Infertility in women at a glance
- A woman is considered to have the disease of infertility if she does not get pregnant after having unprotected sex on a regular basis for a year if under age 35, or after 6 months for a woman 35 or older.
- An estimated 12% of reproductive age women (15-44) are infertile.
- About one-third of infertility cases are due solely to female factors and another third of cases are due to combined female and male factors.
- The primary causes of infertility in women are age, ovulation disorders, hormone imbalances and structural abnormalities of the reproductive system, including fallopian tube disorders and endometriosis.
- Our fertility specialists utilize a variety of tests to check a woman’s fertility or determine the cause of infertility, and work with her to decide on the best treatment options.
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What is female infertility?
Infertility is a disease preventing a woman from conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term. Many women have difficulty getting pregnant, but infertility is said to exist if a woman under age 35 doesn’t conceive after having somewhat frequent, unprotected sex for 12 months. For a woman 35 or older, it is diagnosed after six months of trying.
The difference in these time periods relates to the strong effects aging has on a woman’s fertility. Women who meet these criteria should seek evaluation and treatment by a fertility specialist.
Related Reading: When to See a Fertility Specialist
It is not unusual for women to have infertility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 12% of reproductive age women (15-44) are infertile. About one-third of infertility cases are due solely to female infertility and another third are due to a combination of female and male infertility factors.
Conception is a complicated process. In addition to the male meeting all criteria for fertility, the following conditions need to be met for the woman to conceive:
- She ovulates a healthy mature egg.
- Her fallopian tubes allow sperm to reach the egg for fertilization.
- The resulting embryo travels to, and implants in, her uterus (womb) for pregnancy.
- The embryo is healthy and the woman’s hormones create a nurturing environment for its development.
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Causes of infertility in women
Many factors can cause female infertility: age, hormonal imbalances, ovulation problems, fallopian tube damage, structural abnormalities in the reproductive system, lifestyle issues and more. Often a combination of these factors is at play.
For example, ovulation disorders are a major cause of infertility. These can be caused or influenced by medical conditions, hormonal imbalances, genetics, lifestyle factors and medical treatments.
A clear-cut listing of causes may be too simplistic. But it is helpful to know the major causes of female infertility.
Below is information on, and links to, our pages on these issues:
- Ovulation disorders.
- Hormonal imbalance.
- Structural issues.
- Fertility treatments.
Other causes of female infertility
Lifestyle factors can also cause female infertility, such as weighing too much or too little and smoking cigarettes. Recurrent miscarriage is another cause of infertility, especially affecting older women. Sexually transmitted diseases or other diseases, such as cancer or its treatment, can also cause infertility.
Fertility doctors can’t always pinpoint a cause for infertility, in which case the couple may receive a diagnosis of unexplained infertility. This occurs in about 15% of infertility cases.
Related Reading: How to Conceive After a Diagnosis of Unexplained Infertility
Female infertility treatment
Most people think of in vitro fertilization (IVF) as the main treatment for infertility. And while beneficial for many women, IVF and similar treatments account for only about 3% of infertility services, according to the Society of Reproductive Surgeons. Conventional treatments, like surgery and fertility medications, are used in 85%-90% of infertility cases.
We offer a full range of infertility treatments, performed by compassionate experts in fertility medicine. In addition to infertility treatments, we provide reproductive services for the LGBTQ+ community. We also offer wellness and mental health services related to infertility.
Related Fertility Edge Podcast: Fertility Treatments