Female Infertility: Signs, Causes and Treatment
Planning a pregnancy is one of the exhilarating moments for most women. Even though it is exciting, it still involves many preparations. If you are planning for a pregnancy, know that there are a lot of things to consider. One of the main things to always keep in mind is the fertility levels. That is, whether you are showing any infertility signs. Usually, the signs come to light when you tried getting pregnant through regular and unprotected sex for more than a year but couldn’t do so.
Female infertility is a common condition that affects many women. They won’t suspect the problem until they start trying to conceive. But, some vital signs can help you know of the infertility problem. Spotting the signs earlier can be great since you can prevent the problem from escalating further or find a solution. However, the main problem is how to spot these signs. Most women find it hard to spot the infertility signs because the signs may sometimes seem normal.
There are many signs of infertility in women, and each sign shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is advisable you know these signs and take the necessary action. If you want to know how to spot the signs of infertility, causes, and treatment, then continue reading!
Signs of infertility
If you are having trouble getting pregnant, know that you are not alone. Approximately 17 percent of couples in Australia experience infertility issues. While it can be quite tricky to detect the symptoms of infertility outright, here are the signs that may point to the infertility issues;
- Irregular periods
On average, most women have a cycle of 28 days long. If it lasts from 21 days to 35 days, it is still regarded normal provided it’s consistent. The cycle is highly unpredictable with irregular periods, making it impossible to know when the next one will come. Mainly, the irregular cycle is caused by hormonal problems such as hyperprolactinemia, thyroid hypo/hyperfunction, or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). All of these hormonal issues can result in infertility.
- Absence of periods
Overexercising or stress can also cause one to skip a period. But, if you notice you haven’t had your period for months, seeking medical advice is ideal.
- Heavy and Painful Periods
If you experience heavy and painful periods that hinder your daily activities, it may be a sign of fibroids in the endometriosis or uterus. Endometriosis accounts for approximately 25 percent to 50 percent of infertility issues in women.
- Pain during sex
Pain during sex in women can be assumed to be a normal thing. But, it may point to a hidden condition like pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis, which is a sign of infertility.
- Hormonal imbalance
Hormones play an integral part in our overall health. A broad range of symptoms can signal a hormonal imbalance, such as sudden weight gain, constant fatigue, headaches, hair loss, nipple discharge, edema, facial hair, and severe acne. These are the conditions that make the hormones of the body imbalance resulting in conceiving difficulties.
- Vaginal soreness and itchiness
Itchiness or soreness in the vagina accompanied by discharge can imply a vaginal infection. If it is not treated, it can cause infections like gonorrhea, mycoplasma, and chlamydia, eventually resulting in infertility.
Female Reproductive Process
For a woman to conceive, the reproductive process must occur effectively. The steps of reproduction should not be interfered with for a woman to conceive successfully. Here are the crucial reproductive steps that must occur;
Step 1: One ovary releases a mature egg.
Step 2: The egg then travels to the fallopian tube.
Step 3: The sperm goes up the cervix, towards the uterus, and into the fallopian tubes to reach and fertilize the egg.
Step 4: After the egg is fertilized, it moves down towards the uterus from the fallopian tube.
Step 5: Then, the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterus. This is known as implantation. It will then start to grow from there.
Causes of female infertility
If the steps mentioned above don’t happen successfully, conceiving becomes hard. Anything that hinders the reproductive process from occurring could be the cause of infertility. Let us review the common female infertility;
- Ovulation disorders
Cases of infertility in women can result from ovulation disorders which account for approximately 25 percent. Ovulation disorder happens when a female doesn’t ovulate regularly or there is no ovulation at all. The potential cause of ovulation disorder lies with the regulation and production of reproductive hormones. Conditions such as PCOS, premature ovarian failure, or the presence of excess prolactin can lead to ovulation disorder.
- Tubal occlusion
Research shows that approximately 40 percent of infertility cases are due to fallopian tube disorders. STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia or Pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID) are likely to cause the fallopian tubes to block. Surgeries in the pelvic involving fallopian tubes can also lead to higher infertility chances.
This is a condition where the uterus’ inner lining called the endometrium attaches and grows in other places like ovaries, fallopian tubes, intestines, and on the pelvis and abdominal cavity walls. The growth of such tissue and its surgical removal can highly hinder fertilization.
- Uterine and cervical causes
Issues in the cervix or uterus can also affect fertility. A narrowed cervix, a condition known as cervical steroids or lack of cervical mucus, makes it hard for the sperm to move via the cervix and into the uterus. Moreover, chronic endometriosis, uterine fibroid, or abnormally shaped uterus may interfere with fertilization.
The older a woman gets, the hard it becomes to conceive. Older women have lower chances of conceiving because the quality and quantity of eggs start to reduce in the early 30s and drop even further as a woman nears 40 years. This implies that it is more difficult to get pregnant, and also, the chances of miscarriage are high.
Sometimes, doctors are unable to find the reason for infertility despite running the needed fertility tests. Unexplained infertility affects approximately 10% of couples worldwide. The possible causes might be the release of the egg at the wrong time, the inability of the egg to reach the fallopian tube or the inability of the sperm to reach the egg.
Read more about unexplained infertility in our in-depth blog
The current problems with conceiving won’t necessarily hinder you from having your own family in the future. Most couples who have infertility issues tend to have successful pregnancies. Of course, this is after undergoing the necessary treatment. There are numerous types of infertility treatments, with each targeting a different infertility cause. They include;
- Fertility medications
The fertility medications such as Letrozole and Clomid stimulate the hormones responsible for maturing and releasing an egg. Besides, these medications can also help those people with ovarian disorders. But, there are some side effects of using these fertility medications, such as higher chances of developing an ovarian tumour or ovarian hyperstimulation. Ovarian hyperstimulation is a condition where the ovaries swell and leak fluid into the body, The risk factor is less than 5%, and less than 1% of patients have serious adverse effects.
- Surgical procedures
The surgical procedures help correct the abnormalities and prevent the uterus and fallopian tube from blocking. Nowadays, surgical procedures are rarely used since other infertility treatments are becoming more and more successful.
Doctors tend to recommend IUI (intrauterine insemination) when having fertility issues. In this infertility treatment, many healthy sperms are injected into a woman’s uterus during ovulation.
This is the most effective assisted reproductive treatment. In IVF or Vitro fertilization, a mature egg is taken from a woman and is fertilized with the sperm in the lab. After the egg is fertilized, it is placed into the uterus. IVF may take several weeks with the daily hormone injections being administered to ensure the implantation is successful.
Many women nowadays are having trouble getting pregnant, and the reason might be infertility issues. It can be quite frustrating if you have been trying to conceive, but it all ends in a dead-end. This does not necessarily mean that you can’t have a family of your own in the future. You can spot the infertility signs and seek immediate medical help.
This guide is your saviour in spotting the signs of infertility, the causes, and the treatments available. Furthermore, there are useful tips that can help one conceive, so don’t lose hope even if you are completely unable to conceive! And speak to your GP about finding the right solution for you.