PCOS, septate uterus, ovulation abnormalities, and problems in the Fallopian tubes are top causes of female infertility. The physiological issues combined with stress become barriers in conceiving.
There are ways to prevent female infertility such as a healthy diet and exercise. However, congenital causes of female infertility require extensive treatment such as surgery.
Sometimes surgery itself can cause scars and tissue damage that leads to recurrent miscarriages.
Top causes of female infertility
The causes of female infertility are:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): A significant population of women in the age group of 15-40 years has the problem of PCOS. PCOS causes cysts in the ovaries. The cysts impair and block the reproductive path and hence could be a cause of female infertility. Women suffering from PCOS have irregular menses and dysmenorrhoea (painful menses). They also tend to have masculine characters like facial and body hair. PCOS is one of the causes of female infertility.
- Ovulation defects: Every woman has two ovaries. Ovaries are the egg storehouses which mature one ova at a time. Ovaries are located in your abdominal cavity. Ovarian defects include many disorders which affect the proper functioning of them. These could be anything from ovarian cysts, ovarian cancer, regressed ovaries (insufficient eggs and reduced size) to anovulation (eggs not released). Genital defects like Turner’s Syndrome or other unexplainable reasons or even removal of ovaries can also result in infertility.
- Tubal infertility and defects: Blocked fallopian tubes (the passage from ovaries to the womb – uterus) could act as a barrier and prevent the egg from getting fertilized by the sperm. The fertilization takes place in the tubes, and then the egg reaches the womb. So the tubal defects prevent the first step. If a woman has a tubal defect she needs to get an IVF treatment as fertilization is possible only outside the body.
- Uterine defects make women infertile: Uterine defects like divided uterus or dislocated uterus can also make a woman infertile. Around 20% women have the retroverted uterus. Some women might have a uterus that looks perfectly fine but become unstable when the baby cells (embryo) implantation. Most of these won’t show any external symptoms and will come to know only when they try to get pregnant.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases may cause infertility in women: Infections of the reproductive tract or sexually transmitted diseases like Gonorrhea cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. The lining of the pelvis is unsuitable for any reproductive processes and hence lead to infertility. Hence it is very important to have protected sex until you find the right partner.
- Genetic infertility in women: Genetic disorders in women also cause infertility. Everything might be fine like the uterus (womb) and the ovulation process, yet the woman is infertile. There are unexplainable cases when a reproductively healthy couple cannot conceive. Here is when we start believing that something called fate and luck does exist. Nevertheless, if a woman cannot bear a child, she won’t become less of a woman.
- Poor quality of cervical mucus is a cause of infertility in women: Poor quality of cervical mucus can also lead to infertility. Painful sex, not being able to achieve orgasm, difficulties in getting pregnant etc are all consequences of the poor quality of cervical mucus. In fact, if the cervical mucus is not of the right consistency it won’t assist the sperms to travel and hence act as a barrier. This is the reason the cervical mucus becomes a thick white discharge on the day of ovulation to help fertilization. It is a natural phenomenon.
- Uterine Fibroids make women infertile: Uterine fibroids are a dreadful thing that could happen to a woman. Fibroids occur due to unknown cancerous cells that get triggered by some manner. They don’t spread and are benign but can lead to total blockage of the womb. It is like the surrounding muscle tissue invades the uterus. They cause miscarriages and also make it compulsory to have a seizure operation.
- Hormonal imbalance lead to infertility in women: Hormonal balance is vital for proper functioning of the body. The reproductive hormones include a GnRH gonadotrophin-releasing hormone, luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone. Other female hormones under the control of these are estrogen, progesterone, and androgens. Hormones play a crucial role in the conception, and hence they need to be balanced.
- Early menopause is another reason for infertility in women: Nowadays a lot is heard about precocious puberty. It is when a girl reaches puberty long before the right time around 7 years instead of 13 years of age. Similarly, there is a disease called perimenopause or early menopause. So if a woman gets early menopause, she becomes infertile. It is shocking that research findings show that nowadays females of around 30 years are reaching menopause.
- Increased prolactin hormone also can cause infertility in women: If you take any medication that can increase prolactin levels in your body, you should also consider supplementary therapy for combating the issue. Some drugs like antipsychotic drugs may cause an elevated level of prolactin hormone. Prolactin suppresses other female hormones in a woman’s body.
- Thyroid defects: A Thyroid gland problem affects the basal metabolic rate and hence can cause infertility in women. Women with Thyroid disorders have a lot of complications in pregnancy even if they are fertile.
- Eating disorders: Eating disorders like Anorexia or Bulimia lead to infertility in women. Also, an imbalanced diet during the fetal life might lead to infertility in women.
- Athletic workout: Female athletes who work out vigorously develop masculine body structure and hence become infertile. The metabolism shifts to physical activities which inhibits reproductive system. Athletes might experience amenorrhoea (absence of menstrual cycle), and this causes infertility in women.
- Reproductive Tract problems due to DES: Women who take the drug DES when they are pregnant tend to give birth to girls who are infertile. This drug is not allowed to be taken during pregnancy.
- Endometriosis: This is when the tissues that should grow in womb start spreading. It needs to be surgically treated. This further complicates the situation by forming surgical uterine scars.
- Uterine Scars: Scars in uterus lead to miscarriages and chemical pregnancies. This again is a cause of infertility in women.
Risk factors for infertility in women
These are the conditions or practices that make a woman vulnerable to infertility.
- As a woman ages, she is more prone to infertility. A female over 35 years of age not being able to conceive should see the doctor sooner than a 25-year-old.
- Weight plays a major role than the just figure. Weight-loss or gain affects the fertility of a woman. Obesity can cause infertility in women. Hence one needs to monitor her weight for more than just looks.
- Smoking any stimulant like nicotine causes infertility in women. It affects their ovaries and also the womb in adverse ways. It makes the aging process faster. A pregnant woman is strongly advised against smoking.
- Stress is a known risk factor which increases the production of aging and depressing hormones. These, in turn, slow down your reproductive processes. Stress is an underrated risk factor for infertility in women.
- Alcoholism is a major risk factor for infertility in both men and women. Alcohol affects the brain and is a depressant. So it is a risk factor for infertility in women.
- Environmental factors such as contaminated water supply with heavy metals can cause infertility in women.
- Lifestyle habits like a sedentary lifestyle may cause obesity which in turn can cause infertility in women. One should lead an active life to have a healthy body and mind.
- Psychological reasons also cause infertility. Some women might be infertile because they don’t have a right perception towards pregnancy. Asexual thinking and a dislike for pregnancy and associated things might cause repeated miscarriages.
No matter how hopeless you feel, technology has advanced beyond imagination. Every cause of infertility can be treated and prevented. Assisted Reproductive Technologies ART has endless possibilities for couples who are dealing with infertility issues.