Infertility is a significant crisis among couples intending to become parents. This blog dives deep into female infertility, diagnosis, and treatment.
What is infertility?
Technically, if a couple cannot get pregnant for a year even after frequent and unprotected intercourse, they are considered infertile. Though 12 months of non-conception is the criterion for infertility, it may not always be the case. Many studies suggest that women get pregnant in the second or third year without medical assistance. So, it is wise to wait for a few years before seeking medical care.
What are the symptoms of female infertility?
The main symptom of infertility is the incapability to get pregnant. For some women, the menstrual cycle may be irregular. It may be as long as 35 days or too short as 21 days. Some women may not menstruate, which may mean they are not ovulating. For some, the bleeding may be severe with intense pelvic pains or cramps.
Hormonal changes may also contribute to infertility, which appears as weight gain, hair growth in the chin, upper lip, and chest, thinning hair, acne, and others.
When to seek medical advice?
As already discussed, it is better to wait for a few years to get pregnant naturally. The time to seek treatment depends on the age of the woman. Women between the age of 35 and 40 may seek treatment after trying for at least six months. Women above the age of 40 may consult the doctor immediately.
What are the causes of female infertility?
Many factors contribute to a couple being infertile. Some of the factors for female infertility are:
The ovary may be polycystic. A polycystic ovary causes hormonal imbalance and changes in body hair growth, acne, and body weight. Sometimes premature loss of ovarian eggs may happen due to chemotherapy or genetics. It is called premature ovarian failure, which may stop egg production and lower estrogen production, leading to infertility. Another ovarian disorder is high prolactin production. Higher amounts of prolactin reduce estrogen production leading to infertility.
This happens due to blocked or damaged fallopian tubes. The damage in the tube may stop the sperm from reaching the egg or prevents the fertilised egg from reaching the uterus. The damage may occur due to pelvic inflammatory disease or previous abdominal surgeries.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus) grows outside the uterus. This may cause pelvic adhesions and scarring, which may block the fallopian tube, causing infertility.
Uterine or Cervical Issues
The presence of fibroids and polyps in the uterine cavity blocks the sperm and affects fertility. The uterus and associated organs may have deformities . The uterus may be unusually shaped, the cervix may be too narrow, or the cervix may not produce optimum mucus to ease the flow of sperm inside the system.
There are a few cases where the cause of infertility remains undiagnosed. But it may get corrected with treatments that an expert healthcare provider can provide . So always get checked by a doctor.
What are the various tests performed to check fertility in women?
The healthcare provider asks about the medical history and physically examines the patient before conducting a battery of tests.
- Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Charting: It is an old technique to check ovulation. The healthcare provider may ask the patients to chart the basal body temperature throughout the menstrual cycle for several months. A temperature rise indicates that the person has ovulated. The chart may help determine the period when one ovulates and accordingly plan the intercourse.
- Urine tests: The patient can take a urine test at home to check the levels of luteinising hormone. The levels of this hormone will be high just before ovulation.
Tests to be done at the hospital
- Blood tests aim to check the hormonal levels– thyroid, prolactin, estrogen- as well as tests for HIV and hepatitis.
- HSG Test: Hysterosalpingogram involves a series of X-rays taken by injecting a contrast dye into the uterine cavity. The test highlights blockages and defects of the uterus, and the healthcare provider may discover the cause of infertility.
- Postcoital Test: This test checks the sperm’s ability to fertilise the egg and how the sperm interacts with the mucus in the vagina. The couple needs to have intercourse a few hours before the test.
- Pelvic ultrasound test: An ultrasound test helps check for issues in the uterus, tubes, and ovaries. It is usually performed 15 days before menstruation.
- Hysteroscopy: This test helps get a detailed view of the uterine cavity to check for problems.
- Endometrial biopsy: The healthcare provider may take a sample of a portion of the uterine lining to check if everything is normal.
- Laparoscopy: This comparatively invasive procedure thoroughly checks the issues related to reproductive organs. If any blockage or other problems are present, the healthcare provider may treat the condition through surgery.
What are the measures to prevent female infertility?
The women who are planning to embrace motherhood must maintain a healthy weight. A regular workout can help to remain healthy and prevent obesity. But certain studies suggest that intense workouts for more than five hours a week may affect ovulation. So it is best to try and keep the workout optimum for the body.
Tobacco and alcohol have various adverse effects on the body, and it is crucial to avoid them to maintain excellent reproductive health. Along with all the other measures, reducing activities that induce stress is vital since stress is a risk factor for infertility.
With technological innovations in medicine, infertility has become easy to treat. Specialised centres care for infertility, and numerous tests and procedures to handle are readily available.