Reproductive Health Information
There are many reproductive health care options currently available to treat infertility. Infertility is defined as the inability to become pregnant after 12 months of unprotected sex. Today, women are better able to be proactive and assess their fertility early in life to address any reproductive problems before they are ready to conceive.
The most common causes of female infertility are problems with ovulation. Other leading causes include:
- Cervical mucus problems
- Fallopian tube damage
- Hormonal problems
- Ovulation disorders
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Poor nutrition
- Uterine fibroids
In addition, age, anatomical problems/irregularities, hormonal imbalances, weight, chemical or radiation exposure and smoking all influence a woman's fertility.
There are also general factors that can affect a woman's ability to ovulate, conceive or deliver a child successfully, thus increasing her risk for infertility. They include:
- Anovulatory menstrual cycles
- Autoimmune disorders
- Clotting disorders (thrombophilia)
- Defects of the uterus (myomas)
- Blockage of the cervix
- Eating disorders
- Exposure to the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES)
- Long-term (chronic) disease such as diabetes
- Many sexual partners
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis and treatment of infertility has advanced rapidly in the past several decades. Read more about female fertility diagnosis and treatment options.
When should a couple see a fertility specialist?
If a woman has experienced any of the following events, it may be time to schedule an appointment with an infertility specialist:
- If she is under 35 and has been unable to conceive after a year of trying to get pregnant.
- If she is 35 and over and has been unable to conceive after six months of trying to get pregnant.
- If she has lost two or more pregnancies to miscarriage.
- If other infertility treatments have not been successful.
If a woman does not have regular menstrual cycles, or if she has had prior gynecological problems including endometriosis, pelvic surgery, tubal pregnancy or infections, she should seek assistance sooner.
There are many things a woman can do to enhance her fertility, such as maintaining a healthy body weight, practicing healthy and cautious sexual behaviors, getting regular Pap tests, steering clear of drugs and alcohol, and evaluating her reproductive health at an early age.*
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a Penn Fertility Care specialist, visit pennmedicine.org/fertility or call 800-789-PENN (7366).
Need an appointment? Request one online 24 hours/day, 7 days/week or call 800-789-PENN (7366) to speak to a referral counselor.