The Three Most Common Causes for Infertility that Affect Women

by Carter Toni


At least 1 in 10 women will experience infertility issues at some point in her life. Infertility is the inability to conceive and give birth to a child after one year of trying. The probability of a woman having fertility problems vs. a man having fertility problems in a heterosexual couple is about the same, though there are many more reasons why a woman would be experiencing these issues. Women who are at most risk for experiencing infertility are over the age of 35, are extremely overweight/underweight, have an autoimmune disorder, have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or have a disorder affecting the reproductive organs.

#1: Problems with the Ovaries

Women are most likely to get pregnant during the ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle, which is at the middle of the (on average) 28-day cycle, from about days 14-16. However, many women have an abnormal menstrual cycle which can affect their ability to conceive. This can be caused by several health issues.


PCOS is polycystic ovary syndrome, and it’s a common hormonal disorder in which women don’t ovulate on a regular basis as they should, or at all. This hormonal imbalance is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. Even though the imbalance of hormones is what is causing the irregular ovulation, the cause for this imbalance is unknown. The good news is that while this is the most common cause for women’s infertility, it is also treatable, and women with this condition can still conceive. Symptoms of PCOS include:

  • An irregular menstrual cycle
  • Weight gain/difficulty losing weight
  • Hirsutism (hair growth on the face, chin, or chest)
  • Hair loss/thinning hair on head

Ovarian Cancer

Treatments for ovarian cancer may cause infertility, but not necessarily the cancer itself. Ovarian cancer is worth mentioning because unfortunately, many women aren’t diagnosed until stage 3. Some ovarian cancers are linked to mutations that cause breast cancer (BRCA1 and BRCA2), so women with a family history of breast cancer are more likely to develop ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer has also developed in women who have used baby powder that contains talcum. The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • Abdominal/back/pelvic pain
  • Appetite loss/full feeling when eating
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent/urgent urination
  • Heartburn
  • Menstrual changes
  • Upset stomach

#2: Problems with the Uterus


Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that grow around the wall of the uterus. These tumors are made up of tissue and muscle from the uterus, and they can either be in a group or a single fibroid. The cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, and many women show no symptoms. Those that do have symptoms typically have:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Frequent urination
  • Heavy/painful/irregular periods
  • Full feeling in the lower abdomen

#3: Problems with the Fallopian Tubes

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

PID is another common cause for infertility in women. This is when the reproductive organs become infected, mainly due to an untreated STI. PID can also cause an ectopic pregnancy, in which fertilization happens in the fallopian tubes rather than the uterus. Common symptoms of PID are:

  • Chills/fever
  • Irregular periods
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Pain during urination, sex, or in the lower abdomen


If you have any of these symptoms for an extended period of time, it’s important to check with your gynecologist to make sure these symptoms aren’t due to something else. You should also talk to your doctor if you believe that you may be at risk for infertility and you’re trying to conceive either now or some time in the future. It’s essential that you recognize these symptoms and understand what to look for, as delaying a diagnosis and treatment for some of these issues can result in permanent infertility. Anything you feel is abnormal should always be checked by a doctor.

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