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Infertility means not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying (or six months if a woman is 35 or older). Somw women get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant. They are also considered to be infertile.
Pregnancy is the result of a process that has many steps. Infertility can happen if there are problems with any of these steps listed below. To get pregnant:
- A woman's body must release an egg from one of her ovaries(ovulation).
- The egg must go through a fallopian tube toward the uterus (womb).
- A man's sperm must join with (fertilize) the egg along the way.
- The fertilized egg must attach to the inside of the uterus (implantation).
Most cases of female infertility are caused by problems with ovulation. There are no eggs to be fertilized, without ovulation. Irregular or absent menstrual periods are signs that a woman is not ovulating normally.
Ovulation problems are often caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormone imbalance problem which can interfere with normal ovulation and is the most common cause of female infertility.
Less common causes of fertility problems in women include:
- Blocked fallopian tubes due to pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, or surgery for an ectopic pregnancy
- Physical problems with the uterus
- Uterine fibroids, which are non-cancerous clumps of tissue and muscle on the walls of the uterus.
Many things can change a woman's ability to have a baby. These include:
- Excess alcohol use
- Poor diet
- Athletic training
- Being overweight or underweight
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Health problems that cause hormonal changes, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and primary ovarian insufficiency