Infertility in women can be linked to a number of factors. Due to women generally waiting later in life to have children, advanced maternal age has recently become one of the most common.
Age plays a big role because females are born with a fixed number of eggs in their ovaries. These eggs are continually lost through menstruation until the woman reaches menopause.
This reduction of the ovarian pool (also known as ovarian reserve) makes it more difficult for women to become pregnant. Studies indicate the probability of pregnancy decreasing from 55 percent for women younger than 30 years of age, to 40 percent for women between the ages of 31 and 35, to less than 10 percent for women aged 35 and older.
Additionally the risk of miscarriage increases with age. Women in their 30s or older who have not been able to conceive for six months should seek a fertility evaluation – as should their male partners. Time is of the essence: A woman’s chances of having a baby decrease rapidly every year after age 30.
If you are younger than 30, you shouldn’t worry too much about infertility unless you’ve been trying to get pregnant for at least a year. If this is the case, you and your male partner should ask your doctor about getting a fertility evaluation.
Ovulatory & tubal disorders
While age-related factors are an increasing barrier to female fertility, ovulatory disorders play a significant role as well, accounting for 25 percent of infertility cases. Common symptoms include excessive weight fluctuation and extreme emotional stress. Even women who have regular menses might have an ovulatory problem since pregnancy is the only proof that a normal ovulation has occurred.
An even more frequent problem is a disorder of the fallopian tubes, an intricate and fragile part of the reproductive system. If the tubes become blocked, sperm cannot fertilize the egg and the embryo cannot settle in the uterus.
Tubal problems are responsible for 35 percent of infertility cases. blocked fallopian tubes due to pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, or surgery for an ectopic pregnancy.
Health & lifestyle influences
In addition to age and specific reproductive functions, overall health can greatly affect a woman’s fertility. For example, some evidence suggests that smoking may contribute to infertility.
In one study, fertility among heavy smokers–defined as people who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day–was 57 percent of that of nonsmokers. Additional evidence indicates that the function of the fallopian tubes may be impaired in smokers.
Other causes of fertility problems in women include:
- uterine problems such as fibroids
- hormonal changes
- sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- alcohol use
- athletic training
- being overweight or underweight