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.
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
- Reviewer: Andrea Chisholm, MD
- Review Date: 12/2013 -
- Update Date: 01/07/2014 -