Infertility is not uncommon, affecting approximately 12 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44. Some of the most common causes of infertility in women include:
Nearly 25 percent of all cases of infertility in women are related to ovulation disorders. Ovulation disorders generally develop when the pituitary gland, which regulates the menstrual cycle and body hormones, does not function properly. Some women may experience irregular menstrual cycles or may not ovulate at all due to hormonal imbalance. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common ovulation disorder. Others include hypothalamic amenorrhea and ovarian insufficiency.
Age can have a direct impact on female fertility. As women grow older, their number of eggs decreases. The quality of these eggs also rapidly decline increasing the odds of chromosomal abnormalities and miscarriage. An estimated 70 percent of pregnancies that end in miscarriage are due to chromosomal abnormalities.
Fallopian tube obstruction can result in female infertility as the blockage prevents the sperm from fertilizing the egg. In some instances, a woman may have bilateral tubal occlusion which means that both fallopian tubes are blocked.
Endometriosis is a disorder that occurs when tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus. This condition is often accompanied by heavy periods, abdominal pain, menstrual irregularities, and infertility. About 10 percent of all women of reproductive age are affected by endometriosis.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous muscular tumors that grow in the uterine wall during a woman’s childbearing years. Fibroids are highly common, affecting nearly 40 percent of women. While uterine fibroids on their own are not a direct cause of infertility, fibroids that cause distortion within the uterine cavity can prevent implantation of the embryo. When fertility is affected by fibroids, they can be surgically removed.
Endometrial, or uterine, polyps are growths that attach to the inner wall of the uterus and are generally noncancerous. Larger or multiple polyps can affect fertility by preventing the embryo from implanting and can be surgically removed.
In some cases, tests can return normal and the cause of infertility cannot be determined. However, even when the cause of infertility is not known, fertility treatments can still be performed and often lead to a successful birth.