Infertility is a medical condition that affects many couples around the world. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a child after trying for at least 12 months without success. Infertility can be caused by a number of factors, both in men and women. In this blog post, we will discuss the most common reason for infertility in women, along with other common causes, risk factors, and infertility treatment options.
What is the top cause of infertility in women?
The most common cause of infertility in women is ovulatory dysfunction, which affects up to 25% of infertile women. Ovulatory dysfunction occurs when there is a problem with the release of eggs from the ovaries during the menstrual cycle. There are several factors that can lead to ovulatory dysfunction, including hormonal imbalances, age, stress, and weight fluctuations.
One of the most common hormonal imbalances that can lead to ovulatory dysfunction is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This condition affects up to 10% of women of reproductive age and is caused by an excess of androgens, which are male hormones that can interfere with the normal ovulatory process. Women with PCOS often experience irregular periods or no periods at all, which can make it difficult for them to conceive.
Age is another factor that can contribute to ovulatory dysfunction. With age, the woman’s ovarian reserve, which is the number and quality of her eggs, begins to decline. This decline in egg quality and quantity can make it harder for her to conceive, and may also increase the risk of miscarriage.
Stress and weight fluctuations can also affect a woman's ovulatory function. Chronic stress can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance needed for ovulation, while rapid weight loss or gain can also interfere with hormone levels and ovulation. Women who are underweight or have a body mass index (BMI) below 18.5 or over 30 may also experience ovulatory dysfunction.
Other medical conditions that can lead to ovulatory dysfunction include thyroid disorders, pituitary gland disorders, and premature ovarian failure. Additionally, certain lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use can also affect a woman's ovulatory function.
In summary, ovulatory dysfunction is the most common cause of infertility in women, affecting up to 25% of infertile women. The condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including hormonal imbalances, age, stress, and weight fluctuations. Women who experience irregular periods, no periods, or other symptoms of ovulatory dysfunction should speak to their consultant for further evaluation and treatment options.
Is ovulatory dysfunction treatable?
Ovulatory dysfunction is treatable in many cases. Treatment options may include medication to stimulate ovulation, lifestyle changes to improve overall health, and surgical procedures in some cases.
The specific treatment options available will depend on the underlying cause of the ovulatory dysfunction.
One common treatment option for ovulatory dysfunction is medication to stimulate ovulation. This may include clomiphene citrate, which is a medication that is taken orally and works by stimulating the release of hormones that trigger ovulation. Other medications that may be used to stimulate ovulation include letrozole and gonadotropins.
In addition to medication, lifestyle changes may also be recommended to improve overall health and increase the chances of ovulation. This may include maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and managing stress levels.
In some cases, surgical procedures may also be recommended to treat ovulatory dysfunction. For example, laparoscopic ovarian drilling may be recommended for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that can interfere with ovulation. This procedure involves using heat or a laser to affect a small portion of the ovary, which can help to stimulate ovulation.
It is important to note that the success of treatment for ovulatory dysfunction can vary depending on the underlying cause and the specific treatment used. In some cases, multiple treatment options may need to be tried before a successful outcome is achieved. Women with ovulatory dysfunction should discuss their treatment options with their consultant to determine the best course of action for their individual needs.
Other common causes of infertility in females
Other common causes of infertility in women include tubal and pelvic factors, uterine factors, and age-related factors. Tubal and pelvic factors may result from conditions such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease, while uterine factors may result from conditions such as fibroids or adhesions.
What is the most common risk factor for female infertility?
Age is the most common risk factor for female infertility. Fertility declines with age, and the chances of getting pregnant decrease significantly after the age of 35.
As women age, their egg quality and quantity decrease, which can make it more challenging to conceive. Fertility starts to decline in the late 20s and early 30s, but the decline becomes more significant after the age of 35. By the age of 40, the chance of getting pregnant each month is less than 5%. Additionally, as women get older, they are more likely to experience pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and premature birth. Women who are concerned about their fertility and want to have children in the future should consider seeking early medical advice and exploring their options as soon as possible.
Other common risk factors for female infertility
Other common risk factors for female infertility include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, being underweight or overweight, and having certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders.
How can I reduce my risk factors for infertility?
To reduce your risk factors for infertility, you should quit smoking, limit your alcohol intake, maintain a healthy weight, and manage any underlying medical conditions. You should also speak with your doctor about any medications or treatments that may affect fertility.
How can I get an infertility diagnosis?
To diagnose infertility, your doctor may perform a physical exam, order blood tests to check hormone levels, or use imaging tests to examine your reproductive organs.
How to test if a woman is infertile
Tests for female infertility may include a pelvic exam, ultrasound, tubal patency checks, or laparoscopy. Your doctor may also order blood tests to check hormone levels and to detect the presence of antibodies that may affect fertility.
Female infertility treatment options
Treatment options for female infertility depend on the underlying cause of infertility. For ovulatory dysfunction, medications may be prescribed to stimulate ovulation. For tubal or pelvic factors, surgical procedures may be necessary to repair damage or remove scar tissue. For age-related factors, assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be necessary.
Infertility is a complex medical condition that can have a number of causes and risk factors. Ovulatory dysfunction is the most common cause of infertility in women, and age is the most common risk factor. If you are struggling with infertility, it is important to speak with your doctor to determine the underlying cause and to discuss treatment options that may be available to you
Author: Mr Osama Naji
Mr Naji provides advanced gynaecology scanning which is essential when conducting any gynaecology consultation, he is bilingual in English and Arabic and has an NHS base at the highly reputable Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London.
He is passionate about raising awareness of various subtle signs and symptoms of gynaecological conditions that are often overlooked by patients.
You can read more about Mr Naji on his about page here.