Infertility in women is a disorder of the reproductive system that prevents the body’s ability to ovulate and conceive. Recurrent pregnancy loss is often considered a type of infertility. A heterosexual couple is considered infertile when they have not conceived after a full year of regular sexual intercourse without using contraception. Couple infertility may be due to male factors, female factors, or a combination of both.
A successful pregnancy involves many steps. First, a healthy egg must be released from a woman’s ovaries and travel to the fallopian tube. There, a man’s sperm fertilizes it. If fertilization occurs, the fertilized egg then moves down the fallopian tube to the uterus. The embryo secures itself to the uterine wall. This begins the 38-40 week journey from embryo to fetus to baby. Problems can occur at anytime during this process.
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Infertility affects an estimated 10% of women aged 15-44 in the United States. Age-related ability to have a successful pregnancy is well documented. Success rates begin to decline at age 35 and are severely reduced by age 40 in women.
Common causes of infertility in women include:
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Infertility fact sheet. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/infertility.html. Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed December 16, 2015.
Infertility in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116334/Infertility-in-women. Updated July 12, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Overview of infertility. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/infertility/overview-of-infertility. August 2015. Accessed December 16, 2015.
Treating infertility. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Treating-Infertility. Updated March 2015. Accessed December 16, 2015.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Andrea Chisholm, MD Last Updated: 12/20/2014