Inability of a woman to get pregnant or inability to carry a pregnancy to ter is referred to as infertility. Lots of couples have fertility problems and women infertility accounts for approximately 50% cases of infertility. Infertility in women can be caused by many factors.
Here are some top causes of infertility in women.
1. Ovulation Problems
The most common cause of female infertility is problems with ovulation, which occurs in 40% of women with infertility issues. One or more of the following factors can result in ovulation failure:
- Ovarian or gynecological conditions, such as primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Aging, including “diminished ovarian reserve,” which refers to a low number of eggs in a woman’s ovaries due to normal aging
- Endocrine disorders, such as thyroid disease or problems with the hypothalamus, which affect the hormones produced by the body so that there might be too much or too little of a hormone or group of hormones
- Lifestyle and environmental factors
2. Failure of an Egg to Mature Properly
Eggs may not mature properly for many reasons, such as PCOS, obesity, and lack of specific proteins needed for the egg to mature.
An immature egg may not be released at the correct time, may not make it down the fallopian tubes, or may not be able to be fertilized.
3. Implantation Failure
Implantation failure refers to the failure of a fertilized egg to implant in the uterine wall to begin pregnancy. Specific causes of implantation failure are often not clearly known. The following factors can possibly cause implantation failure:
- Genetic defects in the embryo
- Scar tissue in the endometrial cavity
- Thin endometrium
- Progesterone resistance
- Embryonic defects
4. Menstrual Cycle Problems
Problems with the menstrual cycle can lead to infertility. Menstrual cycle is the process that prepares the female body for pregnancy. Menstrual cycle involves several phases and problems at any stage of the proces can lead to difficulty getting pregnant or to infertility.
5. Structural Problems of the Reproductive System
Presence of abnormal tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus can lead to structural problems in them. If the fallopian tubes are blocked, eggs are not able to move from the ovaries to the uterus and sperm is not able to reach the egg for fertilization. Structural problems with the uterus, such as those that may interfere with implantation, can also cause infertility.
The following are some of the specific structural problems that can cause infertility:
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. This condition can block the fallopian tubes
- Uterine Fibroids: Uterine fibroids are growths that appear within and around the wall of the uterus. Although most women with fibroids do not have problems with fertility and can get pregnant, some women with fibroids may not be able to get pregnant naturally or may have multiple miscarriages or preterm labor.
- Endometrial Polyps: Endometrial or uterine polyps are noncancerous growths on the inside surface of the uterus. These polyps can interfere with the function of the uterus and make it difficult for a woman to remain pregnant after conception. Surgical removal of the polyps can increase the chances for a woman to get pregnant.
- Intrauterine Scarring: Scarring in the uterus can occur from previous injuries, infections, or surgery. Scarring may increase the risk of miscarriage and may interfere with implantation, thus leading to infertility.
- Abnormal Uterus Shape: Some women have heart-shaped uterus instead of a pear-shaped uterus. An unusually shaped uterus can affect implantation and the ability to carry a pregnancy to term.
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that makes up the uterine lining (the lining of the womb) is present outside the uterus. Endometriosis is usually found in the lower abdomen, or pelvis, but can appear anywhere in the body.
Research studies have found a link between infertility and endometriosis. Research studies reveal that 25% to 50% of infertile woman have endometriosis and between 30% and 40% of women with endometriosis are infertile. Scientists do not know the exact cause of infertility in women with endometriosis.
Current theories on how endometriosis causes infertility include the following:
- Changes in the structure of the female reproductive organs may occur. Endometriosis can cause pelvic adhesions made of scar tissue to form between nearby structures, such as between the ovary and pelvic wall. This can obstruct and affect the release of the egg after ovulation. Scarring in the fallopian tube can interrupt block the egg’s movement through the fallopian tube.
- The lining of the abdomen, which is called the peritoneum may go through changes that affect its function:
- In women with endometriosis, the amount of fluid inside the peritoneum often increases.
- The fluid in the peritoneum contains substances that can negatively affect the functions of the egg, sperm, and fallopian tubes.
- Chemical changes in the lining of the uterus that occur as a result of endometriosis may affect an embryo’s ability to implant properly and make it difficult for a woman to stay pregnant after conception.
7. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility. It is a condition in which a woman’s ovaries and, in some cases, adrenal glands produce more androgens (a hormone) than normal. High levels of these hormones interfere with the development of ovarian follicles and release of eggs during ovulation. As a result, fluid-filled sacs, or cysts, can develop within the ovaries.
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but current research suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors leads to the disease.
8. Primary Ovary Insufficiency (POI)
Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is a condition in which a woman’s ovaries stop producing hormones and eggs at a young age. Women with POI ovulate irregularly, if at all, and may have abnormal levels of ovarian and pituitary hormones due to problems with their ovaries.
Women with POI often have trouble getting pregnant. However, pregnancy is still possible, though rare. About 5% to 10% of women with POI get pregnant without medical treatment.
9. Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that form inside the uterus. Uterine fibroids can cause symptoms in some cases, depending on their size and location. Scientists do not know what causes fibroids to form, but it is believed that there may be a genetic basis.
Fibroids can contribute to infertility and are found in 5% to 10% of infertile women. Fibroids located in the uterine cavity (as opposed to those that grow within the uterine wall) or those that are larger than 6 centimeters in diameter are more likely to have a negative effect on fertility. Fibroids are more likely to affect a woman’s fertility if they:
- Change the position of the cervix, which can reduce the number of sperm that enter the uterus
- Change the shape of the uterus, which can interfere with the movement of sperm or implantation
- Block the fallopian tubes, which prevents sperm from reaching the egg and keeps a fertilized egg from moving to the uterus
- Interfere with blood flow to the uterus, which can prevent the embryo from implanting
Infections can cause infertility women. Untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia in women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which might cause scarring that blocks the fallopian tubes. Untreated syphilis increases the risk for a pregnant woman to have a stillbirth.
Chronic infections in the cervix and surgical treatment of cervical lesions associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection can also reduce the amount or quality of cervical mucus. Problems with this sticky or slippery substance that collects on the cervix and in the vagina can make it difficult for women to get pregnant.
11. Autoimmune Disorders
Autoimmune disorders cause the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack healthy body tissues instead of germs and viruses. Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, Hashimoto’s and other types of thyroiditis, or rheumatoid arthritis, may affect fertility. The reasons for this are not fully understood and differ between diseases, but they are thought to involve inflammation in the uterus and placenta or medications used to treat the diseases. Both men and women can make antibodies that attack sperm or the reproductive organs.
12. Health Conditions
Infertility in women may be caused by the following health conditions:
- Birth defects that affect the reproductive tract
- Hormone imbalances
- Thyroid disease
- Cancer or tumor
- Clotting disorders
- Poor nutrition
- Eating disorders
13. Lifestyle Factors
Infertility in women may be caused by the following lifestyle factors:
- Excessive drinking of alcohol
- Excessive exercise
- Older age