Causes Of Female Infertility
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|What Causes Infertility In Women?
There are four main causes of female infertility, all of which we will discuss below. These are: (1) failure to ovulate, (2) damage to the fallopian tubes, (3) the presence of endometriosis or (4) abnormalities in the reproductive organs such as fibroids or polyps. In nearly 90 percent of these cases conventional therapies like fertility drugs or corrective surgery to repair reproductive disorders will result in pregnancy. Only a small minority will need the aid of higher tech options like in vitro fertilization (IVF) or egg donation. It is important to note that lifestyle factors also play a role in fertility, for example being overweight or highly stressed can cause you stop ovulating. Opting to improve your diet, practicing stress reduction techniques and losing weight may all be that stands between you and your baby.
About 30 percent of female infertility cases are caused by ovulatory disorders - in other words, failure to ovulate. No egg, nothing for the sperm to fertilize! Failure to ovulate may be due to a hormone imbalance, physical damage to the ovaries, premature menopause or failure of the follicles in the ovaries to rupture and release their egg. About 70 percent of patients are treated, usually successfully, with fertility drugs.
Blockages in or damage to the fallopian tubes account for another 25 percent of infertility cases. Damage can range from mild endometrial adhesions to a complete blockage. Treatment usually involves surgery and about 30 percent of women become pregnant within one year (although some procedures have a 65 percent pregnancy success rate). The main cause of fallopian tube damage is:
Endometriosis, affects as many as 6 million American women and 30 to 40 percent of these women are infertile. At any one time, only a certain amount of these women will be trying for a baby, so about 10 percent of infertile couples seeking help will be affected by endometriosis. Endometriosis is the presence of endometrial tissue (the tissue that lines the womb) in places where it should not be. It can spread and grow on the fallopian tubes and ovaries but it has also been found on the lungs and brain! (check signs of endometriosis). Research shows that removing mild endometriosis as an infertility treatment does NOT increase fertility in a woman (see treatment for endometriosis). However surgery in the case of moderate or severe cases DOES seem to improve chances of becoming pregnant. In some severe or urgent infertility cases doctors may even recommend skipping the surgical removal of endometrial implants and going straight to IVF treatment. See also, can endometriosis cause miscarriages?
About 10 percent of female infertility is caused by abnormalities/growths in the reproductive organs which interfere with fertility. These growths may block the fallopian tubes (stopping conception) or prevent implantation of the embryo in the womb (resulting in miscarriage). Conditions like uterine fibroids, polyps and adenomyosis can cause these problems. A further 3 percent of women will have complications due to the mucus in their cervix. This is the thick cloudy or transparent discharge you might find on your underwear at certain times of your menstrual cycle. If the mucus is not 'sperm friendly' it can prevent your partner's sperm from passing through the cervix towards the fallopian tubes. Fertility tests, in particular the cervical mucus test can diagnose this problem. Very rarely a woman may be born with abnormalities in the physical structure of her womb or cervix which can make pregnancy difficult. For support and resources on this topic, see our list of infertility resources.
Medicines and Drugs
Unexplained infertility accounts for about 20 percent of all infertile couples. It means, despite all their fertility tests coming back normal, they still have not conceived after a year of trying. It may be that there is a cause, but the science to discover it is still beyond us. Eventually most of these couples go on to spontaneously become pregnant, but it might take up to 6 or 7 years. For younger couples this may not be a huge issue, but for older mothers who do not have the luxury of time, fertility treatment may still be considered - even if the cause has not been identified. They may start with infertility drugs and progress to more costly therapies like IVF with a fertility clinic if all else fails.
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