What is female infertility?
Infertility is defined as a disease characterized by the failure to establish a clinical pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse. Female infertility simply means that a woman herself has causes for not getting pregnant. Of course, it is important to note that males are the primary cause of infertility about 25% of the time and a contributing cause an additional 25% of the time.
Common Causes of Female Infertility
The most common causes of female infertility include hormonal imbalances, problems with ovulation or egg quality, blockages or damage to the fallopian tubes, fibroids, uterine abnormalities, endometriosis, and age-related factors. Lifestyle factors like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and obesity can also contribute to female infertility. Click here for more information about infertility diagnosis and tests.
Female Fertility and Age
A woman’s fertility peaks before the age of 31, with a monthly pregnancy rate between 20% and 25%. This pregnancy rate rapidly declines when a woman approaches her late 30s. About one in two women will have problems with infertility at the age of 40.
Decreased Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
As a woman ages, the number and quality (as determined by proportion of eggs with normal chromosomes) of her eggs in the ovaries decrease. A normal number of chromosomes is called euploidy and abnormal number aneuploidy. This reduction in number and quality of the eggs is called ‘decreased ovarian reserve’ (DOR). This is more of an issue in infertility when women delay childbirth until their late 30s or 40s. There are many reproductive consequences, including increased risk of:
- maternal and fetal complications in pregnancy
- problems in the babies
In addition, with more advanced DOR women become perimenopausal, with additional medical problems such as:
- Decreasing bone mass, increasing the risk of fracture
- Abnormal bleeding of the uterus due to lack of ovulation
- Hot flashes
When to Start Infertility Diagnosis and Fertility Treatment?
Specialists recommend diagnosing infertility and providing fertility treatment after 12 months if the woman is below the age of 35; after 6 months for women between 35 and 39; and after 3 months for women 40 or older.
Fertility Treatments for Women
Many fertility treatments are available, including fertility drug therapies, in vitro fertilization (IVF), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), and surgery to correct conditions related to infertility. Women trying to conceive for 12 months or more without achieving a successful pregnancy should consult a fertility specialist.