Female Infertility: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment Options
Female infertility has become commoner than before. With this said, a lot of factors need to be addressed for treating this health concern in women. Your doctor may conduct a few tests to determine the root cause of infertility. The cause varies from patient to patient. In this read, we’ll discuss the basics of infertility in women, its causes, how it is diagnosed & treatment for the same.
What is female infertility?
The simple definition of female infertility is – ‘the inability to conceive or have a successful pregnancy.’ This medical condition is diagnosed when a woman tries to conceive with unprotected sex for around 12 months but fails at it. Thanks to the advancements in the medical field, a lot of female infertility treatments are available now. Thus, if you’re experiencing infertility being a woman, there is nothing to worry about. Consult your gynaecologist or medical expert before proceeding with treatment.
An Overview of Conception/Pregnancy
Life begins with the miraculous union of a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm during ovulation. This incredible process, called conception, lays the foundation for human creation.
Ovulation occurs around 14 days before the next period, as an egg is released from the ovaries. Guided by the fallopian tube, the egg travels towards the uterus. If fertilized, it attaches to the uterine lining, starting a pregnancy. Young couples have about a one in five chance of conceiving each month. Understanding fertility challenges is crucial for aspiring parents. Embracing the marvel of life’s beginnings empowers us to embark on the journey to parenthood with hope and determination.
Difficulties for Female Fertility
- Fertility difficulties are a common concern for many couples. Approximately 15% of couples experience challenges when trying to conceive. Thankfully, advancements in assisted reproductive technologies offer hope and solutions for most of them.
- Around 30% of fertility issues can be attributed to the woman. Factors such as hormonal imbalances, irregular menstrual cycles, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and structural problems in the reproductive system can hinder conception.
- Similarly, about 30% of fertility problems originate in the man. These issues often revolve around low sperm count, poor sperm motility, abnormal sperm morphology, or blockages in the reproductive tract.
- In approximately 30% of cases, fertility difficulties are found in both partners. Combining factors from both the male and female sides can present unique challenges to conception.
- Regrettably, in around 10% of cases, no identifiable cause for infertility is found. This perplexing situation is known as ‘unexplained’ or ‘idiopathic’ infertility, leaving couples searching for answers and guidance.
- The trend of delaying parenthood has become more prevalent in recent years. As a consequence, age-related infertility is increasingly affecting both women and men.
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Female Infertility Causes
Problems with Ovulation
The menstrual cycle, a harmonious interplay of glands and hormones, is vital for women’s reproductive health. Ovulation, the release of matured eggs, relies on the pituitary gland’s timely secretion of hormones. Irregular or absent periods may signal fertility issues. Age plays a significant role, with women aged 40 having a mere 5% chance of pregnancy per cycle, attributed to ageing eggs. Challenges for older women include an increased risk of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities in the baby. Despite age-related challenges, seeking professional guidance and support can lead to successful pregnancies and fulfilling motherhood. Embracing one’s unique fertility journey is key to a positive outlook on life.
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
PCOS is a hormonal disorder affecting women’s ovulation. Follicles fail to mature and form cysts around ovaries instead. This further causes irregular periods and fertility challenges. Also, hormonal imbalances cause acne, excess hair growth, and weight gain. However, implementing some lifestyle changes, getting medications, and emotional support can help.
Fallopian Tubes Issues
The sperm joins with the egg on its journey down the fallopian tube. This results in fertilization. But the scene is different if the fallopian tube is blocked or scarred. The egg’s progress may be hindered, and it cannot encounter the sperm.
Uterine Health Issues
After fertilization, the egg implants itself into the uterine lining. However, certain uterine issues can hinder this process, such as fibroids – non-malignant tumours within the womb, and polyps – overgrowths of the endometrium that can be triggered by the presence of fibroids.
Endometriosis is a condition where cells from the uterus lining (endometrium) spread to other parts of the pelvis. This can harm the fallopian tubes and ovaries, disrupting the movement of eggs and sperm. Even when the fallopian tubes and ovaries remain undamaged, endometriosis can still impact fertilization, embryo growth, and implantation.
Diagnosis: How is infertility diagnosed in women?
Firstly, you’ll be asked about your menstrual period cycles. Next, your healthcare provider will ask a few questions regarding any past pregnancies, pelvic pain, miscarriages, vaginal bleeding/discharge, etc. In addition, they’ll ask if you ever had any STIs or STDs. Besides this, they’ll conduct a few tests which could be as below:
- Physical exam
- PAP test
- Pelvic exam
- Pelvic ultrasound
- Breast exam for diagnosing unusual milk production
Some lab tests may also be conducted which could be:
- X-ray HSG
- Blood tests
- Transvaginal ultrasound
How to reduce the risk of female infertility?
Reproductive health plays a crucial role in your overall well-being and longevity. If you desire a long and healthy life while ensuring your ability to conceive, it’s essential to prioritize your reproductive health. In this article, we’ll explore some valuable tips to help you stay healthy and maintain your fertility.
1. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Maintaining a normal body weight is vital for both your general health and reproductive well-being. Being either overweight or underweight can pose risks to your overall health and diminish fertility. Strive to keep a balanced and healthy weight through a combination of a nutritious diet and regular exercise.
2. Stay Physically Active
Engaging in regular physical activity is an excellent way to keep your body fit and boost your reproductive health. Include various exercises in your routine, and as you age, consider incorporating weight training to increase muscle mass and maintain a healthy physique. However, ensure you don’t over exercise, as extreme workouts can strain your body and impact fertility.
3. Quit Smoking
Attention all smokers! Smoking not only reduces your chances of getting pregnant but also increases the risk of miscarriage. Additionally, smokers tend to experience menopause two years earlier than non-smokers, emphasizing the harmful effects of smoking on reproductive health.
4. Practice Safe Sex
Protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is vital for safeguarding your future fertility. Infections acquired today can significantly impact your reproductive health in the future. Always practice safe sex and use protection when engaging in sexual activities with a new partner.
5. Be Mindful of Your Biological Clock
As a woman, your age plays a crucial role in your fertility journey. If you’re considering having children, it’s essential not to delay your plans. The age of the female partner is the most significant factor affecting successful fertility treatment for couples. The duration of infertility also becomes more critical with age.
6. Seek Timely Evaluation and Treatment
If you’re actively trying to conceive, it’s essential to seek medical evaluation at the right time. For women with regular menstrual cycles, seeking help after 12 months of trying is advisable. However, if you’re over 35 years old, consider seeking help after just six months. If your cycles are irregular, don’t hesitate to seek immediate assistance. The evaluation process should typically take no more than two months, and treatment cycles may last from three to six months before moving on to the next step.
7. Stay Informed and Involved
Be proactive in your reproductive health journey by staying informed and actively participating in the process. Be the captain of your ship when it comes to your health. Ask questions, understand the treatment process, and work closely with your healthcare provider to achieve the best results.
Female Infertility Treatment
The treatment for female infertility is based on the causes diagnosed during lab tests or physical examinations. According to the causes, the direction of treatment will be determined by the healthcare provider. For instance, infertility in women due to structural problems might need surgery while hormonal medicines may be suggested for addressing ovulation, thyroid, etc. In another case, artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization might be recommended. So, it depends on your cause of infertility that the direction of treatment your doctor chooses.
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In today’s fast-paced world, taking care of yourself is essential for maintaining reproductive health and fertility. Eat well, get enough sleep, manage stress, and embrace moderation in all aspects of life. Treat your body as a temple and prioritize its well-being. A healthy body enhances your chances of conceiving and ultimately contributes to a fulfilling and joyful life.
Remember, your reproductive health is a valuable asset, and taking care of it will lead to a happier and healthier you. Embrace these tips and embark on a journey towards optimal reproductive health and overall well-being.