New life begins when an egg from a woman is fertilised by sperm from a man. Ovulation occurs around 14 days before the start of the menstrual period, when an egg (ovum) is released from one of the ovaries.
The egg is swept into the nearby fallopian tube and ushered towards the uterus (womb). If the egg is fertilised on its journey, it lodges in the womb lining (endometrium). Pregnancy then begins.
The odds of a young fertile couple conceiving by having sexual intercourse around the time of ovulation are approximately one in five every month. A couple isn’t considered to have fertility problems until they have tried and failed to conceive for one year.
Approximately 20 per cent of couples experience fertility difficulties. In most cases, the couple can be helped with assisted reproductive technologies.
Around 30 per cent of fertility problems in couples originate in the woman. Another 30 per cent originate in the man and 30 per cent is found in both partners. No cause is found in around one in 10 couples investigated for infertility. This is called ‘unexplained’ or ‘idiopathic infertility.
Causes of female infertility
Female infertility can be caused by:
Diagnosis of female infertility
Investigating suspected infertility requires tests for both the woman and her partner Tests for the woman may include:
Her male partner’s semen may also be analysed to make sure that he is fertile.
Treatment for female infertility
Treatment options (assisted reproductive technologies, or ART) for female infertility depend on the cause, but may include: