The Fertility Center

A blog about fertility issues, treatments and trends from the specialists at Greenwich Fertility.

May 8, 2018

Causes of Female Infertility

By Nora Miller, M.D.

What is infertility?

Infertility is the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse for women under age 35, or 6 months for women age 35 and above.  It affects 10-15% of all couples.  About a third of infertility cases can be attributed to female factors, a third to male factors, and a third are caused by a combination of factors in both partners.

Some common causes of female infertility include: problems with ovulation, advancing age, uterine or cervical factors, and damage to the fallopian tubes.   About 30% of the time, all testing is normal and the couple has “unexplained” infertility.

Ovulation Disorders

Women who do not ovulate (release an egg) regularly may have difficulty getting pregnant.  One of the most common reasons for irregular cycles is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which is a hormonal imbalance in reproductive-aged women that can cause infrequent ovulation and other symptoms such as acne or excess hair growth.  Other hormonal causes include low thyroid function or an increased prolactin level.

Age-Related Fertility Decline

The monthly likelihood of conception decreases with advancing age, due to a decline in the quality and quantity of eggs in a woman’s ovaries.  According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, while a healthy 30 year-old has about a 20% chance of conception per month, a healthy 40-year-old woman’s monthly chance of conception is about 5%.   Since more women are delaying childbearing until later in their reproductive years, this is a common cause of infertility.

Uterine or Cervical Factors

Anatomical factors such as polyps, fibroids, scar tissue, or uterine anomalies can interfere with embryo implantation or increase the risk of miscarriage.  Imaging studies are used to diagnose these issues, and they can often be corrected surgically.

Tubal Infertility

Blocked fallopian tubes can prevent fertilization and implantation from occurring.  Endometriosis (a condition in which the glands that line the inside of the uterus are located outside of the uterine cavity) can cause tubal scarring.  Other causes of tubal damage include pelvic inflammatory disease, a history of abdominal surgery, and prior ectopic pregnancy.

Unexplained Infertility

Unexplained infertility is the inability to conceive within a year despite normal fertility testing.  Patients with unexplained infertility may have problems with egg quality, fertilization, implantation, genetics, tubal function, or sperm function that cannot be readily diagnosed.  Despite the inability to identify a specific cause of infertility, most will respond well to treatment.

If you and your partner are experiencing issues with conceiving, contact the fertility specialists at Greenwich Fertility today for a consultation!

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