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Conditions InDepth: Infertility in Women

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Infertility in women is a disorder of the reproductive system that prevents the body’s ability to ovulate and conceive. Recurrent pregnancy loss is often considered a type of infertility. A heterosexual 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 of both.

A successful pregnancy involves many steps. First, a healthy egg must be released from a woman’s ovaries and travel to the fallopian tube. There, a man’s sperm fertilizes it. If fertilization occurs, the fertilized egg then moves down the fallopian tube 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.

Female Reproductive Organs
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Infertility affects an estimated 10% of women aged 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 due to failure to ovulate
  • Problems with ovulation—something affects the development and 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 doctor?What is it like to live with infertility?Where can I get more information about infertility in women?

Revision Information

  • Diabetes and women. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq142.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121022T1326109439. Published August 2011. Accessed January 7, 2014.

  • Infertility. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 5, 2013. Accessed January 7, 2014.