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Common Causes of Infertility in Women

Problems With the Uterus or Cervix

The uterus, or womb, is where the fertilized egg implants and develops into a fetus. The fetus continues to grow in the uterus until birth. The cervix lies at the lower end of the uterus, where it connects the uterus to the vagina. The cervix makes mucus that helps protect and propel the sperm traveling toward the uterus. 
Any problem with the cervix, cervical mucus, or uterus could affect fertility. Such problems may include:
  • Uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous growths on the wall of the uterus
  • Birth defects that caused the uterus or cervix to be abnormal 
  • Scar tissue on the uterus caused by surgery or infection
  • Problems with the cervix caused by surgery or infection.
Problems with the uterus or cervix are not common causes of infertility.

Unexplained Infertility

About 15 percent to 30 percent of couples will have unexplained infertility, which means an underlying cause cannot be found. Unexplained fertility is frustrating for couples, especially after spending time, energy, and money on a complete fertility workup. The benefit of knowing the cause of infertility is that you now have the "why" and can start focusing on how to best improve your chances of becoming pregnant. When your infertility is unexplained, however, you're left with many unanswered questions.
You might be wondering what to do next. Or, you may think that with more testing, a cause will be found. Keep in mind that a diagnosis of unexplained fertility is really a reflection of the limitations of modern medicine. Of course there's a reason you aren't conceiving; science just isn't advanced enough to find it yet.
It may help you to know that just because your infertility is unexplained, it doesn't necessarily mean it is untreatable. There are several valid treatments for unexplained infertility. In fact, many couples with unexplained fertility go on to become pregnant.
Lifestyle factors like cigarette smoking and heavy caffeine or alcohol use are known to influence fertility. There is also a link between body weight and fertility. So, don't be surprised if your healthcare provider recommends lifestyle changes before trying other treatments.
If lifestyle changes aren't successful, or aren't likely to work in the first place, your healthcare provider may recommend other options. These may include medicines to induce ovulation combined with intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization. 
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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