Female infertility is one of the most frequent reproductive problems in modern society, whether it be due to medical causes, such as diseases, or cultural reasons of delaying having children until later in life. Studies on fertility have shown that on average, approximately 30% of fertility problems are suffered by the woman.
In addition to the 30% of cases where the infertility is due to female causes, the route of the fertility problem can also be due to:
- 30% male causes
- 20% mixed, both male and female causes
- 20% infertility of unknown causes
According to data from the Spanish Fertility Society, 17% of couples in Spain trying for a baby need to undergo fertility studies for problems they experience. By the end of this post, you will know the 10 most common causes of female infertility that you should be aware of, if you are trying to conceive.
WHAT ARE THE 10 MOST COMMON CAUSES OF INFERTILITY IN WOMEN?
The main factors that contribute to infertility in women originate from different areas. There is not only one cause, and the causes can vary. For example, infertility can be caused by a pathology, such as a disease that affects the female reproductive system.
Fertility can also be affected by lifestyle habits, and if these are healthy or not. Furthermore, environmental agents, such as air pollution or chemical agents, can also exert an influence.
MAIN CAUSES OF FEMALE INFERTILITY
One of the most well-known and common conditions that affects female fertility is endometriosis. During each menstruation, the body expels the endometrium naturally. However, sometimes pieces of the endometrium can implant outside of the uterus. This causes lesions in the uterus and can even lead to obstruction of the Fallopian tubes.
Another cause is cancer in the female reproductive system, for example, the ovaries, which in some cases can result in the removal of certain organs or areas.
However, as we have previously mentioned, the reasons behind female infertility can be multiple and varied. To follow, we want to explain how some of them originate.
THE CONDITIONS THAT LEAD TO INFERTILITY
Amongst some of the most frequent conditions, we find those affecting the normal menstrual cycle of the woman and that produce hormonal imbalances. Of all of these, we must highlight:
- The absence of ovulation (anovulation). According to different studies conducted by MSD Health, a diagnosis of anovulation is given in 20% – 25% of cases of female infertility.
- Excessive production of the hormone prolactin (hyperprolactinemia). In this case, the activity is the hypothalamus is reduced, having an effect on ovulation, leading to anovulation.
- Polycystic ovaries. This happens when the ovaries release very few, or no, eggs. This can lead to insufficient levels of oestrogen and small cysts in the ovaries.
Within those possible medical problems that can affect a woman’s fertility, we find conditions of the Fallopian tubes or uterus:
- Obstruction of the Fallopian tubes. When there is a blockage in the Fallopian tube, the movement of the egg cell along the tube, from the ovary to the uterus, is obstructed.
- Pelvic inflammation. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is one of the main risk factors for this pathology. The result can be an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy or sterility.
- Congenital abnormalities of the uterus and vagina (Mullerian abnormalities). In these cases, the capacity of the woman to achieve pregnancy is reduced.
Another gynaecological alteration that affects female fertility is changes to the cervical mucus. If there is diminished quality or quantity of the mucus produced by the cervix, which is there to help the sperm reach the egg, there will be a low probability that the sperm can get to the egg for fertilisation.
LIFESTYLE FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE FERTILITY
A healthy, or unhealthy, lifestyle and habits can have an impact on a woman’s fertility. One of these factors is stress. In addition to causing depression, changes in the immune system and sleep disorders, it is also a cause of female infertility. This is because stress can reduce the concentration of hormones, cause irregular ovulation and spasms in the Fallopian tubes.
Another factor is weight, or BMI. Being overweight or obese, can negatively influence fertility as it can result in hormonal changes that can affect conception. According to studies by MSD Health, it has been demonstrated that 12% of cases of primary sterility are due to problems with weight.
Alcohol consumption can also be a contributing factor to infertility problems as well as pollution and environmental contaminants.
AGE AS A REASON FOR FEMALE INFERTILITY
As is discussed frequently in the field of assisted reproduction, age is one of the leading causes of female infertility. After the age of 35, the chances of achieving pregnancy naturally start to decrease. The most common reason is that the quality and quantity of the eggs in the ovaries starts to decline. As a woman enters her 40s, this decline is more pronounced as the menopause starts to approach.
HOW CAN I ASSESS MY FERTILITY?
In Ovoclinic assisted reproduction centres, we carry out exhaustive infertility studies on our patients. These serve as a basis to determine if the woman has any fertility problems, and follow these procedures:
- The infertility specialist will conduct an interview with the patient.
- A physical examination and transvaginal ultrasound will be performed to rule out any pathologies.
- Blood tests will be done to measure hormone levels and ovulation.
- Finally, via a hysterosalpingography, the patency of the Fallopian tubes can be studied, to see if the egg can travel through them correctly, or if there is a blockage.
WHAT TREAMENT CAN HELP MY FERTILITY?
Thanks to advances made in assisted reproduction, women are able to get pregnant even when they are suffering fertility programs. Our Ovoclinic specialists have developed a program of Fertility Preservation which can be carried out at our assisted reproduction clinics.
Egg vitrification, or egg freezing, is a treatment to preserve your fertility. It consists of freezing your egg cells so that you can become a mother when you decide the time is right, whether for reasons of choosing to delay motherhood, or health problems.
Another treatment is in vitro fertilisation. As an IVF clinic, we recommend this assisted reproduction treatment for women who have fertility problems, above all for those problems with a pathological basis.
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