RESOLVE (The National Infertility Association) tells us that infertility affects roughly 1 in 8 couples, and about one-third of all infertility cases are attributed to female infertility factors. (Male infertility is associated with an equal one-third of infertility cases, which is why it’s so important that your partner’s fertility is also assessed).
While there is a wide range of female infertility factors, the large majority of infertility diagnoses are attributed to one of these Top 5.
1. Failure to ovulate
The number one, most common factor is a woman’s failure to ovulate. This factor is also associated with some of the other medical conditions associated with factors we’ve listed below.
Your period is your greatest indicator that you’re ovulating. An irregular period means irregular ovulation – and that means you aren’t as fertile as you might be. Always let your OB/GYN know if you experience infertility so s/he can begin testing accordingly.
2. Advanced maternal age
Because women are intentionally waiting longer than ever to get pregnant, advanced maternal age is now one of the top “infertility factors.” Female fertility peaks in a woman’s twenties, and it begins to diminish from there. By your 40s, it’s much harder to get pregnant without some type of fertility treatment or medication. This is due to a combination of factors including:
- Diminished egg quality
- Less frequent ovulation as you enter perimenopause
- Decreased ovarian reserves
- A more diligent immune system
If you are in your late 20s or early 30s, and you don’t plan to get pregnant any time soon, it’s worth considering AMH testing and egg freezing options.
Some women with endometriosis get pregnant just fine, and others don’t. Women with severe endometriosis may get pregnant, and some with mild cases struggle to conceive. Either way, endometriosis is one of the leading causes of female infertility. It is diagnosed when we see endometrial tissue adhering to pelvic tissue outside the uterus – often the fallopian tubes or outer-uterine lining. Endometriosis can also cause irregular and/or painful periods.
We typically recommend women in the fertility window wait at least 12 months before worrying about infertility. If, however, you have a condition such as PCOS, known to increase your risk of infertility, we recommend speaking with your OB/GYN or consulting with a fertility specialist after six-months of trying. The same is true for PCOS.
4. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is another medical syndrome/condition that elevates your risk of infertility. PCOS has a range of symptoms or markers, including:
- Irregular, skipped, and/or absent periods
- Painful periods
- More severe PMS and/or mood swings
- Heavy around the middle (although not always)
- Male hair patterns (hair on the chest, face, back but thin on the head)
- Insatiable sugar cravings
Again, we want to clarify that some women with PCOS do not match the phenotype associated with PCOS (apple shape, hair patterns, areas of darker skin pigmentation, etc.), another reason why irregular periods should always be investigated.
5. Structural or Anatomical Issues in the Reproductive Tract
To conceive and carry a full term baby, your reproductive anatomy needs to:
- Release a high-quality, mature egg
- Have clear fallopian tubes so the egg can travel to the uterus (and the sperm can make it to the egg)
- Have a rich, endometrial tissue to implant into
- Have a relatively perfect uterine cavity to grow in
As a result, there are plenty of anatomical issues that, literally, get in the way. Some are linked to genetics and how your reproductive tract formed when you were in utero. Others are affected by things like certain types or locations of fibroid tumors, endometriosis-related scarring, or scarring related to STDs and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Are you struggling to get pregnant? Schedule a consultation with RRC, the area’s leading fertility treatment center. You deserve an accurate assessment and diagnosis, and the sooner the better to move forward with a personalized fertility treatment plan.