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Conditions InDepth: Infertility in Women

Infertility in women is a disorder of the reproductive system that hinders the body’s ability to ovulate, conceive, or carry an infant to term. A couple is considered infertile when they have not conceived after a full year of regular sexual intercourse without using contraception. Couple infertility may be due to male factors, female factors, or a combination.

A successful pregnancy involves many steps. First, a healthy egg must be released from a woman’s ovaries (ovulation) and travel to the fallopian tube, where it is fertilized by a man’s sperm. If fertilization (conception) occurs, the fertilized egg than moves to the uterus. The embryo secures itself to the uterine wall. This begins the 38-40 week journey from embryo to fetus to baby. Problems can occur at anytime during this process and may result in infertility.

Female Reproductive Organs

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Infertility affects an estimated 14% of married women ages 15-44 in the United States. Age-related ability to have a successful pregnancy is well documented. Success rates begin to decline at age 35 and are severely reduced by age 40 in women.

Common causes of infertility in women include:

  • Menstrual cycle dysfunction—the most common cause of infertility in women
  • Problems with ovulation—something affects the release of an egg by the ovary
  • Fallopian tube blockage—present from birth or may result from surgery, trauma, or infection in the pelvic area
  • Endometriosis—results when tissue from the uterine lining is found outside the uterus

What are the risk factors for infertility in women?
What are the symptoms of infertility in women?
How is infertility in women diagnosed?
What are the treatments for infertility in women?
Are there screening tests for infertility in women?
How can I reduce my risk of infertility?
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
What is it like to live with infertility?
Where can I get more information about infertility in women?

References:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/ .

American Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ .

American Society for Reproductive Medicine website. Available at: http://www.asrm.org/ .

Harrison’s Online. McGraw Hill's Access Medicine website. Available at: http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4 .

International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc. website. Available at: http://www.inciid.org/ .

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association website. Available at: http://www.resolve.org/site/PageServer .



Last reviewed May 2007 by Jeff Andrews, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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