Infertility in Women
Infertility is not being able to become pregnant after a year of regular, unprotected sex.
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Pregnancy happens when:
- An egg is released from the ovaries
- The egg travels to the fallopian tubes where the sperm can fertilize it
- The egg is fertilized and it moves down the fallopian tubes to the uterus
- It implants itself into the wall of the uterus and starts to grow
Sometimes, the cause of infertility in women is not known. In others, it may be due to:
- Problems with ovulation, such as:
- Problems with the fallopian tubes, such as:
- Problems with the cervix or uterus, such as:
This problem is more common in women who are at risk for any of the causes listed above. Other things that may raise the risk are:
The main problem is not becoming pregnant after a year of regular, unprotected sex.
You and your partner will both need to be seen by a doctor. The doctor will ask about past health and pregnancy attempts. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may check to see if you are ovulating. This can be done with:
- Blood and urine tests to check hormone levels
- A basal body temperature reading
Images may be needed of the uterus and fallopian tubes. This can be done with:
- Hysterosalpingography (HSG)
- Transvaginal ultrasound
Surgery may be needed to view the area. This can be done with laparoscopy.
Any underlying causes will need to be treated. The goal of treatment is to improve the chances of pregnancy. Steps may include:
- Lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight, not drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco, and lowering stress
- Medicines to promote ovulation
Assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as:
- Artificial insemination—semen is collected in a lab and placed into the cervix or uterus
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) —the egg and sperm are joined in a lab, allowed to fertilize, and then placed in the uterus
Women who are not helped by these methods may need surgery. It may be done to open blocked tubes, repair problems with organs, or to remove:
- Scar tissue
The cause of infertility is not always known. This means prevention steps cannot be found. Those with health issues like cancer should talk to their doctors about future fertility choices.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Society for Reproductive Medicine
Sex and U—The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Evaluating infertility. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/store/products/patient-education/pamphlets/gynecologic-problems/evaluating-infertility. Accessed February 24, 2021.
Infertility in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/infertility-in-women. Accessed February 24, 2021.
Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Diagnostic evaluation of the infertile female: a committee opinion. Fertil Steril 2015 Jun;103(6):e44-50
Last reviewed February 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG Last Updated: 02/24/2021