Female Infertility - Causes
The most common causes of female infertility include the injury or obstruction of the fallopian tube, endometriosis, ovulation disorders, elevated prolactin, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), early menopause, benign uterine fibroids and pelvic adhesions.
Fallopian tube injury or obstruction.Fallopian tube damage usually results from swelling of the fallopian tube. The sexually transmitted disease, Chlamydia, is the most frequent cause. Tubal swelling may show no symptoms or cause discomfort and fever.
When the fertilized egg is obstructed on its way to the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus (also known as ectopic pregnancy) tubal damage may occur. Just a single occurrence of tubal infection may lead to fertility difficulties. The risk of ectopic pregnancy increases with each occurrence of tubal infection.
Endometriosis. When the uterine tissue implants and grows outside of the uterus this is known as endometriosis — this condition often affects the function of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes. The implanted tissue reacts to the hormonal cycle and grows, sheds and bleeds in coordination with the lining of the uterus each month. Due to this scarring and inflammation may occur. Women with endometriosis frequently experience pelvic pain and infertility.
Ovulation disorders. Female infertility can be attributed to ovulation disorders in some cases. Interference in the portion of the brain that controls ovulation can bring about low levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). The slightest irregularities in the hormone system can affect ovulation. Particular sources of hypothalamic-pituitary disorders include injury, tumors, extreme exercise and malnourishment.
High prolactin levels. Breast milk production is stimulated by the hormone prolactin. Ovulation may be affected in women who aren't pregnant or nursing and experience elevated levels of prolactin. Heightened prolactin levels may be an indicator of a pituitary tumor. Additionally, certain drugs may increase levels of prolactin. Milk flow unrelated to pregnancy or nursing can signal high prolactin.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The body produces too much androgen hormone, which affects ovulation. Resistance to insulin and obesity are also linked to PCOS.
Early menopause. Premature reduction of ovarian follicles and the absence of menstruation before age 35 is known as early menopause. Conditions associated with early menopause include immune system diseases, radiation or chemotherapy treatment, and smoking.
Benign uterine fibroids. A benign tumor in the wall of the uterus is a fibroid. These frequently occur in women in their 30s. Fallopian tubes may be blocked leading to infertility.
Pelvic adhesions. A cluster of scar tissue that binds organs after pelvic infection, appendicitis, or abdominal or pelvic surgery. Fertility impairment may result from the scar tissue formation.
Other causes. Additional causes of infertility in women:
Medications. Certain medication usage may result in temporary infertility. Typically, fertility is restored when the medication is stopped.
Thyroid problems. Thyroid gland disorder, whether it be too much thyroid hormone or too little, can disrupt the menstrual cycle and bring about infertility.
Cancer. Female fertility may be severely impaired due to select cancers — particularly female reproductive cancers. Radiation and chemotherapy are likely to affect a woman's ability to reproduce.
Other medical conditions. Medical conditions associated with delayed puberty or the absence of menstruating, such as Cushing's disease, sickle cell disease, HIV/AIDS, kidney disease and diabetes, may also affect a woman's fertility.
Caffeine intake. Female fertility is reduced by too much caffeine consumption.