Fallopian tube damage or blockage is one of the most common causes of infertility.
Endometriosis, ovulation disorders, elevated prolactin, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), early menopause, benign uterine fibroids and pelvic adhesions may also causes of infertility in women.
Fallopian tube damage or blockage. Fallopian tube damage usually results from inflammation of the fallopian tube (salpingitis). Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease, is the most frequent cause. Tubal inflammation may go unnoticed or may cause pain and fever. Tubal damage may result in a pregnancy in which the fertilized egg is unable to make its way through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus (ectopic pregnancy). One episode of tubal infection may cause fertility difficulties. The risk of ectopic pregnancy increases with each occurrence of tubal infection.
Endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when the uterine tissue implants and grows outside of the uterus — often affecting the function of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes. These implants respond to the hormonal cycle and grow, shed and bleed in sync with the lining of the uterus each month, which can lead to scarring and inflammation. Pelvic pain and infertility are common in women with endometriosis.
Ovulation disorders. Some cases of female infertility are caused by ovulation disorders. Disruption in the part of the brain that regulates ovulation can cause low levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Even slight irregularities in the hormone system can prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs (anovulation). Specific causes of hypothalamic-pituitary disorders that can result in anovulation include injury, tumors, excessive exercise and starvation. In addition, some medications can be associated with ovulation disorders.
Elevated prolactin (hyperprolactinemia). The hormone prolactin stimulates breast milk production. High levels in women who aren’t pregnant or nursing may affect ovulation. An elevation in prolactin levels may also indicate the presence of a pituitary tumor. In addition, some drugs can elevate levels of prolactin. Milk flow not related to pregnancy or nursing can be a sign of high prolactin.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In PCOS, your body produces too much androgen hormone, which affects ovulation. PCOS is also associated with insulin resistance and obesity.
Early menopause (premature ovarian failure). Early menopause is the absence of menstruation and the early depletion of ovarian follicles before age 40. Although the cause is often unknown, certain conditions are associated with early menopause, including immune system diseases, radiation or chemotherapy treatment, and smoking.
Uterine fibroids. Fibroids are benign tumors in the wall of the uterus and are common in women in their 30s and 40s. Rarely, they may cause infertility by blocking the fallopian tubes. More often, fibroids interfere with proper implantation of the fertilized egg.
Pelvic adhesions. Pelvic adhesions are bands of scar tissue that bind organs after pelvic infection, appendicitis, or abdominal or pelvic surgery. This scar tissue formation may impair fertility.
Other causes of infertiity in women
Medications. Temporary infertility may occur with the use of certain medications. In most cases, fertility is restored when the medication is stopped.
Thyroid problems. Disorders of the thyroid gland, either too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism), can interrupt the menstrual cycle and cause infertility.
Cancer and its treatment. Certain cancers — particularly female reproductive cancers — often severely impair female fertility. Both radiation and chemotherapy may affect a woman’s ability to reproduce. Chemotherapy may impair reproductive function and fertility in men and women. A new Development in Infertility is the ability to now store unfertilized eggs for future fertilization.
Other medical conditions. Medical conditions associated with delayed puberty or amenorrhea, such as Cushing’s disease, sickle cell disease, kidney disease and diabetes, can affect a woman’s fertility.