Infertility in women: causes and symptoms

Infertility in women (female infertility) is the impossibility of conceiving during the year of regular penetrations, viable and active sperm, by natural or artificial means, into the genital organs of a woman of sexual age. Infertility is also diagnosed if the pregnancy always ends in miscarriages. Up to 20% of couples are barren.

What is infertility?

Infertility in women: causes and symptomsInfertility in women should not be confused with not carrying a pregnancy when a mature oocyte is successfully fertilized by a sperm cell, but the pregnancy ends, at the stage of embryogenesis, by miscarriage or abortion.

A woman is not considered sterile if her partner is found to be unviable, weak spermatozoa by laboratory methods, or they are completely absent.

The problem is now much more serious than it was before, a few centuries ago. The sexual revolution bears a serious responsibility, if only because it spreads infectious diseases. And young people increasingly do not want children to be born, the postponement of pregnancy is growing more and more. If you take all infertile couples for 100%, then 33.3% have infertile men, still, 33.3% have infertile women, and the remaining couples have both partners.

Causes of infertility can be defects in the development of the reproductive system, dysfunction of the genitals, severe intoxication and common diseases of the body, as well as mental and neurological disorders. Infertility does not belong to the group of independent diseases, it always appears as a result of various diseases of the body. The main cause of female infertility is inflammatory diseases.

Physiology of monthly cycles

Infertility can be at disturbed and normal monthly cycles. The natural monthly cycle of a woman, lasts 21-35 days, consists of three consecutive phases.

1. Follicular phase – the maturation of the egg (at least 7 and no more than 22 days)

2. The ovulatory phase of maturation and release of the mature oocyte, the onset of the fertile period.

3. Luteal – a phase of a yellow body, a catabolism (from 13 to 15 days).

A few days before and after ovulation is called the fertile period (phase) – this is the time most likely to conceive. Up to this point and after pregnancy cannot come! However, we must understand that in different women this phase occurs in different periods of menstruation. If the cycle is not resolved by pregnancy, the body, under the action of estrogen is preparing for the next cycle.

Infertility Classification

Infertility in women: causes and symptomsprimary – pregnancy never occurred (congenital gynecological anomalies) or (complications on the female genital organs) before or after menarche (first cycle);

secondary, after the first successful pregnancy, the impossibility of re-fertilization, can be absolute (incurable) or relative (curable).

In some sources, devoted to studies of the physiology and pathophysiology of the female genital sphere, the concept is complemented by the following types of infertility.

  • Physiological. The standard is infertility of an early age (before puberty), and post-menopausal infertility (after menopause ).
  • Voluntary. Otherwise called deliberately selected infertility – the use of (medication) drugs or physical (spiral, other) means.
  • Temporary. Maybe the result of prolonged stress, weakening of the body after or during the period of the disease, some authors refer to temporary infertility lactational amenorrhea – inhibition of ovulation in the early period of regular breastfeeding.
  • Constant. The removal of the female genital organs, in whole or in part, is the result of surgery.

Signs and symptoms of infertility in women

An important sign indicating infertility in a woman is the impossibility of becoming pregnant, for a year or more, if there are favorable conditions for conception, namely:

  • regular sex
  • sexual partner with a good semen
  • complete, long-term abandonment of contraception
  • age of women from 20 to 45 years.

Infertility has no pathognomonic (leading) trait, often asymptomatic, or has indirect symptoms. Signs of infertility set in the collection of history, examination, physical, laboratory, instrumental studies.

Anamnesis. Establish clear symptoms associated with the violation of regular cycles: long, short, painful, abundant, with extraneous secretions. Infertility can be assumed on the basis of the establishment of indirect symptoms, characteristic of infectious, non-infectious and surgical diseases.

Physical examination

With physical examinations in the clinic, possible signs of infertility are:

  • body mass index is less than or greater than 20-26
  • the condition of the skin and derivatives with signs of endocrine disorders
  • poor development of the mammary glands
  • signs of pain, induration in the projection of the female pelvic organs, with bimanual gynecological palpation
  • signs of gynecological diseases detected by examination of the cervix, with the help of a vaginal speculum, colposcopy.

Laboratory and instrumental methods

Signs, possibly indicating infertility, are established in the process of laboratory and instrumental studies, with:

  • infectious screening for STIs
  • hormonal screening to rule out endocrine sterility
  • Ultrasound of the female small pelvis, thyroid gland –hormonal infertility
  • hysterosalpingography (HSG) – X-ray exclusion of the symptoms of obstruction of the fallopian tubes
  • MRI of tumors of the brain, inhibiting the production of hormones – monthly cycle regulators
  • spiral computed tomography (CT) of the pelvic organs – the anatomical causes of infertility
  • laparoscopy (visual examination of the abdominal cavity organs) – adhesions, uterine tumors, retention ovarian cysts
  • hysteroscopy (examination of the walls of the uterus) – tumors of the uterus, inflammation, ulceration of the walls of the uterus.

Causes of Infertility in Women

Infertility of women – due to many private causes (factors). The reasons are not always obvious. In some cases, they can not be diagnosed or combined with each other, increase the negative effect on the female body.

If you summarize the known causes (factors) of infertility, there are several large groups – the causes of infertility:

  • Congenital malformations of childbearing organs.
  • Acquired, caused in the reproductive organs:
  • anatomical and morphological changes
  • functional impairment
  • metabolic imbalance.

The above describes the majority of particular (specific) causes of female infertility. It is noticed that in women after 35 years, especially those who have not given birth earlier, the risk of infertility increases.

  • There are two general causes of fertility decline that are not related to gynecological diseases previously transferred:
  • age delay of physiological processes
  • long-term use of contraceptives.

Infertility from contraceptive

In the literature, there are opposing views about the use of hormonal contraceptives. Supporters argue that contraceptive is beneficial in connection with the “rebound effect” after discontinuation of hormonal contraceptives That is, the abolition of factors inhibiting the process of fertilization, stimulates a sharp release of estrogen, increases the likelihood of becoming pregnant. In some cases, this is what happens.

On the other hand, there are cases of the temporary or permanent decrease in fertilization (fertilization) after prolonged use of contraceptives. Obviously, the truth is in the middle. The negative impact of hormonal drugs should be avoided, based on the advice of a gynecologist, when planning a personal (married) life. Perhaps a combination of different methods of contraception, and then they will not be one of the causes of infertility.

Causes of secondary infertility in women

For help determining the causes of infertility are women who have previously successfully given birth. The impossibility of re-becoming pregnant for a long time is called secondary female infertility. If you do not take into account the voluntary rejection of conception and the age factor, the most obvious causes of secondary infertility are previous diseases, including gynecological infectious or non-infectious etiopathogenesis.

Infertility factors

Infertility almost always has many causes (factors). As a result of research and clinical observations, it was found that the factors of infertility are structured (grouped) on the basis of a combination of homogeneous features, according to:

  • anatomical localization of the pathogenesis of infertility diseases
  • the nature of the pathophysiological processes in the body (endocrine disorders, the phenomenon of immunological rejection of germ cells)
  • genetic abnormalities that prevent fertilization
  • features of the psychosomatic state of women of fertile age in different conditions of life
  • the influence of male infertility factor

Cervical infertility factor

For successful fertilization, at least 10 million active spermatozoa must enter the uterus of the woman. The environment of the vagina of a healthy woman is a barrier for any foreign agents to the female body, including sperm. When vaginitis causes the death of sperm in the vagina associated with pathological processes. The normal environment is not an absolute barrier to sperm, the active cells move into the cervix covered with mucus. The mucus on the walls of the cervix is produced by epithelial cells.

The ability of sperm to penetrate cervical mucus depends on:

  • sperm activity and motility;
  • physicochemical characteristics of cervical mucus.

In pathologies, mucus properties change, becoming an insurmountable barrier, even for active spermatozoa. The impossibility of the male germ cells to overcome the cervix is called the cervical factor of infertility.

  • The cervical factor of infertility (change in the viscosity of mucus, other properties) can be the result of:
  • hormonal disruption of the production of female sex hormones;
  • inflammatory processes in the cervix;
  • impaired microflora on the mucus of the cervix.

Tube infertility factor

The fallopian egg transports the ovary from the ovary to the uterus. The mucous membrane of the fallopian tubes is lined with ciliated epithelium.

The movement of the egg occurs as a result of:

  • peristaltic movements of pipe walls;
  • the flicker of cilia epithelium, creating a flow of tubular fluid

Damage to the cilia provokes the pathological fixation of the egg in the tube, creates a risk of ectopic pregnancy. The greatest negative impact is associated with complete or partial obstruction of the tubes for a mature egg – this is a tubal factor of infertility.

Obstruction (obstruction) of the fallopian tubes may be:

  • in the area of the funnel – the distal (distant) section of the fallopian tubes
  • in the area of the fallopian tube (proximal or near) department of the fallopian tubes
  • throughout (obstruction of the funnel, ampoule, isthmic and uterine departments) pipes.

Diagnostic value is the establishment of types of obstruction:

  • partial
  • complete.

Obstruction of the tubes – the factor of infertility can be caused by spasm or overlap of the lumen of the tube as a result of inflammatory adhesions, tumor growth, and other reasons. Disease of the fallopian tubes, accompanied by obstruction of the tubes and accumulation of transudate (fluid) in their lumen is called hydrosalpinx.

Typical causes of hydrosalpinx are complicated inflammations:

  • fallopian tubes – salpingitis;
  • fallopian tubes and ovaries – salpingoophoritis;
  • fallopian tubes, ovaries, and ligaments – adnexitis (inflammation of the appendages).

An obstacle in the way of the egg can be accompanied by pain in the abdomen. For the diagnosis of hydrosalpinx, X-ray examination (hysterosalpingography) and/or laparoscopy (a special type of examination of the abdominal cavity) is used.

Cervical infertility factor

A through hole – a pharynx in the center of the cervix, like the airlock, connects the uterine cavity and the vagina. The function of the gateway, the throat of the cervical canal, manifests as periodic:

  • inaccessibility of the uterus, most of the time, for foreign agents, including sperm
  • accessibility of the uterus to active sperm seeking to fertilize a mature egg.

The function is provided by the mucus of the cervical canal, which, under the influence of estrogens, changes its physicochemical and rheological (viscosity) properties at different periods of the monthly cycle.

  • During the period of the greatest probability of fertilization, mucus changes its properties, for example, pH from acidic to neutral for spermatozoa – neutral and weakly alkaline and less viscous.
  • In the inactive phase of the cycle, the mucus of the pharynx protects the body of the woman against disease-causing agents.

If the cervical mucus of the cervix of the cervix, under the influence of pathological factors, is not accessible to the penetration of sperm into the fertile phase, this is the cervical factor of infertility.

Cervical mucus in the body of a healthy woman, performs the functions of:

  • protection (protection) and temporary depot (storage) of sperm in the reproductive tract
  • delays in weak sperm that cannot overcome the physical barriers of viscous cervical mucus
  • transfer of sperm activation factor, enhancement of their motor activity
  • capacity (capacity) and acrosomal reaction (penetration) of spermatozoa, i.e. The ability to penetrate the sperm into the oocyte.

External pharynx – visually inspected vaginal speculum. Internal pharynx – not available with normal exam methods.

The cervical factor of infertility is detected by colposcopy, detecting the “pupil symptom” in the throat of the cervical canal. The positive symptom of the pupil is transparent watery periovular mucus.

  • The cervical factor is detected by laboratory methods:
  • research of rheological and biochemical properties of mucus
  • postcoital test (PCT) on the interaction of sperm and mucus after some time after intercourse. Typically, the PCT determination time is 9-24 hours

Laboratory tests are conducted by experienced laboratory doctors. Research results depend on the correct time of the study.

Tubular peritoneal infertility factor

The abdominal cavity and internal organs are protected by the mesentery against contact and merging with the abdominal wall and adjacent organs. The mesentery is a serous membrane lining the inside of the abdominal cavity, divided into:

the parietal sheet of the mesentery – separates the internal organs from the abdominal wall from the inside.

the visceral sheet of the mesentery hangs all the internal organs of a person.

The abdominal cavity is filled with serous fluid, also serves as the protection of organs from mutual fusion and friction. Normally, all internal organs have some degree of spatial mobility

On the mesentery suspended fallopian tubes and uterus. Under the action of pathogenic factors, adhesions form between the fallopian tubes and the mesentery or the adjacent organ.

As a result, the fallopian tubes connected to the mesentery lose:

  • mobility;
  • adequate blood supply
  • full innervation;

As a result of adhesions in the abdominal cavity, the fallopian tubes cease to fully perform their functions. Termination of the functioning of the fallopian tubes under the influence of adhesions of the peritoneum is called the tube-peritoneal factor of infertility.

Causes of tubal peritoneal infertility factor:

  • Inflammatory diseases of the pelvic organs that have passed into the chronic stage of fibrinous inflammation (often STIs)
  • Complications after abortion, operations on the pelvic organs.

Pipe damage leads to disruption of menstrual cycles, chronic pain syndrome.

Infertility or reduced fertility of the tube-peritoneal genesis is manifested:

  • fallopian tube impaired – the tubal factor of infertility
  • adhesions in the pelvis – peritoneal infertility factor
  • a combination of tubal and peritoneal infertility

For the differential diagnosis of the tube-peritoneal factor of infertility, ultrasound, laparoscopy, and echography are performed.

The immunological factor of infertility

Normally, a woman’s immune system, when foreign proteins penetrate, in the form of seminal fluid and spermatozoa (antigens), does not react with the production of specific antibodies (ASAT). The reasons that result in the immunological rejection of sperm, have not been fully studied.

The appearance of ASAT in women is probably the result of the development of rejection reactions according to the type 2 allergic reactions. The barrier properties of the mucous membranes may be impaired as a result of a decrease in the amount of mucus on the internal surfaces of the genital organs in degenerative inflammatory processes. Currently, this pathology is treated by immune correction methods, by reducing the number of circulating antibodies, by stimulating reparative (regenerative) processes on the mucous membranes of the birth canal.

Another immunological pathology is the factor of infertility, the production of anti-ovarian antibodies (AOA) by the female body on its own eggs. The reasons for the appearance of immune complexes that destroy their own immune defenses are complex and are within the competence of immunologists. Like all autoimmune diseases, the early stages of pathogenesis are treatable. In advanced cases, the prognosis is cautious.

Endocrine factor infertility

Violations of hormonal metabolism lead to irregular cycles or their absence. The main causes of this type of infertility are dysfunctions:

  • The consequences of traumatic brain injury, tumors hypothalami-pituitary region of the brain;
  • Androgen imbalance over estrogens (hyperandrogenism) in the female body occurs with damage to the ovaries or adrenal glands, accompanied by polycystic ovary syndrome;
  • Decrease in the functional activity of the thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) – the cause of violations of cycles;
  • Lack of estrogen, accompanied by a violation of the rhythm of menstrual cycles, leads to pathological damage to the mucus of the birth canal;
  • Disruption of lipid metabolism, accompanied by an excess or loss of adipose tissue provokes a decrease in ovarian function;
  • Disorders of hormonal metabolism, accompanied by premature menopause;
  • Congenital anomalies of the hormonal system, accompanied by the underdevelopment of the birth canal.

Endocrine disorders are investigated for violations of the monthly cycles, against the background of external signs of endocrine disorders (obesity, exhaustion, others).

Psychological factor of infertility

Stress is a general adaptive response of the body to various stimuli, it has a complex regulatory mechanism involving, among other things, the body’s hormones. It makes no sense to search for private causes of stress, as psychological factors of infertility, they are individual for each woman. In summary, the sources of stress are:

  • excess of negative information
  • regular emotional reactions
  • physiological or pathophysiological reactions of the body.

Under chronic stress, the adaptive defense mechanisms of the body are depleted. Bioregulation structures (vegetative nervous system, adrenal hormones, pituitary, etc.) stop working in the direction of adaptation, causing pathophysiological changes in the body. The psychological factors of infertility hide the pathophysiological alterations of the body (including hormonal disorders). To determine the causes of psychological infertility, you should stop looking for a source of stress, you must:

  • Change the attitude to the stress factor. It has been observed that families with a low level of education do not have problems with the birth of children, in contrast to families where women with a high level of intelligence and social status suffer from obvious and perceived stresses. Physical education, useful hobbies, recreation, positive emotions and so on will restore hormonal and emotional balance.
  • Turn to a qualified psychologist. Not always stress can be overcome by yourself. Find a specialist who will help stop thinking about imaginary problems, will help to understand the true causes of infertility.

Genetic factors of infertility

Infertility in women: causes and symptomsThe literature describes in detail the genetic factors of male infertility. The genetic factors of infertility in women have been little studied. Known private pathologies that cause female infertility, having genetic roots.

  • Syndrome hyperandrogenism women (excess male hormones).
  • Endometriosis (proliferation of the walls of the uterus).
  • Syndrome of a premature menopause.
  • Syndrome of primary amenorrhea (Sherevsky-Turner syndrome).

Other diseases accompanied by genetically determined infertility are also known. The causes and likelihood of future exclusion of genetic abnormalities are the subjects of genetic studies. Laboratory methods for diagnosing genetic factors of infertility are currently being developed.

Degrees of infertility

The etymological meaning of the word “degree” in medicine means the magnitude of the comparison, of pathological processes of different intensity. The use of the term is appropriate when comparing particular (specific) pathological processes, in relation to a limited group of patients, with a similar diagnosis. More often, in the available literature, infertility is characterized as I and II type of infertility.

Infertility 1 degree in women . the absence of pregnancy in a woman who has never given birth before. Usually, the period of infertility is counted after one year of the beginning of a regular sex life, without using contraceptives.

Infertility 2 degrees in women. is the impossibility of conception, refers to women who have previously had a pregnancy or given birth. The period of infertility is counted from the first attempts at pre-pregnancy. Usually also in a year.

Infertility 3 degrees in women. The term characterizing the degree of impossibility of becoming pregnant is not used in the available literature.

Infertility treatments

perhaps one of the worst diagnoses a doctor can endure. Suspicion of him arises after several unsuccessful attempts at conception, which were undertaken during the year.

Infertility can be absolute and relative. In absolute infertility, it is impossible to conceive a child with a woman, since there are abnormalities in the body, for example, uterine appendages were cut out, or the uterus itself.

You can get rid of relative infertility, but this needs to be addressed. Primary infertility is also distinguished (the woman has never been pregnant in her life) and secondary infertility (in this case, a second attempt at conception is not possible).

Preparations for the treatment of infertility

If infertility is triggered by hormonal disorders, and there are no other pathologies, then medical correction is necessary.

Drugs that can be used for this purpose:

  • Clomid based on clomiphene citrate. This drug stimulates ovulation, causing the pituitary gland to produce follicle-stimulating hormones. Indications for use: disruption of the ovaries, polycystic ovary syndrome, etc.
  • HMG (urinary gonadotropins). These are combined hormonal drugs that are isolated from the female urine during menopause. These hormones include LH and FSH. HMG is used in IVF to improve the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the eggs. Hormones are directed specifically to the work of the ovaries.
  • Recombinant gonadotropins, which are created thanks to the achievements of genetic engineering. They also work as HMG, but they contain only purified FSH or LH. These are effective and safe drugs that act only on the ovaries, stimulating the growth and development of follicles and eggs. They are more effective than urinary gonadotropins.

All inflammatory processes in the body of a woman are eliminated with the help of antibacterial drugs, among which: Metronidazole, Cefamandole, Metrogel, Ciprofloxacin, Pefloxacin, etc.

If a woman has immunological infertility, then she is shown a course of corticosteroid drugs, in parallel prescribe antihistamines. Treatment should last at least 8 weeks.

Modern approaches to the treatment of infertility

View Cause How to treat?
Tubal infertility
  • The presence of adhesions in the pelvic organs, which arose after surgery on internal organs, or as a result of endometriosis.
  • The absence of fallopian tubes, which could be removed during the development of ectopic pregnancy, or due to inflammatory processes.
  • Absolute tubal sterility.
Get rid of such infertility with the help of medication often fails. Laparoscopic operations are required, including:

  • Salpingoplasty (dissection of the formed adhesions in the area of the uterus appendages) at which an attempt is made to restore the patency of the tubes and to adjust their functioning.
  • Salpingostomy, which involves the creation of holes in the tubes to restore their patency.

IVF is performed when laparoscopic techniques have not yielded the desired effect. If the uterine appendages in a woman are removed, then she can become pregnant only with IVF.

Endocrine disorders that cause infertility Pathological anovulation (the egg matures incompletely and cannot leave the follicle) can result in the following disorders:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Diseases of the endocrine glands due to various hormonal disruptions.
  • Depletion of ovarian reserves.
Treatment involves the elimination of pathologies of the endocrine glands with the help of drug correction. This will allow the follicles to mature normally and stimulate ovulation.
If a woman has polycystic ovary syndrome, surgery may be required.
Immunological infertility Antibodies may be present in the blood of a woman or in the composition of the cervical mucus, which destroys the spermatozoa, either the embryo or the fetus. Treatment is conservative, it is possible to conduct plasma exchange, artificial insemination or IVF.
Infertility of psychological genesis Depression, anxiety, depression can reduce the probability of conception. Psychological techniques, relaxation techniques are used for the treatment, and lifestyle correction is often shown.
Infertility of Unidentified Causes In this case, it is impossible to determine the cause that prevents the conception of a child. A woman must continue to try to conceive a child in a natural way. Perhaps the use of IVF, AI or sperm injections.


Experts say that to achieve the maximum chance of fertilization, you need to be conceived from 11 to 18 days of the menstrual cycle. We remind you that the first day of menstruation is taken on the first day. Men should not ejaculate more than once every 2 days, as the sperm concentration is maintained at the maximum, only in this case. Both partners should not use lubricants. And after sex, a woman should not be washed. In addition to all this, experts say that you should have sex during fertilization in the pose of a “missionary”, and after intercourse, a woman should still lie on the back for about 15-20 minutes, with knees bent and raised.

If the present methods do not give the desired result, the pair will be assigned to undergo treatment. In the case when it is impossible to eliminate the causes of infertility, experts recommend modern reproductive assistive methods, such as IVF.

In vitro fertilization is a relatively young method of treating infertility, the essence of which lies in the fertilization of eggs with spermatozoa in a test tube and the subsequent transfer of a fertilized developing egg (embryo) into the uterus. This procedure gives a good chance of pregnancy, however, it is worthwhile to approach responsibly to the choice of clinic. The main factors influencing the choice of the clinic are the level of professionalism and experience of reproductive doctors, as well as modern equipment.

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