FEMALE INFERTILITY

About 40% of couples struggling to conceive will find that the challenge is with the female partner's reproductive system. Several factors can contribute to female infertility including age, anovulation, tubal, and cervical-uterine issues.

TOP FEMALE FACTORS

Age

 

Age is a major factor (if not the biggest factor) in female fertility. As we approach our mid-30s, our fertility begins to decline. This decline in fertility is because there are fewer eggs in the ovaries and the quality of the eggs diminish as we get older. Not only does age affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant and carry the pregnancy to term, age can also affect the pregnancy itself by increasing the risk of genetic abnormalities in the embryo.

 

 

Anovulation



Problems with ovulation are a common cause of infertility, accounting for approximately 25% of all female infertility cases. In order to conceive, a woman must ovulate (release an egg from the ovary into the fallopian tube). Ovulation is connected to a woman’s menstrual cycle, or period, which takes place every 28 – 34 days, depending on the individual. Women who experience a period more than every 35 days, or not at all, are probably ovulating infrequently or not at all.

 

Causes of ovulatory problems can include:

 

  • Thyroid Conditions

  • High Prolactin Levels

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)


Ovulation can be determined through charting, over-the-counter ovulation predictor kits, and additional hormonal testing.

If a woman is not ovulating or ovulating irregularly, our physicians may prescribe fertility medications to stimulate ovulation.

 

 

 

Tubal Factor

 


Open (patent) and functioning fallopian tubes are necessary for conception to occur. Certain risk factors can affect tubal function and account for 35 percent of female infertility. They include:

 

 

  • Previous Pelvic Infections

  • Previous Pelvic-Abdominal Surgery

  • Endometriosis

 


The test that is typically performed to assess tubal patency or open fallopian tubes is a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) which is a non-invasive X-ray picture of the pelvis. A thin tube-like instrument is inserted into the cervix through the vagina, then a special dye is inserted into the uterus. As the dye enters the uterus and fallopian tubes, an assessment can be done on the uterine and fallopian tube anatomy.

 

 

 

 

Cervical-Uterine Issues


 

The cervix is located in the lower part of the uterus. Conditions of the cervix can affect fertility but are rarely the sole cause of infertility. The following can contribute to cervical health:

 

  • Abnormal pap smear(s)

  • Prior cervical biopsies

  • Cervical surgery (cone biopsy)

  • “Freezing” and/or laser treatment of the cervix

  • The patient’s mother took DES (diethylstilbestrol) while she was pregnant

 

Cervical problems are generally treated with antibiotics, fertility medications or by intrauterine inseminations (IUI).

 

The uterus (womb) is where the fertilized egg implants and develops. Uterine abnormalities can account for 20% of female infertility and include:

 

  • Uterine scar tissue (Asherman’s Syndrome)

  • Polyps (bunched-up pieces of the endometrial lining)

  • Fibroids

  • Abnormally shaped uterine cavity


Problems within the uterus may interfere with implantation of the embryo or may increase the incidence of miscarriage. The test(s) typically performed to assess the uterine cavity include a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) or sonohysterogram (SHG or SIS).

 

Similar to the HSG, a thin tube-like instrument passes into the cervix. Small amounts of saline are inserted into the uterus under ultrasound guidance to assess the uterine cavity. This is the preferred test for uterine abnormalities. Surgery may be required to further evaluate and possibly correct uterine cavity abnormalities.

 

 

 

Recurrent Pregnancy Loss

 


Miscarriage is one of the most devastating experiences that can happen to a woman. Approximately two out of every 10 pregnancies may result in a miscarriage. After having one miscarriage, most women go on to have a healthy pregnancy.

 

Women are considered to have recurrent pregnancy loss when they have two or three miscarriages in a row. Only about 1% of women have three consecutive miscarriages or more. In about two out of three cases, we are able to determine the cause of recurrent pregnancy loss.

 

The causes of recurrent pregnancy loss include:

 

  • Genetic-chromosomal defects

  • Age

  • Uterine abnormalities

  • Incompetent cervix

  • Hormonal defects

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • Clotting disorders

 


Treatments vary depending on the cause of recurrent pregnancy including hormonal-anticoagulant medications, surgery, IVF and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

This may all sound scary, but we will be right by your side to help you understand your options and pursue the best possible treatment so that you can experience motherhood.