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Female infertility

Women face common infertility problems because of the following:

Tubal blockage

An egg travels along your fallopian tubes from the ovary to the womb and is fertilised. It is implanted into the womb’s lining where it continues to grow. If the womb or the fallopian tubes are damaged, or stop working, it may be difficult to conceive naturally. This can occur following several factors. Some blockages can be treated by micro-surgical techniques, but in other cases, pregnancy can only be achieved with in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) – see below for details.

Endometriosis

With endometriosis, the womb’s lining (endometrium) starts growing in other places, such as your ovaries. During menstruation, bleeding occurs from this tissue, which can cause abdominal pain and painful intercourse. Infertility results because the new growths form adhesions (sticky areas of tissue) or cysts (fluid-filled sacs) that can block or distort the pelvis. These make it difficult for an egg to be released and become implanted into the womb. Endometriosis can also disturb the way that a follicle (fluid-filled space in which an egg develops) matures and releases an egg.

Ovulatory problems

These are the most common cause of female infertility and happen because of hormonal imbalance. This may be from within the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, or in the ovaries. Common causes of this include stress, weight loss or gain, polycystic ovarian disease and an increased amount of prolactin production (hormone that creates milk production in the breasts).Polycystic ovaries.

Women with polycystic ovaries (PCO) have an increased number of small cysts under the surface of the ovary, as seen on an ultrasound. Many of the 20% of women who have PCO will have normal cycles and no problems conceiving.

However, some women with a polycystic ovarian syndrome known as PCOS may have difficulty conceiving because they are not ovulating regularly. They have a hormone imbalance and irregular or absent periods.

Treatment includes using medication to correct the hormone imbalance and to stimulate ovulation, or weight loss if the woman is overweight. Laparoscopic ovarian drilling – where tiny holes are made on the surface of the ovaries using diathermy or laser, may be performed before an IVF treatment cycle is started.

Age or thyroid problems

Other factors which can limit a woman’s chance of conceiving include age, problems with an under or overactive thyroid and side effects from some medication.

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