What is infertility in women?

Infertility in women is where a couple are trying to conceive naturally but cannot, due to problems that lie solely with the female partner. The single major cause of infertility in women is ageing; after the age of 35, a woman’s ability to become pregnant decreases dramatically and ends completely with menopause.

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The onset of menopause, called peri-menopause, can happen at any time between the ages of 45 years and 55 years, but rarely happens in younger women. Premature menopause, or premature ovarian failure, is a rare cause of infertility in women but it can happen to women in their late teens.

Other major causes of infertility in women include:

  • Carrying excess weight or being too thin: women who are clinically obese often have infertility issues, while women who have a body mass index below 19 often experience a lack of ovulation and periods, so are infertile. Hopefully this is temporary and adjusting lifestyle factors to achieve a healthy weight can lead to pregnancy.
  • Fallopian tubes that are blocked: this can happen as a result of a sexually transmitted disease (STD), which causes pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Endometriosis: the occurrence of tissue very similar to the uterine lining outside the uterus. This swells during the menstrual cycle, affecting all of the organs in the abdomen and causing pain that is sometimes intense. Inflammation in the abdomen can lead to the formation of adhesions that block the path of the egg from the ovary to the fallopian tube, causing infertility in women.
  • An imbalance of hormones: problems with the glands that produce the major female hormones that control the menstrual cycle and ovulation can lead to infertility in women.

Problems with infertility in women can be overcome by medical treatments, either to correct the underlying problem, or to help the woman become pregnant using in vitro fertilisation (IVF), or some other method of infertility treatment.

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