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Causes of Female Infertility

Whether you're ready to start a family, future planning, or just curious... understanding and being in control of your fertility is really important. We want to empower women to make more informed decisions about all aspects of fertility, not just when they’re ready to start a family.

Some factors such as medical issues might be beyond your control, but your lifestyle choices can also impact your fertility.

Causes of female fertility challenges

The most common reason for female infertility is age. Studies have shown that fertility begins to decrease after the age of 35, and by the age of 40 is in significant decline.

The main explanation for age-related infertility is simply the approaching end of a woman’s reproductive life. Women are born with their lifetime supply of eggs, which sit in the ovaries at different stages of development and diminish in quantity and quality with age. Ovarian reserve is a measure of female fertility during the reproductive years and can be tested by hormone levels and ultrasound through our female IVF diagnostic tests.

Problems with ovulation are one of the most common causes of infertility for women. Poor egg quality, failure to ovulate through hormonal deficiency or imbalance, irregular ovulation and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) are commonly encountered problems. Although it can take a little longer to get pregnant with PCOS, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. PCOS can cause erratic ovulation and cause it to stop all together. If ovulation is not occurring, then it’s not possible to conceive without treatment. It’s natural for a lot of questions to go through your head after a PCOS diagnosis, particularly when it comes to fertility. That’s why we created ‘From PCOS to Parenthood’- a handy guide that provides you with the important facts about PCOS and how our team of experts will support you on your fertility journey.

Your Fallopian tubes carry eggs from your ovaries to the womb and can be blocked or damaged, reducing the chances of eggs meeting sperm. There are a number of possible reasons.

Treatment is usually by IVF, however sometimes if the problem is a blockage, and it is very localised, then it can be possible to clear it by keyhole surgery.

Reasons include:

  • scar tissue
  • previous ectopic pregnancy
  • endometriosis
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • adhesions from an operation
  • damaged tube ends
  • pelvic or cervical surgery
  • submucosal fibroids

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that normally grows in the uterus implants and grows in other places in your body and can cause scarring, which may block your fallopian tubes. Mild cases of Endometriosis can be treated with a procedure known as a laparoscopy. More severe cases however can cause more serious fertility issues.

Too many people experience the heartbreak of miscarriage. It isn’t really possible to know exactly how many miscarriages occur because sometimes a miscarriage can happen before pregnancy is confirmed. Studies indicate that miscarriage occurs in around 1 in 4 recognised pregnancies, with 85% of those happening in the first trimester (weeks 1 to 12).

In the first 12 weeks, the most common cause of  miscarriage is an issue with development of the embryo.

When you have been through miscarriage, having lots of support is really important. Talk to your family and friends family about how you are feeling, or you might want to reach out to a support organisation.

However, physical complications or health issues including shape of the uterus, diabetes, thyroid disease, hormonal problems, or immune conditions can also cause miscarriage.

 Our recurrent miscarriage tests are designed to investigate the underlying cause of miscarriage and help us identify appropriate treatment options. We may recommend PGT-A (Preimplantation Genetic Testing). This test gives us information about the genetic health of embryos to help us identify embryos which have the correct number of chromosomes

Careunity is a test which  looks at a genetic "variation" in a specific gene (Annexin A5) which is partly responsible for normal clotting in our body. The presence of the variant gene can be associated with blood clotting disorders (sticky blood). Increased clotting in the placenta can lead to miscarriage or implantation failure by reducing the blood flow to the embryo at a very early stage of its implantation in the womb.

You may also want to consider having a consultation with one of our specialists.

The drugs involved with chemotherapy can sometimes cause ovarian failure which, sadly, can be permanent. Advances in egg freezing of course now mean that if you have to undertake a course of chemotherapy you can take the precaution of freezing eggs in advance of your treatment.

Being overweight, being seriously underweight, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol can all have a negative impact on your fertility. Read more about our top tips for improving fertility.