Causes of Infertility: Female

woman

When a couple is evaluated for infertility, almost half of the time it is found to be due to “female factors.” 24% of infertility is due to “male factors,” while 28% of infertility is unexplained even after evaluation. The causes of close to half of “female factor” infertility relate to anovulation, which means the ovaries are not releasing eggs regularly. Less common are problems with the woman’s Fallopian tubes, tumors in the uterus (fibroids or polyps), endometriosis, or other local problem in the woman’s reproductive organs.

30% of female infertility is due to problems in the Fallopian tubes, usually because of a past history of pelvic inflammatory disease or tubal surgery.

Clearly, one of the first things a couple trying to get pregnant needs to know is whether or not the woman is ovulating. Women with regular menstrual periods that are more or less a month apart are probably ovulating. Couples who are having trouble getting pregnant need to understand the process of ovulation, because many fertility treatments are aimed at making sure there are available eggs.

Ovaries make female hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, and also store and release eggs. All of the eggs in a woman’s ovaries are there at birth. Only one (or maybe 2) is supposed to be released from an ovary each month to make its way into the Fallopian tube and potentially meet up with a man’s sperm. The sequence of events is cyclical, which can be explained simply. A woman’s pituitary gland sends signals (in the form of FSH) to her ovaries to develop egg-containing follicles and make estrogen. One follicle enlarges the most. A hormone called LH signals the follicle to release an egg. LH signals the follicle to make the hormone progesterone to help the uterus get ready to hold an embryo. The egg then travels through the Fallopian tube, and if a sperm reaches the egg there and fertilizes the egg, it can start to grow and eventually attach to the wall of the uterus (called implantation). This sends signals to the brain, which in turn send signals to the ovaries and uterus to keep the conditions right for the growth of the baby.

If the egg just leaves the body without being fertilized, there is no message sent to continue growing the lining of the uterus. It is shed in a menstrual period. This is the point where female hormone levels are lowest. The low levels cause the brain to release a hormone to tell the ovaries to start making more estrogen and allow a follicle with an egg to develop, and the cycle repeats itself. Sometimes more than one egg is released, which is one way a woman can have twins. Sometimes no eggs are released.

{ MORE: Infertility: What You Should Know to Support a Friend }

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When girls first start menstruating, there are often cycles in which no egg is released. As their systems mature, this usually stops, and most have cycles with the release of an egg.

What do you think?

Causes of Infertility: Female

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32 comments

  1. mommy nhoj says:

    I knew someone who’s diagnosed with PCOS. She got pregnant 2 years ago but it was ectopic. Her left ovary was removed due to complication 🙁 she is still optimistic to conceive despite what happened

  2. LIZ says:

    very interesting article

  3. Christina says:

    i would adopt and treat them like family

  4. TaKeisha says:

    We would adopt and become foster parents to children who a loving home.

  5. I have trouble conceiving and carrying; however, surrogacy is not for me. I would just go with adoption. There is always a child needing and deserving love.

  6. joyce says:

    so fat I have not had any problems getting pregnant but if I did I would consider adoption or using a surrogate.

  7. My sister doesn’t get her period. We were worried for a time that she wouldn’t be able to conceive.

  8. michelle says:

    We’ve been ttc for over 12 yrs. now. 🙁 We were blessed with our son before. I have PCOS and have had to have Endometriosis removed. I have a lot of other health issues and pray every day that we will be blessed with one more before I won’t be able to handle a pregnancy.

  9. I actually thought i was suffering from anovulation, but it turned out I was going through REALLY early menopause. I just happened to stumble across this doc called "Hot Flash Havoc" and after watching it, I immediately got myself diagnosed and my question was answered. The flick actually had a lot of good info on all types of menopause and female infertility.

    Here’s a link if anyone’s interested:

    http://bit.ly/11Wg60W

  10. jaimee says:

    I was diagnosed with PCOS a few years ago.

  11. I thought I might have a fertility problem. I had a lot of unprotected sex and never got pregnant. When we first started TTC, We only tried twice and I got pregnant. I guess everything really does happen for a reason. =]

  12. Ada says:

    So does it mean that you are not ovulating when you don’t have a period and I don’t mean menopause. My friend is in her early thirties and her period stopped.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I was diagnosed with PCOS Oct 2012

  14. Jeanetta says:

    I didn’t know there can be so many reasons why a women couldn’t get pregnant,

  15. Trarabear says:

    I have PCO, I have tried on and off for 8 years now with no luck. I unfortunately have a lot of health problems making it worse. I am overweight and sadly can’t seem to lose it. I have been put on medication for it, diets, etc and nothing is helping anymore. I have clinical depression which makes it hard to find "get up and go" in order to exercise much. I want to, and I want to have a baby more than anything, but I just can’t seem to get up and motivate. It is heartbreaking not being a mom.

  16. Angela says:

    So sad, i feel bad for those who want to have a baby and cant

  17. Julie says:

    Great info in this article. I didn’t know some of this stuff.

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