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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Female Infertility

Female Infertility

Alternate Names : Infertility in Women

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Infertility is defined as a couple's inability to become pregnant after one year of regular, unprotected sex. Female infertility means the male is unable to impregnate the female because of female factors.

What is going on in the body?

Certain events must take place in a woman's body for pregnancy to occur:

  • attachment of a fertilized egg to the lining of the uterus
  • ovulation, which is the release of an egg from the ovary
  • the uniting of the egg and a man's sperm
  • Factors that interfere with these events are known as female factors. The inability to get pregnant may be caused by conditions in either partner. It is estimated that 30% of infertility is caused by male factors. An additional 30% is caused by female factors. The remaining 40% is caused by a combination of female and male factors.

    What are the causes and risks of the condition?

    There are many female factors that can make a couple unable to become pregnant. These may include conditions such as the following:

  • certain inherited conditions
  • endometriosis, a condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other parts of the body
  • hormone imbalances, such as hypothyroidism
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome, a condition that interferes with normal release of eggs
  • Diseases also can be a factor in infertility, for example:

  • autoimmune disorders, in which the body produces antibodies to fetal tissue
  • diseases such as diabetes
  • eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa
  • pelvic inflammatory disease, which is an infection of the female pelvic organs
  • sexually transmitted disease, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea
  • Additional factors in infertility include the following:

  • chronic vaginal discharge
  • congenital abnormalities of the uterus
  • ectopic pregnancy, or implanting of the fertilized egg outside the uterus
  • emotional stress
  • excess caffeine and alcohol intake
  • excess weight loss or weight gain
  • exposure to diethylstilbestrol, also known as DES, as an infant in utero
  • irregular periods or menstrual cycles
  • previous elective surgical abortion or elective medical abortion
  • scarring of the fallopian tubes from abdominal or pelvic surgery
  • smoking
  • strenuous exercise
  • total lack of menstruation
  • two or more previous miscarriages
  • use of an intrauterine device also called an IUD, which is a form of birth control
  • uterine fibroids or polyps
  • Women over the age of 35 are more likely to be infertile.


    Next section


    Female Infertility: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eva Martin, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 08/20/01

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