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Conditions InDepth: Infertility in Women

Infertility in women is a problem with the reproductive system that stops a women from being able to get pregnant. More than one pregnancy loss is also a type of infertility. A heterosexual couple is infertile when the woman hasn't gotten pregnant after a full year of regular sex without contraception. This may be due to male factors, female factors, or both.

Pregnancy has 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 happens, the fertilized egg moves down the tube to the uterus. The embryo attaches to the uterine wall. This starts the 38 to 40 week journey from embryo to fetus to baby. Problems can happen at anytime during this process.

Female Reproductive Organs

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Infertility affects about 10% of women aged 15-44 in the United States. Success rates lower after age 35.

Common causes are:

  • Problems with ovulation—something affects the growth and release of an egg by the ovary
  • Fallopian tube blockage—present from birth or from surgery, trauma, or infection
  • Endometriosis —when tissue from the uterine lining is found outside the uterus

Evaluating infertility. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Evaluating-Infertility. Updated October 2017. Accessed December 31, 2018.

Infertility fact sheet. Office on Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/infertility.html. Updated August 30, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2018.

Infertility in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116334/Infertility-in-women. Updated November 6, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2018.

Overview of infertility. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/infertility/overview-of-infertility. Updated March 2017. Accessed December 31, 2018.

Patient history taking: major systems of the body. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at:https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated March 30, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2018.

Treating infertility. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Treating-Infertility. Updated October 2017. Accessed January 2, 2019.

Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG  Last Updated: 1/2/2019