Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying to conceive. This definition changes to six months if a woman is 35 or older. Women who can get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant may also be classified as infertile.

As women are waiting longer to have children, infertility is becoming more common. Roughly 20 percent of women in the United States now have their first child after age 35. Approximately one-third of couples in which the woman is over 35 have fertility problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant.

Most cases of female infertility are caused by problems with ovulation. Without ovulation, there are no eggs to be fertilized. Some signs that a woman is not ovulating normally include irregular or absent menstrual periods. These ovulation problems are often caused by one of two conditions:

  • 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.
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI). POI is another cause of ovulation problems and occurs when a woman's ovaries stop working normally before she is 40. POI is not the same as early menopause.

Less common causes of fertility problems in women include:

  • Blocked fallopian tubes resulting from pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, or surgery for an ectopic pregnancy
  • Physical problems with the uterus
  • Uterine fibroids (non-cancerous clumps of tissue and muscle on the walls of the uterus)

Many things can change a woman's ability to have a baby. In addition to age, other factors include smoking, excess alcohol use, poor diet, stress, excessive athletic training, being overweight or underweight, sexually transmitted infections and other health problems that cause hormonal changes (including PCOS and POI as described above).

Our physicians consult patients regarding the variety of issues surrounding infertility. To provide the specific treatment required to address infertility, we refer our patients to the following specialists:

  • Wisconsin Fertility Institute (Dr. David Olive and Dr. Elizabeth Pritz)
  • UW Health Generations Fertility Care
  • Fertility & Reproductive Endocrinology Specialists