Can I Get Pregnant If Only One of My Ovaries Works?

Dear Dr. Fertility,

My husband and I are trying to conceive baby Number Two. We will have been trying for a year when June rolls around and we’re still not pregnant. I am 25, but I only have one ovary. The other was removed due to a large ‘softball-size’ cyst on it. I have not seen my OBGYN to discuss not being pregnant yet. I keep telling myself that I’ll get pregnant sometime and, well, now that a year is approaching I feel that maybe I need to see her and make sure everything is alright. I was told that since I have only one ovary that my chances of getting pregnant are cut in half since I won’t be ovulating every month.

But I have also read that sometimes an ovary will work overtime and ovulate every month. Is this possible? Is there any truth to that? And how could I tell? I do not even know at this time when I am ovulating other than by counting 14 days from the start of my cycle. Any insight or suggestions on this would be great.

Thank you!

Sincerely, Amanda 

Dear Amanda,

We do recommend that women under the age of 35 years seek help after one year of attempting to conceive. This is reduced to six months for those 35 years or older. Those with known fertility problems (i.e. blocked fallopian tubes or low sperm counts) should seek help much earlier.

In regards to your case, your evaluation should include an assessment of the fallopian tube on the side that you still have an ovary. The easiest way to check this is to perform a hysterosalpingogram (HSG). This is an X-ray that will show if the fallopian tube is open, but may also show if there is any scare tissue in the pelvis as a result of your surgery. This could be the source of your problem. You should also have an ultrasound to check for any cysts in the remaining ovary as well as hormonal evaluation of the egg quality. Your husband will need a semen analysis.

For women who loose an ovary due to surgery, the opposite ovary will usually start to ovulate every month. If you are having monthly menstrual cycles, then you are probably ovulating every month. A fertility specialist can help you with the above tests and any others to better pinpoint the source of any problems and then to design a treatment program for you.

Hope this helps,

Bradford Kolb, MD (a.k.a. Dr. Fertility)

POSTSCRIPT: A few days ago, Amanda wrote in to share great news: She and her husband just found out they are pregnant! Congratulations Amanda! We’re all sending you our best.

Turn the page to read the next Q & A with Dr. Kolb: “Can a Woman Transmit Her Own DNA to Donor Eggs?”


Dear Dr. Fertility,

I love your new column on Modern Mom. My hubby and I have been having problems getting pregnant. I had a son three years (at 38) ago and since then we’ve been trying to get pregnant with Number Two. I just turned 41 and it just doesn’t look like it will happen again. Nothing is wrong with my husband’s sperm. It’s me. My FSH levels are off the chart. You just can’t fool the biological clock I guess. But I’m so sad about this and considering alternatives.

My friend had twins using donor eggs. (She was 40 at the time.) She showed me a photo of the donor, who looks nothing like her! But here’s the strange thing: her twin daughters look a lot like her. They have the same smile, and one has her eyes. She says that even though the eggs were not biologically hers, she believes that her DNA was transmitted to the children while they were growing in her womb.

Have there been any studies on this? Can a mom really transmit her DNA to somebody else’s eggs?

Thanks doctor!

Susan, New York

Dear Susan,

Unfortunately, you are not alone in your struggle to have a second child. Social evolution and our desire to have children later in our lives have outpaced our biology. Women typically start to loose their fertility in the early thirties and most will have lost their fertility by the early forties. This phenomenon is referred to as the “biological clock” which alludes to the fact that women are born with all the eggs that they will ever have and as we age, the eggs age as well. The eggs that a 40-year old ovulates are also 40 years old.

Interestingly, we do not see a decline in male fertility until men reach their fifties and many men in their sixties and seventies can still father children. The reason for this difference is that men continually produce new sperm. The best advice that I have for readers is to look at their family planning carefully and to consider completing their families before their forties. While egg donation is a wonderful option for those that pursue it, it a difficult decision to face.

In regards to the appearance of your friend’s children, there is no transfer of DNA to the fetus during the pregnancy. If the children look like mom, this is a nice coincidence.

Good luck with your pursuit of having a second child,

Bradford Kolb, MD

Dr. Bradford Kolb, aka Dr. Fertility, is an infertility specialist and a managing partner of the Huntington Reproductive Center, in Pasadena, CA. Dr. Kolb is internationally known for his expertise in egg donation, oocyte cyroperservation and the treatment of couples who have failed traditional therapy in other centers. He appears on national television and radio shows regularly, addressing women’s reproductive issues. For more on Dr. Kolb, please go to his

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