Female Infertility

Female infertility means you are not pregnant after 1 year of regular unprotected sex with the same partner. If you are older than 35, infertility is after 6 months of regular unprotected sex with the same partner. Infertility may also mean that you keep getting pregnant but have miscarriages or stillbirths.

How is the cause of female infertility diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may ask about your period, past pregnancies, length of infertility, or sexual history. He or she will also do a physical exam. Your hormone levels will be checked through a blood test. A procedure, or X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI pictures may show a problem or infection in your reproductive organs.

How is female infertility treated?

Treatment depends on the cause:

  • Medicines may be used to cause ovulation or to release more hormones that stimulate ovulation. Some medicines change when you ovulate, especially if you do not ovulate every month. You may need medicine to lower your male hormone levels if you have insulin resistance or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
  • Intrauterine insemination is a procedure used to put sperm directly into your uterus. It may also be called artificial insemination. This procedure may be used if your partner has male factor infertility. It may also be used if the natural mucus around your cervix is too thick to let sperm pass. You may be given medicines that cause ovulation before you have this procedure.
  • Surgery may be used to find the cause of your infertility or to fix a problem preventing pregnancy. Endometrial tissues that are growing in the wrong places may be removed. Healthcare providers may also repair blockages or other problems in your fallopian tubes.
  • Assisted reproductive technology (ART) can be done in several ways. An unfertilized egg may be placed into your fallopian tube along with sperm. This allows fertilization to happen inside your body. Your eggs may be removed and fertilized by sperm outside your body. Then the fertilized eggs (embryos) are put back into your uterus or fallopian tubes. Your ability to become pregnant is increased when more than one embryo is used. Sometimes all or several of the embryos attach. You may have 2 or more babies if this happens. Your obstetrician can tell you more about this risk.

What can I do to increase my fertility?

  • Create a healthy lifestyle. Talk to your healthcare provider about a healthy weight for you. You may develop uterine fibroids or an ovulation disorder if your weight is too high or too low. Healthcare providers can help you create healthy meal and exercise plans if you need to lose or gain weight. Do not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use illegal drugs. Any of these can cause infertility. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.
  • Ask about ways to manage stress. Stress can make pregnancy more difficult. Stress can be hard to manage, especially if infertility is causing the stress. Stress can become worse the longer infertility continues. Try to find ways to help yourself relax. Examples include going for a walk, getting a massage, and talking with a friend. A regular sleep schedule can also help lower stress. Talk to your healthcare provider if you continue to have problems managing stress.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination
    P.O. Box 6836
    Arlington , VA 22206
    Phone: 1- 703 - 379-9178
    Web Address: http://www.inciid.org
  • RESOLVE The National Infertility Association
    1760 Old Meadow Rd, Ste 500
    McLean , VA 22102
    Phone: 1- 703 - 556-7172
    Web Address: www.resolve.org

When should I call my doctor or obstetrician?

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.