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June 24, 2019  
EDUCATION CENTER: Clinical Overview

Clinical Overview
Diagnosis and Treatment Explore More

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  • Infertility in Women

    Clinical Overview
    Infertility is defined as the inability of a man and a woman to conceive a child after 12 months of attempting, or 6 months if the woman is over 35.

    Forty percent of cases have causes related to the woman, forty percent have causes related to the man, ten percent are caused by problems with both the man and the woman, and in ten percent of cases the cause cannot be identified.

    Infertility is not an uncommon phenomenon. Fourteen percent of couples trying to conceive will experience fertility at some point. It is becoming more common as more older women try to conceive. At age 25, a woman has a 75 percent chance of getting pregnant within 6 months; by age 40 that number drops to 22 percent.

    Luckily, infertility treatments have growing success rates. Without treatment, five percent of couples that have been infertile for one year will be able to conceive. With treatment, 65 percent of infertile couples eventually succeed in having kids, 50 percent within two years.

    Trying to conceive can be an emotional roller coaster. Don’t be afraid to seek help from friends or others who have had the same experience. There are several easy-to-find Web sites exclusively about infertility.

    Infertility has a variety of causes. For more information, click on the bolded name of the cause to go to Medtech1’s listing on that condition:

    Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is a sexually transmitted infection that is a major cause of infertility worldwide. PID affects one million women every year in the United States, and it causes infertility in 20 percent. PID can be a complication of gonorrhea.

    Complications from sexually transmitted infections: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs or STDs), if left untreated, can cause infections like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease that lead to infertility. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are two of the most common.

    Endometriosis: The endometrium is the tissue lining the uterus. In approximately five million North American women, it grows in patches outside the uterus. This can cause cysts or scar tissue to form, and it can block the fallopian tubes. Thirty to forty percent of cases of endometriosis result in infertility. However, only 6 percent of infertility cases with biological causes are caused by endometriosis.

    Hormonal and ovulatory problems: Hormonal and ovulatory problems combined cause 33 percent of infertility cases. These problems might be characterized by painful or irregular cycles, excess body or facial hair, severe acne, or secretion from breasts. However, there may be no symptoms. It is even possible to have regular periods without actually ovulating.

    Often, hormonal and ovulatory problems are caused by environment and lifestyle. Use or abuse of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine; depression; and extreme weight levels, either high or low, can all contribute to infertility. One study found that drinking one cup of coffee a day increases your risk of infertility by 55 percent. Two to three cups of coffee a day increases your risk of infertility by 100 percent, and doubles the risk of miscarriage. Exposure to chemicals at work also increases risk of infertility and miscarriage. Some of the chemicals that have shown to affect fertility are xylene, acetone, trichlorethylene, petroleum distillates and solder vapors.

    These elements of environment and lifestyle can cause a follicle to fail to rupture; they can lead to empty follicles; they could prevent the egg from being released. Even small hormone changes can cause problems.

    Other factors that can cause hormonal problems include problems in the adrenal and thyroid glands; and a high level of prolactin, which may indicate a pituitary tumor. A luteal phase defect is another possible problem—it occurs when the endometrium (uterine lining) hasn’t developed right because of lack of the hormone progesterone.

    Polycystic ovaries: Polycystic ovaries are different from ovarian cysts, which rarely cause infertility. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormonal problem that accounts for 50 percent of all hormonally-caused cases of infertility.

    Last updated: Feb-23-07


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