What are the causes of infertility in women? Here`s a question that bothers most women who are trying to conceive.
Causes of infertility in women are most of the time discovered late, therefore making an intervention in this regard either extremely difficult or useless.
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What Causes Infertility in Women?
A lot of the causes of infertility that women face are caused by issues of ovulation. Without this process, there won`t be any eggs to fertilize. Certain symptoms that women aren`t ovulating in a normal way usually include lack of menstrual periods or irregular menstruation.
Ten percent of women have infertility issues or difficulties in keeping a pregnancy. This is a percentage that is quite daunting if you decided to become pregnant. However, the issues these women confront are a lot more varied, because infertility can have many other causes.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a medical condition which leads to hormonal imbalances, affects ovulation and manifest by obesity, cysts, hirsutism (excessive hair growth in undesired locations) and sterility.
PCOS occurs when the body produces male hormones in excess, so the release of eggs by the ovaries occurs less frequently than it should.
The cause of this syndrome isn`t known, but scientists believe that the excess of insulin may increase the secretion of androgen hormones in the ovaries.
Women who confront with this medical condition need medication treatment in most cases.
Hyperprolactinaemia, also known as hyperprolactinemia, is actually the presence of excessive high prolactin levels in the blood. The usual levels are up to 450 mIU/L for men and 500 mIU/L for women.
Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland which stimulates the development of breasts and milk production. A high level of prolactin reduces the amount of gonadotrophic hormones and inhibits ovulation. Hyperprolactinemia in women who aren`t pregnant or don`t breastfeed is caused by hypothyroidism or pituitary adenoma (benign tumors that secrete prolactin). However, a large amount of prolactin in the organism may also be produced by drugs (oral contraceptives or antidepressant drugs).
Another cause of infertility is hypothyroidism, a condition that manifests when the thyroid gland produces smaller amounts of thyroid hormones than would be required by the organism. Hypothyroidism is very hard to defect it has no symptoms in the first phase.
When the hormones fall below the lower limit, the following signs occur:
- Muscle pain.
- Weight gain.
- Decreased memory and focus.
Hypothyroidism is also associated with various hormonal disorders, which cause menstrual disorders or even amenorrhea, affecting the reproductive function of the female organism and causing infertility. Despite this fact, lots of women are diagnosed or treated, therefore this condition remains one of the main causes of female infertility.
Structural Issues – Clogging of the Uterine Tubes
- Inborn abnormalities – abnormal genital channels at birth that don`t allow fertilization: Mulleriana agenesis – a malformation in which neither the vagina nor the uterus is developed.
- Uterine abnormalities – clusters of tissue which join together after an abdominal or pelvic surgery or infection; this aspects leads to a reduction in the activity of the ovaries and uterine tubes.
An example is Asherman`s syndrome – it occurs inside the uterus and may be caused by repeated injuries, surgery, but also other various factors.
Inflammatory conditions, like Chlamydia may cause infertility if they aren`t treated properly and in good time. The disease manifests under the form of an inflammation of the cervix.
Almost 70% of women show no symptoms, making this condition very hard to detect. If it`s not detected and treated properly, the disease extends and produces the inflammation of the fallopian tubes, causing infertility. Still, in case that the woman manages to remain pregnant and she`s a carrier of this infection, she may suffer a miscarriage or premature birth of her baby.
Egg Implant Failure
It`s characterized by a luteum defect – there`s a large and inappropriate amount of progesterone (aiding to thicken and prepare the uterine wall), the egg gets implanted into the endometrium. – Read more!
Premature Ovarian Failure
Premature ovarian failure is another medical condition that may affect fertility permanently and occurs when the ovaries no longer release eggs before the age of 40. It`s a condition caused by toxins, autoimmune diseases, but may involve genetic causes as well.
Its manifestations are extremely varied and can be both of physiological nature, but also neurological in nature: night sweats, irritability, irregular menstruation, difficulty in concentration or decreased libido.
It represents the early depletion of the follicle before the age of 40, being an important cause of female infertility. Only 5% – 10% of women who are diagnosed with this medical condition have changes of remaining pregnant without fertility treatment. Before presenting early menopause, women have a irregular menstrual cycle for a few years.
This may lead to infertility in both men and women. This disease manifests by a deficient absorption of minerals and vitamins in the intestine and affects the quality of the reproductive cells directly. Women affected by celiac disease risk to reach menopause sooner than normal.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
PID is the major cause for infertility in women worldwide. It includes a series of bacterial infections that affect the reproductive organs, parts of the intestine in the pelvic area and appendices.
Causes that may lead to PID:
- STDs – Chlamydia (around 75% of cases of infertile women), gonorrhea.
- Pelvic tuberculosis
- Non-sterile abortions.
- Rupture of appendix.
Effects of PID:
- It may cause the formation of abscesses and disorders in the functioning of the uterine tubes.
- It increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
It should be remembered that the severity of the infection, and not the number of infections, increases the risk of infertility. Statistics show that 20% of women who develop this medical condition become infertile. – Check this!
This is a non-cancerous condition in which the endometrial cells also grow in other body parts – in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outside the uterus, intestines or other abdominal organs – causing irregular bleeding or pain. It rarely causes an absolute inability of conceiving, but affects fertility directly and indirectly.
Endometrial cysts favor the occurrence of infertility in the following situations:
- If the tissue grows in the ovaries, then the release of the egg is prevented.
- Endometriosis, in severe cases may form a rigid cellular tissue between the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, preventing the transfer of the egg to the thymus.
Statistics show the fact that 30% of cases of female infertility are due to this disease.
This cervical infection most of the times show no symptoms and is caused by STDs. In the absence of proper treatment, it increases the risk of infertility significantly and other complications during pregnancy are: premature birth, ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.
Other infertility causes in women:
- Crohn`s disease (inflammation of the intestines).
- Long-term chronic diseases.
- Follicle issues – luteinized unruptured follicle syndrome – occurs when women produce a normal follicle (with a normal egg in it), but it fails to be released, remaining in the ovary and normal ovulation doesn`t occur.
- Ectopic pregnancies.
- Autoimmune diseases (lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis).
- Blood clotting disorders.
In addition, there is a series of drugs that may affect infertility as well:
- Exposure to pesticides.
Although it may seem hard to believe, stress also represents a cause of infertility in women. In hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls the level of reproductive hormones and stress in the body, may act on certain chemical messengers. They will cause the production of a high level of stress hormones, over the acceptable standards, which may lead to stopping the menstrual cycle. Also, stress may cause a decrease of libido, and, therefore, the frequency of intimate relationships.
Smoking may affect both fertility treatment (if you follow one), but also increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight. It seems that the chances of conceiving decrease to 1/3 if you used to smoke, being affected the ovaries and, respectively, decreasing the production of eggs. More than that, cigarettes may influence the occurrence of menopause. – More info!
The greatest decline of fertility is recorded around the age of 35; around 95% of women remaining pregnant after 3 years of unprotected sex, and in the case of those of 38, only 75% of them remain pregnant after the same amount of time. This happens because the ovaries produce less eggs and o poor quality, increasing the risk of occurrence of chromosomal abnormalities (in this case, we talk about a miscarriage or pregnancy with complications). In addition, with aging, there are health issues that start to interfere with fertility.
Alcohol may lead to pregnancies with abnormalities (birth defects), and in large quantities, the consumption of alcohol may lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which in turn means permanent damages to the central nervous system, difficulties in the development and growth of the child (due to the fact that the alcohol passes through the placenta).
Too little or too much weight is another cause of infertility that concern women. The medical explanation consist of the fact that near all the estrogen in women is found in the ovaries, and 30% of it is produced by the fat cells through a process in which the male hormones are converted in estrogen. In this case, it`s necessary a hormonal balance for the conception process to be efficient.
- Overweight – if the ideal weight is exceeded by 10% – 15%, the risk of infertility increases as well. Obesity is also associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), an endocrinological issue which can cause infertility as well.
- Underweight – if the weight is 10% – 15% below the body`s normal level, thus lacking of nutrients, may stop the ovulation process. Women who are subject to this risk are:
- The ones who have food issues – anorexic or bulimic.
- Those who ingest a small amount of calories or are subject to restrictive diets (especially is menstruation is irregular).
- “Radical” vegetarians might have difficulties because may present deficient of essential minerals and vitamins – folic acid, iron, vitamin B12 or zinc.
- Those participating in marathons, dancing or practicing professional sports.
Lack of physical exercise affects the general health state of the organism, making it incapable of conception (malfunction of the reproductive system) or sustaining a pregnancy to the end.
Is Infertility in Women Hereditary?
No, female infertility isn`t hereditary! Still, there`re conditions which are hereditary that might interfere with the ability of a woman to remain pregnant. Such medical conditions are endometriosis, thyroid disorders, ovarian syndrome and hormonal disorders.