It’s difficult to diagnose the causes of infertility in females as more often than not it relates to an underlying condition. Sometimes the odds improve when your doctor diagnoses and treats the underlying condition. Many times, medical intervention and assisted reproductive technology help couples achieve their goal of growing their family.
5 Possible Causes for Infertility in Females
Knowing the cause of your infertility is the first step toward having a child. Becoming more knowledgeable about your condition also helps you determine the fertility treatment that’s right for you. Whatever your diagnosis, it’s best to remember each case is unique as is the course of your treatment. Here we take a look at five common causes.
Currently, about 6% of the female population suffers from polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. Overproduction of the male hormone testosterone causes PCOS. Excessive amounts of testosterone lower the amount of the female hormone FSH which stimulates the follicles. When there is a dip in your body’s FSH the mute eggs aren’t released. This causes the follicle to become inflamed and fill with fluid which creates cysts, without ovulation progesterone you don’t produce progesterone. Estrogen production continues creating further imbalance in your hormones. Symptoms of PCOS include excessive weight gain, acne, hair growth in areas you don’t normally grow hair (face, chest) and irregular periods.
Endometriosis contributes to female infertility in as much as a third of the cases. Endometriosis is a condition in which cells, similar to those found in the endometrium, or uterine lining, attach and grow outside the uterus. Endometrial tissue may grow on the ovaries, fallopian tubes or exterior of the uterus. Endometriosis may even affect other organs within your pelvic cavity. The inflammation and scar tissue caused by this condition prevents the egg from releasing or being fertilized or implanting in the uterine wall. Symptoms of endometriosis include heavy, painful and irregular periods, significant pain during intercourse, urination or bowel movement, chronic pelvic pain, and infertility.
- Blocked Fallopian Tubes
When your ovaries release your mature eggs, they travel through the fallopian tubes to the uterus to meet with the sperm, become fertilized, implant, and begin to develop. If there is a blockage inside one of your tubes this mask conception difficult. If there’s a blockage in both tubes natural conception is nearly impossible. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is the most common cause of tubal blockages. This condition may cause an abscess in your fallopian tube, the formation of scar tissue, direct damage to your fallopian tube(s) or even an ectopic pregnancy. PID arises most often as the result of a sexually transmitted infection from chlamydia or Gonorrhea.
For those who’ve had abdominal surgeries or tubal ligation (having your tubes “tied”) tubal blockages also are an issue.
- Egg Quality/Ovulation Issues
Egg quality in females deteriorates beginning at about age 35 and continuing until menopause, when ovulation ceases. Not only is the quality of your eggs affected by age, but so is the number of eggs you have, or your ovarian reserve. While the decline begins in the mid-30s, it picks up speed the closer you get to menopause. Fewer viable eggs remain and the risk for chromosomal abnormalities, miscarriage and other birth defects increases with each passing year.
Another possible cause of female infertility involving your eggs/ovaries? Ovulation problems. Each year doctors diagnose approximately one percent of the female population under 40 with a condition called Premature Ovarian Failure. This is most often due to hormonal deficiencies, poor thyroid function or even a predisposition to premature menopause.
- Uterine Abnormalities
In some cases, female infertility causes lie with the uterus. Problems with the uterus and uterine lining not only contribute to infertility but also recurrent miscarriage. Some uterine issues which impact fertility are:
- Congenital malformation of the uterus such as a bicornuate or heart-shaped uterus a T-shaped uterus or a double, or septet, uterus in which the uterus has two cavities.
- Scar Tissue or Intrauterine Adhesions: Sometimes scar tissue forms inside the uterus which interferes with implantation and conception.
- Uterine Fibroids or Uterine Polyps: Benign growths inside the uterine cavity or on the uterine wall.
- Luteal Phase Defect: The luteal phase occurs right after ovulation preparing the lining for implantation of a fertilized egg. When the lining fails to develop normally, this prevents conception.
- Issues with Endometrial Lining: In addition to luteal phase defect there are other conditions which prevent the uterine lining from developing adequately to support implantation and pregnancy.
Risk Factors for Infertility in Females
There are certain factors that put women at higher risk for infertility. Among them:
- Age: As you age the quantity and viability of your eggs begins to diminish. The closer you are to menopause the more difficult it is to conceive.
- Sexual History: STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia may cause damage to your fallopian tubes or scar tissue in your pelvic region. Unprotected sex with multiple partners increases your risk for sexually transmitted infections which may lead to infertility.
- Weight: Being significantly overweight or underweight interferes with your reproductive health. While the BMI chart is only a guide you’ll get an idea of whether or not your weight should be a concern.
- Smoking: Smoking damages your cervix and may cause hormonal imbalance which impacts your fertility. Smoking depletes your eggs prematurely and increases your risk for an ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. If you are trying to conceive or about to begin fertility treatment, please stop smoking. Ask your physician for help in quitting.
- Alcohol: In a recent study of drinking patterns and hormone levels at different monthly stages doctors found alcohol-even as few drinks as 3-4 per week-disrupts the hormone balance necessary for conception. While you are trying to conceive you should abstain from drinking entirely as the effects of alcohol on the developing fetus can be devastating.
Get Answers Now
If you suspect infertility don’t wait any longer to find the answers you need. Depending on your diagnosis we can help you find a fertility treatment plan. Contact LA IVF today and schedule a consultation.