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What is the Connection Between Ovulation and Infertility?

N. Swensson
N. Swensson

Ovulation is the process by which an egg is released from a woman's ovary into the uterus. Certain health conditions may interfere with this process, resulting in irregular or infrequent ovulation. In some cases, a woman may not ovulate at all. Ovulation and infertility are related because conception can not occur without ovulation, and a woman with an irregular or nonexistent cycle will often experience more difficulty getting pregnant.

Some problems that can cause irregular or infrequent ovulation include extremely intense exercise, stress, breastfeeding, and very low body weight. Thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary disorders, as well as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and hormonal imbalances may cause ovulation to stop completely. Women who experience problems relating to ovulation and infertility may benefit from different types of treatment, including medications and hormone therapy.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be a factor in both ovulation and infertility.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be a factor in both ovulation and infertility.

Irregular ovulation and infertility can sometimes be improved by making simple lifestyle changes. If a woman is an avid athlete and very thin as a result, hormonal conditions in the body may make it unlikely for her to become pregnant. A decrease in exercise may address this problem.

Stress reduction techniques may also help a woman conceive. A woman who is breastfeeding following a previous pregnancy has larger amounts of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates breast milk production but may also inhibit ovulation. Once breastfeeding has stopped and milk is no longer being produced, normal ovulation often resumes.

Breastfeeding may inhibit ovulation.
Breastfeeding may inhibit ovulation.

PCOS is a condition that can affect ovulation and infertility. Women with PCOS may be overweight and may have high levels of male hormones such as testosterone in the body, which can prevent ovulation. Health issues such as diabetes also may cause anovulation. Problems with ovulation and infertility sometimes are caused by early menopause. If this is the case, treatment is not likely to improve a woman's chances of becoming pregnant.

In many other cases, medication can help a woman ovulate. Clomiphene and human gonadotropins are two medications that may stimulate ovulation. Women who do not ovulate or have a menstrual period for a long time may take medroxyprogesterone to trigger menstruation, and then take clomiphene to stimulate ovulation. These medications can be helpful for women who don't ovulate as a result of PCOS.

Human gonadotropins are often the next step in infertility treatment if clomiphene is not effective. These medications help egg cells to mature inside the ovary and then be released into the uterus. Although this can be an effective treatment, it is often very expensive.

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    • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be a factor in both ovulation and infertility.
      By: ryanking999
      Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be a factor in both ovulation and infertility.
    • Breastfeeding may inhibit ovulation.
      By: evgenyatamanenko
      Breastfeeding may inhibit ovulation.