Common causes of female infertility
For some couples who are trying to become pregnant, something goes wrong along the way, resulting in infertility or subfertility. The cause of this can involve one or both partners. Generally speaking, in about one-third of cases, infertility is due to a male cause, in another one-third of cases, infertility is due to both the man and woman and in the remaining one-third of cases, infertility is due to a cause involving only the woman.
Below are some of the most common causes of female fertility issues:
Increasing age is one of the most significant causes of subfertility in women. As a woman gets older, the number of eggs in her ovaries decreases rapidly and those remaining are of a poorer quality. Many women choose to delay starting a family perhaps due to career or financial reasons. However a woman’s fertility rapidly declines once she enters her 30’s. For example, a healthy 30-year-old woman has about a 20% chanceeach month to get pregnant. By age 40, this reduces to about 5% each month.
Alcohol, smoking, drug use, and excess weight are all common causes of subfertility. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the first step in optimising your chances of becoming pregnant. These are the only risk factors for subfertility that you have the power to change.
To become pregnant, the complex processes of ovulation and fertilisation need to work just right. Stress, anxiety, excessive weight loss/weight gain and strenuous exercise may all cause irregular ovulation. Hormonal imbalances such as high levels of the hormone Prolactin may also affect ovulation. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common female health problem in which there is an imbalance in a woman’s hormone levels. It is characterised by the presence of small cysts on the ovaries and greater than normal levels of male-type hormones in the body. Women with PCOS usually experience irregular ovulation which reduces chances of pregnancy.
The Fallopian tubes allow the transport of the released egg from the ovary into the womb. Anything that blocks these tubes can result in fertility difficulties. Causes of blockage include scarring of the tissue inside the tubes from previous surgery or from Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).
Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrial tissue, found in the lining of the womb, grows in areas outside of the womb. This tissue can be found on the ovaries, in the Fallopian tubes, on the bowel and in the pelvic cavity. Each month, hormones released by the body cause this tissue to build up causing pain, inflammation and scarring.
Some women experience involuntary tightening of the walls of the vagina during sex. This is called ‘vaginismus’. Vaginismus can interfere with sex by causing pain and soreness during penetration, and for some women it can make penetrative sex impossible.
Sometimes it is a combination of these factors that leads to subfertility. In many cases however, no reason can be detected. For more information on any of these issues, or to talk about treatment options, contact us today.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SEE A FERTILITY SPECIALIST
If you haven’t conceived after 12 months of trying for a baby, it is recommended that you seek help for investigation of fertility difficulties. However, it is recommended that you seek advice earlier if any of the following subfertility risk factors apply:
- over the age of 35
- have a history of gynaecological conditions (PCOS, endometriosis, Pelvic inflammatory disease)
- history of abdominal surgery (previous caesarean section, hernia repair. appendicitis)
- history of recurrent miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
Or if you or your partner
- has a history of fertility problems
- has had prior treatment for cancer