Women and the Reproductive Lifecycle

Women and the Reproductive Lifecycle
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Infertility affects approximately 10% of the population. Since infertility strikes diverse groups—affecting people from all socioeconomic levels and cutting across racial, ethnic, and religious lines—chances are great that a friend, relative, or neighbor is attempting to cope with the medical and emotional aspects of infertility.1
What Is Infertility?
Infertility in women is a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse.2
The Economic Burden of Infertility
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) lists the average price of an in vitro fertilization cycle in the U.S. to be $12,400 (medications not included).3

Gender Differences

Both women and men can have problems that cause infertility. About one-third of infertility cases are caused by the male.4

Risk Factors

Risk factors that may impact a woman’s ability to have a baby include:4

  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Stress
  • Poor diet
  • Athletic training
  • Being overweight or underweight
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Health problems that cause hormonal changes, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and primary ovarian insufficiency

Causes of Infertility in Women

Most cases of infertility in women are caused by problems with ovulation. Signs that a woman is not ovulating normally include irregular or absent menstrual periods.4
Ovulation problems are often caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormone-imbalance problem that can interfere with normal ovulation. PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility.4
Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is another cause of ovulation problems. POI occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop working normally before she is 40 years of age. POI is not the same as menopause.4
Less-common causes of infertility in women include:4

  • Blocked fallopian tubes due to pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, or surgery for an ectopic pregnancy
  • Physical problems with the uterus
  • Uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous clumps of tissue and muscle on the walls of the uterus

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1Website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Mar 21] Available from: http://www.resolve.org/infertility-overview/what-is-infertility/

2Website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Mar 21] Available from: http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/infertility/definitions/en/index.html

3Website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Apr 03] Available from: http://www.resolve.org/family-building-options/insurance_coverage/the-costs-of-infertility-treatment.html

4Website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Mar 21] Available from: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/infertility.html