Common causes of infertility in women

If you are struggling to conceive, you are not alone. Up to 1 in 8 couples will not be able to get pregnant without medical intervention. There are many different causes of infertility in both men and women.

Infertility in women is often caused by issues with ovulation. In some cases, the ovaries do not ever release an egg, while in other cases they only release an egg during certain cycles.

Problems with ovulation

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – Polycystic ovaries contain a large number (poly) of follicles (cysts) that grow up to 8mm in size. These sacs cannot usually release eggs and prevent ovulation.
  • Thyroid problems – Having either an overactive thyroid gland or an underactive thyroid gland can stop or alter ovulation.
  • Premature Ovarian Failure – In which the ovaries stop producing eggs before the age of 40.

There are many other causes of infertility in women, including the following:

Cervical mucus problems 

Ideally, your cervical mucous becomes thinner when you ovulate so that your sperm can navigate through it easily. If your cervical mucous is too thick, it can be hard is impossible to conceive naturally.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis causes tissue normally found in the womb lining (the endometrium), to start growing in other organs, including the ovaries. This can cause pain and damage, and lead to fertility issues.

Scarring from surgery

Any kind of pelvic surgery can scar the fallopian tubes or cause damage to the ovaries. Cervical surgery, in particular, can lead to a shortening of the neck of the womb.

Fibroids

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that grow in or around the womb, and they can negatively affect fertility. Fibroids can prevent a fertilised egg from attaching to the uterine wall, and can also block the fallopian tubes.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an upper female genital tract infection that affects the womb, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It is usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and can cause scarring and damage to the fallopian tubes.

Sterilisation

If a woman has undergone a sterilisation procedure in the past, it is usually impossible to reverse. Speak with a doctor if you wish to have your sterilisation reversed.

Medicines and drugs 

Prescribed medicines and illegal street drugs can affect your fertility in both the short and long term. This include (but are not limited to):

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – Using long term NSAIDs, including aspirin and ibuprofen, can cause infertility problems
  • Chemotherapy – The drugs used for chemotherapy can cause ovarian failure.
  • Neuroleptic medicines – Also known as antipsychotic medicines, neuroleptics can lead to missed periods and infertility
  • Spironolactone – Used to treat fluid retention, it can cause short term fertility issues that usually recover around two months after you stop taking the drug
  • Illegal drugs – Drugs, including cocaine and marijuana and cocaine, can cause issues with ovulation.
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