5. Ovary Scarring

Another factor that affects a woman’s ovulation is physical damage to her ovaries. Such damage can be caused by multiple surgeries for issues like ovarian cysts. Constant surgeries that may be extensive and/or invasive can lead to damage and scarring to the point where ovarian follicles can no longer mature properly. The end result is a complete lack of ovulation.

6. Pelvic Adhesions

Pelvic adhesions are defined as scar tissue that forms after pelvic surgery, appendicitis or a pelvic infection can disrupt fertility. Pelvic adhesions can change the structure of the fallopian tubes, making it difficult for a woman’s eggs to travel through.

7. Thyroid Problems

Hyperthyroidism, which is a condition caused by an overactive thyroid, and hypothyroidism, which is a condition caused by an underactive thyroid, also can cause infertility problems in women.

(To learn more about thyroid issues, read 10 Possible Signs Of A Thyroid Problem.)

8. Cancer Treatment

Having cancer and undergoing radiotherapy or other forms of cancer treatment could impair the function of the male or female reproductive system. Studies have shown that a decrease in a woman’s fertility is one of the possible side effects of radiation for female cancer patients, depending on what particular are of the body is irradiated. Women undergoing radiation therapy should discuss with their physician the effects such treatment may have on their fertility.

9. Medication And Certain Health Issues

Certain medications can cause infertility in women. If medications are discovered to be the cause of infertility, a woman may be able to become fertile again by stopping the medication completely. Using drugs, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, eating poorly and being overweight or underweight, contracting an STD and even excessive athletic training can also contribute to female infertility.

10. Age

Age is also considered a common factor for female infertility. Women over 40 have a smaller number of eggs that tend to be less healthy. The chances of a miscarriage are also higher for an older woman. A woman’s age is also linked to a higher likely hood she will be suffering from certain health conditions, some of which were previously listed, that can cause infertility.

(To learn more about the relationship between age and pregnancy, read Pregnancy Risks After 35 Years Of Age.)

It is generally recommended that women should seek consultation from their doctors after one year of being unsuccessful at conceiving. Consultation can be done much sooner as a woman ages. For example, women aged 35 or older can seek consultation after six months of trying to conceive, rather than waiting an entire year. Women can also visit their doctors before even attempting to get pregnant. A doctor can provide general guidance and health tips to prepare a woman for pregnancy, and can also answer any questions on fertility.

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