Hormonal Imbalance

Female infertility is often caused by a woman’s inability to ovulate or release an egg. Failure to ovulate is usually rooted in hormonal problems.

In many infertility cases, a woman may be producing too little of one hormone or too much of another. Such is the case with the conditions listed here.

Glandular Problems

Hormonal imbalances can sometimes be traced back to the primary glands (hypothalamus, thyroid and pituitary) that produce reproductive hormones. The hypothalamus, pituitary and ovaries send signals back and forth during the reproductive process that cause changes in hormone production.

  • Hypothalamus: This gland can be affected by injury, stress, starvation and some medications.
  • Thyroid: An underactive thyroid gland causes hypothyroidism and can be characterized by excessive levels of the hormone prolactin, which interferes with ovulation.
  • Pituitary: Microscopic tumours (prolactinomas) on the pituitary gland can secrete the hormone prolactin, which interferes with ovulation.

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Ovulatory Disorders

Problems with ovulation are one of the leading causes of female infertility, accounting for about 20% of cases. Some women ovulate irregularly or do not ovulate at all (this is called anovulation). When women have problems with ovulation it’s usually because they have hormonal imbalances such as too much prolactin (a milk-producing hormone that suppresses ovulation) or an overproduction of male hormones (androgens, such as testosterone).

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a condition in which hormone imbalances interfere with ovulation. The adrenal glands and ovaries produce excessive amounts of male hormone, which leads to an abnormally high production of luteinizing hormone (LH) and an abnormally low production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). As a result, the ovary fills with cysts of immature follicles that are unable to generate eggs.

Women with this condition may experience:

  • Irregular periods
  • Enlarged ovaries
  • Excessive facial and body hair
  • Oily skin
  • Acne
  • Obesity

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Premature Menopause

Women under 40 years of age whose ovaries are not producing sufficient hormones to sustain ovulation and menstruation are deemed prematurely menopausal. Premature menopause, also known as premature ovarian failure (POF), occurs when a woman has prematurely depleted her supply of eggs.

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Abnormal Cervical Mucous

Normal cervical secretions are a vital component to successful impregnation. Many women may notice a change in the consistency of their cervical mucous throughout the menstrual cycle. Cervical mucous is thin and watery near the time of ovulation, making it easy for sperm to enter the uterus. Abnormal cervical mucous may involve unusually thick mucous that blocks the movement of sperm. The presence of anti-sperm IgA antibodies in cervical mucous may also provide a hostile environment for sperm.

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