There are a number of possible causes for female infertility. For more information, you can download our official Fertility Guide.
Some of the most common reasons for female infertility are:
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition in which there is a hormonal imbalance within the ovaries. In PCOS, the ovaries are bigger than average, and the outer surface of the ovary has an abnormally large number of smaller follicles (these are the sacs of fluid which grow around the egg in response to the stimulating hormones from the brain). In PCOS these follicles remain immature, which means that ovulation rarely happens and so the woman is often less fertile.
Women with PCOS may have the following problems:
Endometriosis is a relatively common condition that can cause significant pain and suffering. Between 3-10% of women aged between 15-45 years have endometriosis. In women who have difficulties conceiving, this rises to about 25-35%.
Endometriosis is small deposits of the womb lining that are located outside of the womb cavity. The most common place to find it is on the ovary, the back of the uterus and the uterosacral ligaments. It can also be found on the peritoneum, on the tubes or between the vagina and rectum (rectovaginal septum).
Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growths of the muscle of the uterus (womb). They are sometimes called myomas, fibromyomas or leiomyomas, but most people call them fibroids. Fibroids are common - around 20% of women get them.
Fibroids are most common in women in their 40s and 50s, towards the end of the reproductive years. They are more common in women of Afro-Caribbean origin, who also tend to be affected at a younger age. Fibroids are more likely to be found in women who have had no children or who only have one child. Obesity (being very overweight) is also associated with an increased risk of developing fibroids. They do not appear to run in families.
The number of couples in their late 30s and 40s attempting pregnancy is increasing. Currently 25% of patients at Barbados Fertility Centre are aged 40 or over. It is common to delay starting a family for a number of reasons: second relationships, career and educational demands, desire for financial stability, waiting for a stable relationship, however it is important to understand that fertility in women declines with age, particularly in the late 30s and 40s. This is a normal part of the ageing process.
As women become older, the chance of becoming pregnant is lower, the chance of having a miscarriage is higher and there is an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities in the baby. In the general population, the chance of becoming pregnant after the age of 40 is estimated to be only 5% per cycle compared to about 25% per cycle in the under 40 age groups. One-third of couples where the woman is over 35 may have fertility problems. Treatments such as IVF cannot reverse the effects of age on fertility.
For more information on female infertility, complete this form to download our official Fertility Guide.