Common Causes of Infertility in Women

Premature Ovarian Failure
Premature ovarian failure, also known as primary ovarian insufficiency, is another relatively common reason a woman may not ovulate. Normally, the ovaries will stop producing eggs and hormones as a woman ages. It's a natural part of life, and we call it menopause. However, in women with premature ovarian failure, the ovaries stop working as they normally should before a woman reaches the age of 40.
Women with premature ovarian failure may not completely stop ovulating. But, if their ovaries do continue to release an egg, they only do so sporadically. Certain genetic conditions, exposure to radiation or chemotherapy treatment, or autoimmune conditions can cause premature ovarian failure. However, the majority of the time, an underlying cause cannot be found, despite a thorough workup and evaluation.
Unfortunately, premature ovarian failure doesn't respond to medicines that trigger ovulation. Women with the condition who still ovulate periodically may be able to become pregnant. But, this only happens in about 5 percent to 10 percent of women. Other possibilities include adoption or in vitro fertilization with donor eggs.
If you have premature ovarian failure, your healthcare provider may recommend you take estrogen. This is because your ovaries are no longer producing enough estrogen to keep your bones healthy. Estrogen therapy can help reduce your risk for osteoporosis. It may also relieve other symptoms, such as hot flashes
Other Causes of Abnormal Ovulation
Other things that might cause ovulation problems include:
  • Excessive exercise
  • Being underweight
  • Tumors or cysts
  • Problems with the thyroid gland
  • Problems with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland
  • Certain genetic conditions
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Stress.
Because there are several reasons a woman may not be ovulating normally, your healthcare provider will first try to determine the underlying cause. In some cases, an exact reason can't be found. The good news is that there are fertility drugs for women that can help stimulate ovulation for many women who don't ovulate normally.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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