Understanding Female Infertility

When couples are unable to conceive a child after several months of trying, a specialist doctor generally gives a diagnosis of infertility. We may have a layman’s understanding of infertility but what are the different physical problems that cause female infertility?

An investigation into the cause of your infertility will be undertaken by your doctor and subject to those tests, you will most likely find that it will be because of one of the following physical problems.

Ovulatory Disorders

An ovulatory disorder is diagnosed when a woman either fails to ovulate or has irregular periods. This is the most common type of infertility and the course of treatment will depend on the cause of the disorder.

Uterine Factors

As the name suggests, if there is a problem with your uterus you will have a problem with your fertility.  Problems such as uterine fibroids, uterine didelphys (when you are born with a uterus made up of two parts with a wall dividing them), complete lack of uterus or scar tissue in the uterus affect your ability to fall pregnant. Once again, depending on what the cause of the uterine problem is will determine the treatment given by your doctor.


Endometriosis is a common problem amongst women. Endometriosis is a condition whereby tissue that acts like the cells found in the lining of your uterus grows in other parts of your body. This is normally localised in the pelvic area but can be found in other parts of the body. Endometriosis causes pain, irregular bleeding and sometimes infertility and is treated with surgery. Endometriosis causes scarring and adhesions that cause blockages and prevents the egg from being fertilised or prevents the fertilised egg from travelling through the fallopian tubes. The risk of ectopic pregnancy is therefore quite high in women with endometriosis.

Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)

POF is probably the worst diagnosis for infertile women. If you are under the age of 40 and have been diagnosed with POF it means that you are no longer menstruating and this will mean that you are not ovulating. The causes of POF are varied but include; ovaries that have become resistant to natural hormones in your body, chromosomal defects affecting your ovaries, pelvic surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The treatment of POF can be difficult and your doctor will recommend a treatment that is suited to your specific case.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is one of the most under diagnosed forms of infertility yet it is considered one of the main causes of infertility in women. The symptoms of PCOS include acne, weight gain, irregular or absent periods, failure to ovulate and infertility. It is ironic that it is only when a woman fails to fall pregnant is she diagnosed with having PCOS, as less than 25% of women who suffer from PCOS are actually diagnosed. PCOS is easily treated though using hormones.

Luteal Phase Defect (LPD)

LPD is a condition associated with your body’s natural hormone progesterone. There are two reasons why women with LPD cannot conceive. Either their ovaries do not secrete enough progesterone or the endometrium does not respond to the progesterone stimulation which results in the endometrium not being ready for pregnancy. This can cause miscarriages or failure to conceive. If you have LPD you will most likely be treated with hormones to help the endometrium develop correctly.

Unexplained Infertility

It is an awful feeling being told that you are the one in five couples who have infertility which is unexplained. It is a frustrating diagnosis as by this stage you most likely have been through the mill in terms of tests. It needs to be understood that it doesn’t mean that there is no reason for your infertility, it merely means that the tests available to doctors today are unable to point to the cause of the infertility. Treatment for unexplained infertility will be done on a case-by-case basis by the doctor.


 – Candice Shelley


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