The causes of female infertility

Genetic abnormalities

Turner's syndrome is an inherited condition where the ovaries are completely absent and hence no eggs can be produced.
Female anatomy abnormalities can be present from birth - these will be identified by ultrasound imaging.

Fallopian tube disorders

Blocked or scarred fallopian tubes prevent sperm from travelling towards an egg. The main causes include:
  • Genetically malformed tubes
  • A genital infection caused by sexually transmitted diseases or by other infections.
  • Salpingitis is inflammation of the fallopian tubes and generally caused by an infection. Almost 50% of cases are caused by chlamydia
  • After an ectopic pregnancy
  • Following surgery
  • Endometriosis is a condition where tissue from the lining of the womb (endometrial tissue) is abnormally located outside the womb. If this occurs in the fallopian tubes, it can cause an obstruction to sperm.
  • Exposure to drugs which damage the tubes, such as Diethylstilbestrol

Ovulation disorders

If ovulation does not occur, no egg is released and hence pregnancy cannot occur.
Ovulation disorders are the most frequent cause of female infertility accounting for 30% of cases.
This includes:
  • Anovulation where ovulation is totally absent
  • Dysovulation: ovulation is occurring but not regularly
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Diabetes

Cervical mucus disorders

Cervical mucus is secreted by the cervix.
Sperm have to travel through this mucus in order to reach an egg. Hence the mucus acts as a filter so that only the best sperm survive to fertilise an egg.
The cervical mucus can be lacking in volume or too viscous, and also can contain antibodies which destroy sperm.


Diethylstilbestrol is a medication which was prescribed between 1950 and 1977 to prevent miscarriages.
It was prohibited after 1977 as it was found to cause miscarriages, premature delivery, and uterine and cervix cancer. It was also found to cause side effects in children.
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