Contributed by – Preksha Buttan
A couple is often diagnosed with infertility when even after trying for a year, they are not able to conceive. Upon investigation, a problem could be found on the woman’s side or on the man’s side, or on both sides. Sometimes, when the root cause is not found, a diagnosis of unexplained infertility is given.
In this article, we are focusing on infertility in women. Getting pregnant and carrying a pregnancy to term are actually very complicated processes and many things can go wrong at any stage. In the simplest form, we can say that infertility in a woman happens when – something goes wrong with ovulation; something stops the egg and sperm from meeting; something stops a healthy embryo from being created, or something stops healthy implantation of the embryo.
Now, there can be many possible causes of infertility in women. Some of them are outlined below.
Failure to ovulate
Basically, ovulation is a process in which a mature egg is released from the ovary. It then travels down to the fallopian tube where it can be fertilized. However, this process sometimes fails. In fact, this is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. Wondering why ovaries fail to release a mature egg? There could be various reasons including polycystic ovary syndrome, aging, or having a low ovarian reserve.
Problems in the menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle is in itself a complicated process that prepares a woman’s body for pregnancy. There are many phases in this whole process. Any issue at any phase can lead to infertility.
[Also read – Irregular Periods: Causes & Treatment]
Structural problems of the reproductive system
Structural problems in a woman’s reproductive system is another major cause of infertility. Mostly it includes the presence of abnormal tissue in the fallopian tubes or in the uterus. If the fallopian tubes are blocked due to any abnormality, then the egg would not be able to reach the uterus and sperm would not be able to reach the egg and fertilization would not happen. Whereas, structural problems with the uterus can interfere with the implantation of the egg, again leading to infertility. Endometriosis, uterine fibroids, polyps are some of the reasons why these problems occur.
Infections are a cause of infertility in both men and women. In women, pelvic inflammatory disease caused by gonorrhea and chlamydia can scar and block the fallopian tubes leading to infertility. Untreated syphilis can increase the risk of giving stillbirth. Human papillomavirus infection (HPV) is another risk to fertility. Though, for prevention, the HPV vaccine is recommended.
Failure of an egg to mature properly
There could be many reasons due to which egg may not mature. PCOS, obesity, and deficiencies are the most common ones. The ovaries may not release an immature egg or the timing of its release would be off or it may not make it down the fallopian tubes or may not be able to fertilize. All of these situations will only become the cause of infertility in women.
Failure of implantation
For a pregnancy to begin, the fertilized egg should implant in the uterine wall. Sometimes, this implantation fails, leading to an unsuccessful pregnancy. The causes are often not very clear but may include genetic defects in the embryo, thin endometrium, endometriosis or scar tissue in the endometrial cavity.
Endometriosis is a condition wherein the cells that typically line the uterine cavity are instead found outside the uterus. This condition can structurally change a woman’s reproductive organs. These changes are often a cause of infertility.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
PCOS is again a very common cause of female infertility. It’s a condition wherein hormones go haywire and interferes with the development of ovarian follicles and the release of eggs. Cysts may also develop within ovaries, all of which may become the cause of infertility.
[Also read – How PCOS impacts infertility in women]
Basically, uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths inside a uterus. They can change the position and shape of the cervix, block the fallopian tubes, or interfere with blood flow to the uterus. All these conditions affect the odds of a woman getting pregnant.
Autoimmune disorders are disorders wherein the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks normal body tissues. Lupus, Hashimoto’s and other types of thyroiditis can possibly affect fertility.
Healthy aging is also a common cause of infertility. After the mid-30s, the rate of follicle loss speeds up which results in lesser and poorer quality of eggs. This makes conception difficult and is also a reason why women who are over 35 are at a greater risk of having a miscarriage.
[Also read – 7 common myths of aging debunked]
Most of the causes of infertility in women can be prevented or even treated. Just be sure to consult with a doctor if you happen to notice any symptoms that may not be normal because a timely diagnosis can increase the chances of successful treatment.