Infertility can be defined as the inability to get pregnant even after trying for a course of full one year of time.
According to the research conducted by Initio, a Bangalore-based medical technology company, 10-15 percent married couples in India face infertility. A whopping 27.5 million couples who want to conceive suffer from infertility.
Female infertility ranges from 40-50 percent whereas male infertility is at 30-40 percent. Some infertility cases can be because of both the partners too.
What are the causes of female fertility?
- Ovulation Problems
Problem with ovulation is the most common cause of female infertility. Without ovulation, there are no eggs to be fertilized. Some signs that a woman is not ovulating normally include irregular or absent menstrual periods.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of female infertility, wherein a hormone imbalance can interfere with normal ovulation.
- Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is when a woman’s ovaries stop working normally especially before she is 40. POI differs from early menopause and is considered as one of the causes of female infertility.
- A tumor or cyst
- Thyroid problems
- Blocked fallopian tubes due to
- pelvic inflammatory disease,
- surgery for an ectopic pregnancy
- birth defect
- scar tissue or adhesion
- Uterine fibroids, which are non-cancerous clumps of tissue and muscle on the walls of the uterus.
- Abnormal cervical mucus, that prevents sperm from reaching the egg.
- Cervical stenosis or narrowing of the cervix.
How can it be diagnosed if the female is infertile?
Your doctor will do an infertility checkup. Before examining you physically, your doctor will ask about your past medical and sexual history. He or she will enquire about your ovulation cycle and check if you are ovulating each month. There are a few ways to do this.
You can track your ovulation at home by finding changes in:
- morning body temperature for several months
- cervical mucus for several months
At his or her clinic your doctor can check ovulation with blood tests or by taking an ultrasound of the ovaries.
If ovulation is normal, your doctor will perform certain fertility tests that include:
- Hysterosalpingography (HSG), wherein post taking an x-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes, your doctor injects a special dye into the uterus through the vagina to see if the dye moves freely through the uterus and fallopian tubes. This will help find physical blocks that may be keeping the egg from moving from the fallopian tube to the uterus or the sperm from reaching the egg, causing infertility.
- Laparoscopy – Using a laparoscope, the doctor will check the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus for disease and physical problems like scarring, endometriosis, etc.
What are the factors that increase the chances of infertility in females?
- Age: Aging decreases a woman’s chances of conceiving in the following ways:
- The decrease in the ability of ovaries to release eggs
- A decrease in the number of remaining eggs
- Eggs are not as healthy
- More likeliness to have a miscarriage
- Excess alcohol use
- Poor diet
- Athletic training
- Being overweight or underweight
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Health problems that cause hormonal changes, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and primary ovarian insufficiency
How can female infertility be prevented?
- Maintaining a normal weight
- Exercising regularly
- Abstain from smoking
- Avoiding alcohol
- Reducing the levels of stress
- Routine visits to the gynecologist
- Maintaining personal hygiene
- Preventing STI’s
- Limiting caffeine
How can female infertility be treated?
- To induce ovulation
- To treat the hormonal imbalance
- Antibiotics against infections
- To remove scar tissues or blockage in fallopian tubes or uterus.
- ART or assisted reproductive technology like In vitro fertilization or IVF
- IUI or intrauterine insemination
When do you need to consult a doctor?
- Irregular periods or no menstrual periods
- Very painful periods
- Abnormal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Unusual discharge
- Vaginal soreness or itching
- More than one miscarriage