7 Causes of Infertility in Women
Some women face difficulties in conceiving because of issues like endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and old age. Others have unexplained infertility, a term medical professionals use to describe infertility when there are no obvious causes. Here’s an in-depth look at some causes of infertility:
1. Tubal Problems
Tubal problems may result from blocked or damaged fallopian tubes. They may prevent sperm from reaching the egg or stop a fertilized egg from entering the uterus, making it difficult for a woman to get pregnant. Tubal problems may arise from pelvic surgery, endometriosis, or sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, which may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. In such cases, a doctor may advise a patient to undergo surgery to try and open the fallopian tubes or recommend assisted reproductive technologies.
Endometriosis may occur when the tissue that lines the uterine cavity grows in other places. The endometrial-like tissue may grow in the ovary, outside the uterus, vagina, peritoneum, and fallopian tubes. The condition may make it difficult for one to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term as it may cause chemical changes in the uterus lining, female reproductive organs’ structure, and the peritoneum.
Chemical changes in the uterine lining may prevent the embryo from implanting properly, making it difficult to maintain a pregnancy even after conception. Endometriosis may cause pelvic adhesions on reproductive organs like the ovary and fallopian tubes. This may prevent the release of an egg after ovulation or obstruct the egg’s movement through the fallopian tube, making implantation difficult. The condition may also cause the fluid in the peritoneum to increase — the fluid may affect the sperm’s, egg’s, or fallopian tube’s functioning, causing infertility.
3. Ovulation Problems
Ovulation problems may result from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or primary ovarian insufficiency (POI). PCOS is when one’s ovaries, and sometimes adrenal glands, produce more androgens than usual. A high androgen level may affect the development of the ovarian follicles and interfere with egg release, resulting in the formation of cysts or fluid-filled sacs on the ovaries. The condition can also cause unpredictable ovulation and missed periods, making getting pregnant challenging.
POI occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs and hormones earlier than average. Women with POI may have low pituitary and ovarian hormone levels and unpredictable ovulation, if at all, causing fertility problems.
4. Cervical Mucus Problems
Cervical mucus plays a key role in pregnancy, as it allows sperm to survive the vagina’s acidic environment. During ovulation, the mucus becomes thinner, allowing sperm to swim through it easily. If this doesn’t occur, it may prevent the sperm from reaching the egg, making one unable to conceive.
5. Uterine Fibroids
These are noncancerous growths that develop inside the uterus. They may cause infertility depending on their size and location — large fibroids in the uterine cavity are more likely to impact fertility. Fibroids that change the cervix’s position or the shape of the uterus may affect fertility. They may reduce the number of sperm that enters the uterus or obstruct the movement of the sperm. They may also block the fallopian tubes or prevent sufficient blood flow to the uterus, preventing fertilization and implantation.
6. Autoimmune Disorders
Autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s and Lupus may result in infertility as they may cause the body’s immune system to attack reproductive tissues. An attack on the ovaries may lower one’s ovarian reserve or cause early menopause.
Women are born with a fixed number of eggs. The eggs reduce with age, making it difficult for them to conceive as they age. Older women’s eggs may also contain chromosomal abnormalities, making it challenging to carry a pregnancy to full term.
What Is Unexplained Infertility?
A fertility specialist may diagnose a woman with unexplained infertility if they can’t pinpoint the cause of their infertility with regular tests. Women with unexplained infertility may:
- Lack uterine or tubal abnormalities
- Lack ovulation and autoimmune disorders
- Have regular menstrual cycles
- Have a good ovarian reserve
Doctors may recommend more targeted tests for women with unexplained infertility to try and understand the causes of their infertility. They may also recommend assisted reproductive technologies to help them get pregnant.
Talk to a Fertility Specialist
Causes of infertility include endometriosis, tubal problems, ovulation problems, uterine fibroids, abnormal cervical mucus, and old age. Fertility specialists may recommend assisted reproductive technologies like intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization to help women with these conditions get pregnant.
Some women may also experience unexplained infertility, where there’s no obvious cause for their fertility problems. A fertility specialist may perform more specific tests to identify the cause of this infertility and determine the ideal treatment.