Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School



The primary symptom of infertility is difficulty getting pregnant. Various causes of infertility may result in additional symptoms.

Any of the following problems may cause infertility:

  • Infrequent ovulation. When your periods occur more than a month, or sometimes are absent, you have infrequent ovulation.

Common causes of infrequent ovulation include:

  • Body stresses such as:

    • Eating disorders

    • Unusually ambitious exercise training

    • Rapid weight loss

    • Low body weight

    • Obesity

  • Some hormonal abnormalities such as:

    • Thyroid problems

    • Pituitary-gland problems

    • Adrenal-gland problems

    • Polycystic ovary syndrome

Hormonal abnormalities can delay or prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. Symptoms that suggest a hormone abnormality include:

    • Unexpected weight loss or gain

    • Fatigue

    • Excessive hair growth or hair loss

    • Acne

    • Ovarian cysts. Cysts in the ovary can cause pelvic pain. They also can interfere with the normal process of ovulation.

  • Scarring in the fallopian tubes. This can prevent pregnancy by stopping the egg from traveling into the uterus.

Damage can result from:

    • A previous surgery

    • A previous ectopic (tubal) pregnancy

    • Endometriosis

    • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is a bacterial infection in the pelvis. It often scars, damages or blocks the fallopian tubes.

  • Abnormalities in the shape or lining of the uterus.

Fibroid tumors or uterine polyps sometimes result in:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding

  • Pelvic pain

  • Enlargement of the uterus

Scar tissue can develop within the uterus as a complication of:

  • Uterine infections

  • Miscarriages

  • Abortions

  • Surgical procedures such as a dilation and curettage (D&C)

Such scar tissue can lead to infrequent periods or minimal menstrual flow.

Page 2 of 9     Next Page:  Female Infertility Diagnosis
Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

You can find more great health information on the Harvard Health Publications website.