Female infertility

 

Some of the medical conditions and treatments that are common causes of female infertility include:

 

Fallopian tube damage

 

The delicate fallopian tubes can easily become blocked or damaged, because they are only the same thickness as the lead of a pencil. This can result in problems with the sperm reaching the egg, interfere with embryo development and uterus implantation. Surgery can sometimes treat tubal infertility but if this is not possible, or if surgery is unsuccessful, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) may be the solution.

 

Endometriosis

 

Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue (endometrium) that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows in places in the pelvis where it doesn’t belong, such as on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outside of the uterus. This tissue still acts the same as that found in your uterus and responds to changes in your hormones during your menstrual period resulting in the tissue breaking down and bleeding. This can cause pain before and after your period, lead to the formation of scar tissue and adhesions (organs sticking together). There are several forms of treatment available, involving both medications and surgery. IVF is one potential solution to this problem.

 

Ovulation problems

 

Becoming pregnant is dependent on the release of a healthy egg capable of being fertilised by a healthy sperm. However, if your period is irregular or absent then your production and release may be affected. About 40% of women who are infertile will have problems with ovulation. Infrequent periods (oligomenorrhoea) or the absence of periods (amenorrhoea) are most often caused by deficiency in one of the controlling hormones and can usually be successfully treated with medications.

 

Fibroids

 

Uterine fibroids or uterine myomas occur more frequently with advancing age. A fibroid is a non-cancerous growth of the muscle in the uterus. These may require treatment if they are causing problems with fertility.

 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

 

Polycystic ovary (ovarian) syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which the ovaries are enlarged, with a smooth but thicker than normal outer cover. Many small cysts cover this surface, which are themselves harmless, but may cause infrequent or absent periods, resulting in infertility. The condition may be treated with medication or larger cysts may need to be surgically removed. For more information, see our article on PCOS.

 

Cancer treatment

 

Some forms of medical treatment, particularly chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can have an adverse effect on fertility in women. See our article on Fertility preservation for cancer patients.

 

Unexplained infertility

 

Unexplained infertility (idiopathic) is defined as not being able to conceive after one year, even though the cycle is normal, semen is normal, the results of internal examinations are normal and there is normal sperm-mucus penetration.

 

Related articles

 

Lifestyle changes

Assisted reproductive technology

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Fertility preservation for cancer patients

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