Roughly one in six couples face fertility issues when trying to conceive. In about a third of these cases, the problem can be attributed to female infertility.
At the Center for Reproductive Medicine, we’re committed to helping you uncover the root cause behind your fertility struggles so we can diagnose and treat the issue at hand.
Common causes of and treatments for female infertility
There are several potential causes of female infertility, including:
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a common endocrine condition that can lead to infertility. Instead of developing a dominant follicle and releasing a mature egg each menstrual cycle, polycystic ovaries develop multiple follicles that do not produce any eggs.
Women with PCOS generally have signs of excess male hormone production, are often overweight and may develop insulin resistance. At the Center for Reproductive Medicine, we treat PCOS with medication that triggers normal ovulation.
Endometriosis is a condition in which sections of the uterine lining, or endometrium, become attached to tissues outside of the uterine cavity. These endometrial lesions build up and break down each month, just as the normal uterine lining does. This causes inflammation, cysts and severe menstrual pain.
The connection between endometriosis and infertility is unclear, but treating the condition, usually through minimally invasive surgery, often improves a patient's chances of becoming pregnant.
One common cause of infertility is irregular or absent ovulation, which is primarily caused by some kind of hormonal imbalance (often due to an endocrine disorder, weight problems or other factors). Because menstruation may continue despite a lack of ovulation, many women do not realize that they are not ovulating. Ovulation can generally be restored by either treating the underlying condition or through the use of fertility medications.
Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
A blockage in both fallopian tubes will prevent an egg from coming into contact with sperm cells, resulting in infertility. Certain types of blockages, such as a buildup of mucus and debris, can be cleared by a minimally invasive surgical technique known as a tubal cannulization. Blockages caused by scar tissue or actual tubal malformations can be corrected with surgery or may be bypassed with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Any irregularity of the uterus, including congenital malformations, adhesions, fibroids or polyps, can contribute to infertility or recurrent miscarriage. In many cases, minimally invasive surgery can be performed to correct the problem. If part or all of the uterus is absent, or if the damage is too extensive to be repairable via surgery, our team may recommend IVF with a gestational carrier.
Low ovarian reserve
Unlike men, who continue to produce new sperm cells throughout their reproductive lives, women have a substantial but finite supply of eggs. Although only one or two eggs are released during any given cycle, several will begin to ripen, and those that are not released will disintegrate. Over time, a woman's egg supply gradually diminishes and may eventually reach a point where infertility is the result.
A woman with low ovarian reserve is unlikely to respond well to ovulation induction medications, and there is a chance that any eggs that are collected will not be of good quality. In these cases, IVF with donor eggs offers the best chance for success.
Frequently asked questions
Female infertility can be the result of underlying health issues or genetic conditions that interfere with your ability to achieve or maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Our team at the Center for Reproductive Medicine can address a variety of female infertility causes, including:
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a disorder that leads to multiple follicles forming in the ovaries. These follicles don’t produce eggs for release and fertilization.
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition where the uterine lining (endometrium) grows outside of your uterus. This tissue continues to act like it should, thickening and breaking down during your menstrual cycle. However, it has no way to exit your body. The resulting pain, inflammation and tissue growth can interfere with your fertility.
- Ovulation disorders: Ovulation disorders disrupt the release of your eggs so they cannot be fertilized by sperm. These disorders may be the result of hormonal imbalances, obesity or underlying health issues that affect the ovulation cycle.
- Structural irregularities: Blockages or damage in your fallopian tubes can occur due to scar tissue or structural issues, preventing the proper release of an egg. Structural irregularities in your uterus can also cause infertility.
- Low ovarian reserve: Unlike men, who continue to produce sperm throughout their reproductive years, women are born with a finite number of eggs. Over time, your viable egg supply diminishes, leading to eventual infertility once your ovarian reserve is depleted.