It’s not surprising to worry about having a medical issue when you have failed to get pregnant after numerous attempts. Infertility is the failure to conceive even after a year or more of unprotected sex.
Although fertility in women decreases with age, it is important to note that the problem doesn’t solely lie with the woman; men can suffer from problems with fertility as well.
Infertility doesn’t mean the same thing as being sterile either. There are couples who have been able to conceive after seeking medical help.
Infertility can be taxing on couples, but understanding the possible causes can help with making adjustments to increase the chances of conception. In order to get pregnant, every process involved during ovulation and fertilization should happen.
One or both partners can both be affected by infertility and the issues linked with the condition can be present as early as birth or develop later on in life.
Female infertility, in particular, can be caused by the following:
Not being able to ovulate is the main reason for infertility in women. The release of an egg from the ovary is a naturally recurring event in a woman’s body so problems tend to arise when that doesn’t take place. A hormonal disorder like polycystic ovary syndrome is linked to issues regarding the release of eggs from the ovaries.
Hyperprolactinemia can also affect ovulation. This is a condition where there is too much prolactin, a hormone involved in the production of breast milk.
Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) and hypothyroidism (too little) can interfere with the menstrual cycle and cause infertility.
Other reasons include too much exercise, eating disorders, injury, or tumors.
Uterine or cervical issues
Abnormalities in the opening of the cervix, the presence of polyps in the uterus, and the shape of the uterus can all be causes of infertility.
Although a non-cancerous tumor in the uterine wall blocks the fallopian tubes, it is rarely linked to issues with infertility. Instead, these uterine fibroids affect the implantation of a fertilized egg.
Fallopian tube issues
In particular, damage caused by inflammation which can be caused by pelvic inflammatory disease from endometriosis, adhesions, and sexually transmitted disease.
This occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus which can affect how the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus functions.
Primary ovarian failure
Described as the failure of the ovaries to function as planned before the age of 40. If the ovaries fail, eggs aren’t released regularly which results in infertility. There is no definite known cause for this to happen but it has been linked to diseases of the immune system, Turner syndrome, radiation treatment, chemotherapy treatment, and smoking.
Other possible causes of female infertility include:
- Cancer and the treatment of it. Cancers affecting the female reproductive system greatly affect infertility. Plus, treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy will affect fertility as well.
- Other medical conditions. Issues linked with delayed puberty or amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) like the celiac disease as well as autoimmune diseases like lupus affect fertility. Genetic abnormalities can also decrease the chances of conception and pregnancy.
There aren’t any obvious symptoms associated with infertility other than not being able to conceive after a year or more of trying. You should see a doctor to see the possible steps you can take to address the issue.
However, there are cases where you can consult your doctor earlier, and these include:
- being 35 to 40 years old and having tried to get pregnant for six months or longer
- being over the age of 40
- menstruating irregularly or not at all
- having very painful periods
- having known fertility issues
- having been diagnosed with endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease
- having had many miscarriages
- having had cancer treatment
Your doctor or clinic needs to first understand the root of the fertility issue before recommending any treatment. The process can be an uncomfortable one as medical professionals will ask questions regarding your sexual habits then make suggestions. There are also certain tests that can be performed to determine the problem, and these include:
- Ovulation testing. Hormone levels are measured using a blood test to indicate whether you are ovulating or not.
- Hysterosalpingography. This kind of test checks your uterus and fallopian tubes for signs of problems or blockages.
- Hormone testing. Ovulatory hormones and pituitary hormones control processes linked to reproduction and these tests check their levels.
- Imaging tests. A pelvic ultrasound is done to check for problems in the uterus or fallopian tube. Another test called a hysterosonography can also be performed to see the uterus in more detail.
Not all of these tests will be performed on you. You decide together with your doctor which of the tests will be done and when.
If evaluation reveals that you are infertile, the kind of treatment you get depends on the following:
- the cause of infertility
- how long you have been infertile
- the age of you and your partner
- your personal preference
Although it takes one or two therapies for fertility to be restored, there are cases when different treatments may be needed in order to conceive. These include:
- Use of fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation. This is the main treatment for infertility due to ovulation issues. You need to speak with your doctor regarding the options as well as their benefits and risks.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) or . A process that is performed around the time eggs are released from the ovary. It involves placing the sperm directly in the uterus with the aim of fertilization.
- In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
- Surgery. Certain uterine issues like endometrial polyps can be treated with hysteroscopic surgery.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that some causes of infertility can’t be treated. That said, there are methods like assisted reproductive technology that can be used to achieve pregnancy.