Understanding female infertility
Deciding to have a baby may be one of the most significant choices you'll make during your lifetime. Many couples start their journey feeling excited, eagerly anticipating a positive pregnancy test. But if you've been unable to get pregnant, you may feel like you've been on an emotional rollercoaster. Your early enthusiasm may be dampened by stress and anxiety.
Whatever the source of your challenges to becoming pregnant, we'll make sure you get the expert care and emotional support you need. Our team includes providers who specialize in female reproductive disorders, minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, assisted reproductive technology and clinical psychology.
What is infertility?
A woman might have trouble getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term for many reasons. You may have a medical condition that you're not even aware of. Your body may not ovulate (release eggs) properly. Or one of your reproductive organs could have a structural problem, such as a blockage that prevents sperm from reaching your egg.
Examples of medical conditions that can impact female fertility include:
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition that causes hormone imbalances in women. It results in enlarged ovaries, cysts on the ovaries, and problems menstruating and ovulating. PCOS is one of the leading causes of female infertility.
Endometriosis, a common disorder characterized by painful periods and general pelvic pain.
Uterine fibroids, or growths that develop within or on the outer surface of your uterus.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection usually caused by a sexually transmitted disease. PID can cause scarring in your reproductive organs.
Thyroid disease, including hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. These disorders cause imbalance of the thyroid hormone, which can affect ovulation.
Other causes of female infertility include:
Ovulation issues. You are born with all the eggs you will ever have. As you age, the quantity and quality of your eggs declines. Along with aging, other factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking can damage your eggs and lead to a diminished ovarian reserve.
Structural problems, such as blocked fallopian tubes or a misshaped uterus.
Natural aging. As you get older, your ovaries and eggs age with you. Most women experience an accelerated decline in fertility around age 35.
Sometimes women are found to be infertile with no known cause. This is called unexplained infertility. Even if we're unable to identify the cause of your fertility challenges, we may be able to recommend a treatment option that will improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Risk factors for female infertility
Certain risk factors are linked to female infertility. These include:
Excessive alcohol use
Being significantly underweight
Having a history of irregular periods
Having had a sexually transmitted disease, such as chlamydia
Having had chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer. Learn more about fertility preservation
Lifestyle changes may help decrease your risk of infertility.
Our reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialists combine state-of-the art technology and compassionate, personalized care to assist couples who wish to become parents.
Diagnosis and treatments
Determining the options right for you
Testing for female infertility
The first step if you are concerned that you have a fertility problem is a thorough evaluation.
Your evaluation will include some of the following tests and procedures:
A comprehensive health history. This will help us learn more about your medical history, sexual history, lifestyle choices and whether you have a history of ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.
Blood tests to check your hormone levels
Genetic testing to see if you have an inherited medical condition that can impact fertility
Ultrasound imaging to take pictures of your internal reproductive organs
Flexible office hysteroscopy, a minimally invasive, office-based procedure that allows your doctor to examine the inside of your uterus
Hysterosalpingogram (HSG), a special imaging test used to see whether your fallopian tubes are open or blocked
Laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure that allows your doctor to examine your reproductive organs for evidence of endometriosis, blockages or other problems that can cause infertility.
Female infertility treatments
We offer the full spectrum of medical, surgical and assisted reproductive treatments for female infertility. These include:
Fertility medications. Also known as ovulation induction medications, fertility drugs such as clomid help stimulate the hormones responsible for ovulation. Laparoscopic robot-assisted myomectomy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure to remove uterine fibroids.
Laparoscopic excision, a highly effective surgical treatment for endometriosis. We are one of the few health care providers in Wisconsin offering laparoscopic excision, a highly effective treatment for endometriosis.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI), also known as artificial insemination, a procedure that allows your doctor to place sperm directly inside your uterus.
In vitro fertilization (IVF), a procedure where egg and sperm are combined outside of your body and the fertilized egg transferred to your uterus. We also offer a few supplemental procedures that may help make your IVF more successful.
Throughout your treatment journey, you and your partner will also have access to our licensed psychologist. Dr. Julianne Zweifel has extensive experience working with couples facing infertility. She can provide valuable coping strategies and other types of emotional support.
UW Health's reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialists with Generations Fertility Care bring their expertise together with leading edge technology and compassionate, personalized care to assist couples who wish to become parents.