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.
If you're worried about infertility, you're not alone. For some women, getting pregnant isn't easy - but that doesn't mean it's impossible. At Generations Fertility Care, we've helped hundreds of women overcome fertility problems and fulfill their desire to become mothers.
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?
Up to 15 percent of couples experience infertility, or the inability to conceive a child. Among these couples, about 40 percent cannot conceive due to a problem with only the woman's fertility, while about one-third of the time both male and female fertility factors are involved.
If you and your partner have tried to get pregnant for more than a year - or if you are a woman over 35 who has tried for more than six months - you may want to consider seeing a doctor for fertility testing.
We may also recommend infertility testing if you've been able to get pregnant, but have had more than one miscarriage.
Causes of Female 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.
Female Infertility Risk Factors
Certain risk factors are linked to female infertility. These include:
- Excessive alcohol use
- Drug abuse
- 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 persevering fertility before going through cancer treatment.
Lifestyle changes may help decrease your risk of infertility. Learn more about lifestyle changes that can help boost fertility
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
If you're struggling with infertility, it's natural to feel sad or worried. But it's okay to feel hopeful, too. At Generations Fertility Care, our sole mission is to help people address their fertility challenges. Together we'll determine which treatment options are right for you.
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 [link to Uterine Fibroids page].
- 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.
If you have questions about infertility or are ready to schedule an initial appointment with one of our fertility specialists, please call (608) 824-6160 or complete our online form.