Female Factor

For a woman, some fertility issues may be related to her eggs. This can be about the quality of the eggs or about how often they are released (ovulation).

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

One common female fertility problem is polycystic ovary syndrome known as PCOS. This can affect the way a woman’s ovaries work, and it is thought to affect around one in five women in the UK. Some will have symptoms which suggest they may have PCOS, such as irregular or absent periods and skin problems such as acne and unwanted hair growth. Symptoms can vary from person to person.  Being overweight is a common association and tends to make things harder to treat.

Endometriosis

Another common condition which can affect female fertility is endometriosis. This happens when tissue which is like the lining of the womb (endometrium) is found outside of the womb in the pelvis where it can cause inflammation, scarring and also cysts to grow on the ovaries.. Endometriosis can cause  pain and heavy periods, but it affects women differently and some may have more severe symptoms than others.

Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) or premature menopause

Although the average age for women to go through the menopause, when they stop producing eggs, is about 51, this can happen much earlier. It can happen when a woman is still in her teens, twenties or thirties and this is known as premature ovarian insufficiency or POI. There aren’t any treatments and you may need to consider hormone replacement therapy and, if you want to get pregnant, egg donation.

Age

Your chances of getting pregnant are reduced as you get older. Although fertility declines for both men and women as they age, this happens much more sharply for women. Women not only have fewer eggs as they get older, the quality of the remaining eggs also declines.

Fibroids

As many as one in three women will develop fibroids, which are non-cancerous growths that can grow in or around the womb. Although many women with fibroids get pregnant without problems, they can have an impact on fertility and may also be associated with having heavy and painful periods.

Tubal problems

The fallopian tubes pick up the egg from the ovary after ovulation and the sperm travel to meet the egg and fertilise it in the tube. The fertilised egg (embryo) then travels through the tube to the womb where it should implant and grow into a pregnancy.  If the tubes are scarred or blocked, this affects your fertility and can also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy (when the pregnancy gets stuck in the tube rather than making it to the womb).Tubal damage is often caused by an infection called pelvic inflammatory disease. It doesn’t always have any symptoms and it can be caused by bacteria, and is a common complication of sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia.

Physical problems

In some cases, there may be physical problems with the womb which prevent pregnancy. There are a range of different problems in the way the womb develops which can affect fertility. Sometimes there can be scarring inside the womb which affects the lining and the chance of conception – this is known as Asherman’s syndrome.

 

Information from Fertility Network UK on Asherman’s syndrome

Information from British Fibroid Trust on Asherman’s syndrome

Information about Mayer Rokitansky Küster Hauser syndrome (MRKH) which is a condition where women are born without a vagina, cervix and womb. It affects about one in every 5,000 women. Women with this condition usually have normally functioning ovaries. The only way to have a baby would be with IVF and surrogacy.

Unexplained Infertility

Sometimes despite tests and investigations, doctors will not be able to work out why a couple is having difficulties getting pregnant. This is known as unexplained infertility and it is surprisingly common, affecting up to a quarter of couples with fertility problems. Sometimes problems come to light after time as treatments such as IVF may help to reveal where the problem lies.