Infertility in Women- Causes and Prevention

Jun 04, 2019

Infertility is the inability to become pregnant or carry the pregnancy to full-term after unprotected sexual intercourse. The problem affects 1 out of every 6 couples. A couple that has been unsuccessful in conceiving babies for longer periods of time is likely to be suffering from this problem of conceiving. It can be due to either of the partners. When it is due to the female partner it is known as female infertility. Staying aware of the signs of infertility in women helps in curing the problem at the earliest.

Diagnosing Infertility

The leading symptom of infertility in women is the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to full term. However, to find out the exact cause of the problem and to look for more symptoms, a gynecologist may conduct certain tests or observe lifestyle patterns.
  1. The ovaries must release or produce an egg, a process that is known as ovulation. A doctor would confirm ovulation by evaluating the menstrual cycle.
  2. Adequate sperm in the partner is an important determinant for confirming fertility. The doctor may evaluate the sperm health of the partner.
  3. Regular sexual intercourse during the fertile time of the month is mandatory. The doctor calculates the pregnancy date (most likely) based on the monthly cycle.
  4. One must have open fallopian tubes and a normal uterus for the egg and sperm to meet and the embryo to grow. The doctor evaluates the reproductive system health to ensure that a woman is fit for carrying a child.
When these parameters are not met, it may lead to difficulty in conception.

Causes of Infertility in Women

Some of the factors affecting infertility in women are mentioned below.

Ovulation disorders

A woman with an ovulation disorder would either ovulate infrequently or not at all. These include hormonal and ovary problems. In such cases, there i a need to stimulate follicle growth and egg development. Types of Ovulation disorders are-
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) -  Common signs of PCOS (also known as PCOD) include insulin resistance and obesity, abnormal hair growth on face and body, along with acne and similar skin problems. It is the most common cause of female infertility.
  • Hypothalamic Dysfunction -  The most common signs are irregular or absent periods which may be a result of weight loss or gain or excessive stress in women.
  • Premature Ovarian Failure - The common signs are skipped periods, dryness in the vagina, night sweats, reduced concentration, lower sex drive, etc. This is usually caused due to premature loss of eggs from the ovary or autoimmune response. The ovaries no longer produce eggs in this case.
  • Excessive Prolactin Production - The symptoms are almost similar to premature ovarian failure. Thining and weakness in bones can be an additional symptom (after a few years). When the pituitary gland produces excessive prolactin, it reduces the estrogen leading to infertility. It can be due to medication consumption from other diseases.

Tubal Infertility (Damage to fallopian tubes)

In this condition, damaged fallopian tubes obstruct the sperm from reaching the egg. Or, they block the passage of fertilized egg into the uterus. Damage to the fallopian tubes may be due to any of the following reasons:
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Previous surgery in the abdomen or pelvis
  • Pelvic Tuberculosis


Endometriosis is when the tissue growing normally in the uterus implants and grows in other locations. This extra growth or the surgical removal of it may cause scarring, blockage of fallopian tubes and may not allow the egg to meet the sperm.

Uterine or cervical causes

A number of cervical/uterine causes impact female fertility as they interfere with implantation and increase the chances of a miscarriage-
    • Benign Polyps/ Tumors (Fibroids/ Myomas) block fallopian tubes and interfere with implantation that affects fertility
    • Endometriosis scarring/ inflammation causes distortion of pelvic anatomy leading to the obstruction of fallopian tubes
    • Uterine abnormalities present since birth can cause infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss (without showing any symptoms)
    • Inherited malformation or damage to the cervix causes cervical stenosis & narrowing of the cervix
    • The inability of the cervix to produce the best type of mucus reduces the ability of the sperm to travel to the uterus

Inexplicable Infertility

In some unique cases, it is difficult to identify the cause of infertility. While everything might seem okay during tests, there are minor factors beyond recognition. In some cases, women bodies display an allergic reaction to male sperms. This causes the system to create anti-sperm antibodies that attack the sperm and don't allow conception. In some other cases, the female is not able to conceive because of poor egg health.

How to Prevent Female Infertility?

One can improve their chances of fertility with proper care and healthy lifestyle changes. Here are some of the ways to avoid female infertility.
  • Maintain steady weight- Overweight and underweight women are at an increased risk for infertility and ovulation disorders.
  • Quit smoking- Tobacco effects the health of women and the fetus in general and if taken for longer periods of time may lead to infertility. 
  • Avoid alcohol- Excessive alcohol consumption leads to decreased fertility.
  • Reduce unwanted stress- Many couples experience infertility due to psychological stress.
  • Limit caffeine intake- Consuming cup after cup of coffee on a daily basis puts one at a higher risk of infertility.

When to see a Gynae?

When the couple has been unable to conceive for more than a year after having unprotected sex, it is time to see the gynae. However, it is best to plan a visit sooner in any of the following cases-
  1. Low Sex Drive
  2. Abnormal bleeding
  3. Abdominal pain
  4. Fever
  5. Unusual discharge
  6. Pain or discomfort during intercourse
  7. Soreness or itching in the vaginal area

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