Conditions that can lead to female infertility

Nearly ten percent of women who are of reproductive age in the US struggle with infertility, and Mayo Clinic reports that about one-third of cases of infertility can be attributed to female factors. A number of things can impact female fertility, including lifestyle factors, age, and physical abnormalities.

In other cases, women can have an underlying condition that decreases their likelihood of getting pregnant. These kinds of conditions have different risk factors, and they affect fertility to different degrees. Despite these differences, though, the conditions are often treatable.


This condition involves cells of the uterine lining growing outside of the uterus. This tissue is usually shed from the body during menstruation, but when it grows outside of where it should, there is no way for it to be expelled, and so it can build up and cause blockages. A number of studies have found that nearly one-quarter to one-half of all infertile women have endometriosis, and more than a quarter of women with endometriosis are infertile. To improve their fertility, many women with the condition take medication to help regulate the shedding of the uterine lining. Some women have to undergo surgery to remove abnormal growth of the uterine lining outside of its normal pattern of growth.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Women with PCOS have high levels of androgen, a hormone that interferes with menstruation and ovulation. Because of this hormonal imbalance, many women with PCOS do not ovulate in any regular interval, or at all, and struggle with infertility. Experts think that genetic and environmental factors contribute to PCOS, and the most common ways that women with PCOS overcome infertility are with weight loss, medicine, surgery, and IVF.

Uterine fibroids

Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow in different areas of the body. Uterine fibroids in particular can interfere with the uterus and fallopian tubes, blocking sperm from entering, reducing blood flow to the uterus, and generally making it harder for a woman to get pregnant. In a lot of cases, fibroids don’t pose a significant problem when trying to conceive, but if they are interfering with a woman’s fertility, they might be surgically removed. Fibroids are also linked to elevated risks of placental problems and preterm birth, among other complications.

Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)

Primary ovarian insufficiency, also known as premature ovarian failure is a hormonal imbalance that has the potential to stop a woman’s ovulation cycle earlier than usual. Primary ovarian insufficiency is considered to occur when the normal functioning of the ovaries stops before age 40. Women with POI often undergo hormone replacement therapy to treat the condition, to provide their bodies with estrogen and progesterone that their bodies are unable to produce enough of.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

PID is caused by an infection, usually a sexually-transmitted one, that moves into the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes. The condition can cause inflammation and abscesses, and scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can block an egg from being fertilized. PID is usually treated with antibiotics, or on rare occasions when women don’t respond to antibiotics, surgical intervention.

A past episode of PID can cause lingering infertility issues, so make sure you let your provider know if you have had a past history of any sexually transmitted disease when TTC.

If you have any questions about the above conditions, ask your healthcare provider to tell you more about them and how they affect women. Certain conditions do decrease fertility, but there are many interventions that increase someone’s chances of getting pregnant.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Infertility: Symptoms and causes.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Jul 23 2016. Web.
  • “Endometriosis.” Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, Dec 5 2014. Web.
  • “Polycystic ovary syndrome.” Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, Jun 8 2016. Web.
  • “Diseases and Conditions That Influence Fertility.” NIH. US Department of Health and Human Services, July 2 2013. Web.
  • Belina Carranza-Mamane, Jon Havelock, Robert Hemmings. “The Management of Uterine Fibroids in Women With Otherwise Unexplained Infertility.” SOCG Clinical Practice Guideline, No. 321. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada.
    37(3):277–285. Web. Mar 2015.
  • “Pelvic inflammatory disease.” Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, Aug 31 2015. Web.
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