Let’s take a look at infertility causes in women.
Ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes are the three important organs in female fertility. Female eggs lie inside the two oval-shaped ovaries on either side of the uterus. A girl is born with about 1 to 2 million eggs which began to die as one gets older. There are on an average 400 eggs during the reproductive years of a woman. At the end of each menstrual cycle, one egg gets mature and is released into the fallopian tube.
This process is called ovulation which occurs 12-14 days before the next period. Hormones control the whole process – length of menstrual cycle, ripening of eggs and the timing of ovulation. For you to conceive, this ovulated egg should meet a healthy sperm within 24 hours of release. If not, then the egg disintegrates in the uterus.
5 major infertility causes in Women
#1 Ovulation disorder
It is one of the most common reasons for female infertility and account for almost one-third of the cases. Ovulation is the process of release of an egg every month.
This may occur due to any of the following:
- Malfunctioning of the woman’s ovaries known as premature ovarian failure.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) characterized by abnormally high levels of androgen in the woman of reproductive age.
- Poor quality of eggs which may be due to genetic abnormalities or in woman of older age.
- Excessive production of prolactin hormone produced by pituitary glands, also known as hyper-prolactinaemia may also inhibit ovulation
- Ovarian tumors, stress and malnutrition may also inhibit ovulation.
- Hormonal imbalance like the suppression of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) inhibit complete development of the follicles in ovaries where eggs can mature. In case of immature eggs, the chances of fertilization become nil. Lack of FSH and LH may occur due to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and malfunctioning of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus.
- Unruptured follicle syndrome in which women are able to produce normal follicle but it fails to rupture to release the egg.
#2 Blockage of fallopian tubes
- Sexually transmitted infections like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia may cause inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes. This is known as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Due to the lack of symptoms, it may go unnoticed. However with each episode of PID, the probability of infertility increases – 15% with first, 35% with second and 75% with the third round of PID.
- Non-sexually transmitted disease like genital tuberculosis, schistosomiasis and endometriosis; post-partum and post-abortion infection may also lead to infertility
- Abdominal diseases like appendicitis and colitis may cause scarring and blockage of fallopian tubes.
#3 Uterine factors
Factors such as like congenital malformation, fibroids and adhesion of the uterus due to infection or abortion may interfere with the movement of male sperm or implantation of embryo.
#4 Cervical factors
- Very narrow cervical canal which prevents the sperm to pass into the uterus.
- Low levels of estrogen which may produce insufficient or very thick mucus in the cervix to allow sperm motility
- Presence of antibodies in cervical mucus or fluid which leave sperm inactive
#5 Other factors
- Scarred ovaries due to surgeries
- Premature menopause
- Any previously done sterilization treatment like blocking of fallopian tubes.
- Certain medications like non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin, chemotherapy and radiotherapy also affect the fertility in women.
- A new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism states that adults with high cholesterol levels may face problems in conceiving.
- Behavioral factors like cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, being overweight or underweight, and drugs like marijuana or anabolic steroids.
- Environmental factors like lead and ethylene oxide in pesticides etc.
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