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 a pregnancy, know many things to consider. One of the main things to remember is fertility levels. That is, whether you are showing any infertility signs. Usually, this occurs when you have 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 they 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, continue reading!
Signs of infertility
If you are having trouble getting pregnant, know you are not alone. Approximately 17% 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 infertility issues:
On average, most women have a cycle of 28 days long. It is still considered normal if it lasts 21 to 35 days, provided it’s consistent. The cycle is highly unpredictable, with irregular periods, making it impossible to know when the next one will come. The irregular cycle is mainly 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 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 may be a sign of fibroids or endometriosis in the uterus. Endometriosis accounts for approximately 25 percent to 50 percent of infertility issues in women.
Pain during sex
Many women assume pain during sex 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.
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 conditions make the body’s hormones imbalanced, resulting in conceiving difficulties.
Vaginal soreness and itchiness
Itchiness or soreness in the vagina accompanied by discharge can imply a vaginal infection. If not treated, infections like gonorrhoea, mycoplasma, and chlamydia, can eventually result in infertility.
Female Reproductive Process
For a woman to conceive, the reproductive process must occur effectively. The reproduction steps should not be interfered with for a woman to conceive successfully. Here are the crucial reproductive steps that must occur:
1: One ovary releases a mature egg.
2: The egg then travels to the fallopian tube.
3: The sperm goes up the cervix, towards the uterus, and into the fallopian tubes to reach and fertilise the egg.
4: After fertilising the egg, it moves towards the uterus from the fallopian tube.
5: Then, the fertilised 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 causes of female infertility:
Cases of infertility in women can result from ovulation disorders, accounting for approximately 25%. Ovulation disorder happens when a female doesn’t ovulate regularly or has no ovulation. The potential cause of ovulation disorder lies in regulating and producing reproductive hormones. Conditions such as PCOS, premature ovarian failure, or excess prolactin can lead to ovulation disorder.
Research shows that approximately 40 percent of infertility cases are due to fallopian tube disorders. STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia or Pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID) are likely to cause the fallopian tubes to block. Surgeries in the pelvis involving fallopian tubes can also lead to higher infertility chances.
This condition is where the uterus’ inner lining, the endometrium, attaches and grows in other places like ovaries, fallopian tubes, intestines, pelvis and abdominal cavity walls. The growth of such tissue and its surgical removal can highly hinder fertilisation.
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 fertilisation.
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 the chances of miscarriage are high.
Sometimes, doctors cannot find the reason for infertility despite running normal 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 here.
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:
The fertility medications such as Letrozole and Clomid stimulate the hormones responsible for maturing and releasing an egg. 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 when 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 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. 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 fertilisation, a mature egg is taken from a woman and is fertilised with the sperm in the lab. After the egg is fertilised, it is placed into the uterus. With daily hormone injections, IVF may take several weeks to ensure successful implantation.
Many women nowadays have trouble getting pregnant, which 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 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, useful tips can help one conceive, so don’t lose hope even if you cannot conceive! And speak to your GP about finding the right solution for you.
Evan is the founder of Fertility2Family and is passionate about fertility education & providing affordable products to help people in their fertility journey. Evan is a qualified enrolled nurse and has expertise in guiding & managing patients through their fertility journeys.