Infertility is a common problem in the United States, with about 10% of women aged 15-44 years facing difficulty in conceiving or bearing a child.
The following conditions can cause infertility in a woman:
Ovulation (the process of releasing eggs from the ovaries) disorders:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): In this disorder, multiple cysts develop in the ovaries. It is one of the most common causes of female infertility, affecting 6-12% of US women of reproductive age.
- Premature ovarian failure: The ovaries stop functioning normally before the age of 40 years.
- Hypothalamic dysfunction: A problem in the functioning of the hypothalamus (a part of the brain) causes problems in the pituitary gland (a small gland below the hypothalamus that regulates hormone production).
- Excessive prolactin production: Problem with the pituitary gland may cause hyperprolactinemia (excess production of prolactin), which lowers estrogen production and may cause infertility.
Blockage in the fallopian tubes (a fallopian tube is a tube that connects the uterus to the ovary on each side): This can obstruct the sperm from reaching the egg or block the fertilized egg from getting into the uterus. Fallopian tube blockage can be caused by
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) (an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes).
- Endometriosis (formation of the uterine tissue outside the uterus, commonly in the ovaries and fallopian tubes).
- Previous abdominal or pelvic surgery in the abdomen or pelvis.
- Pelvic tuberculosis.
Other causes of infertility in women include:
- Fibroid or myoma (noncancerous growths in the uterus)
- Inflammation within the uterus
- Abnormal shape of the uterus
- Cervical stenosis (a narrowing of the cervix)
What things increase a woman's risk of infertility?
Certain things may put women at a high risk of infertility. These are as follows:
- Increasing age: The quality and quantity of a woman's eggs begin to decline with increasing age, particularly in the mid-30s.
- Smoking habit: Smoking damages a woman’s cervix and fallopian tubes, increases her chances of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy and damages the eggs.
- Low or high weight: A higher or lower body mass index (BMI) affects the ovulation process.
- Poor nutrition: A diet high in saturated fats and sugars increases a woman’s odds of infertility, whereas a diet rich in whole cereals, fruits, and vegetables improves fertility.
- Unhealthy sexual history: Having unprotected sex with multiple partners increases a woman’s risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which can result in infertility.
- Excess alcohol: Having more than one alcoholic drink in a day puts women at risk of becoming infertile.
- Increased levels of stress: Several recent studies have found links between women's levels of day-to-day stress and lowered chances of pregnancy.
How long should women wait to consult their doctors for infertility?
Infertility is defined as the failure to get pregnant after one year of unprotected sex. Hence, most experts suggest that women should wait at least one year before consulting their doctors for infertility issues.
Women who are aged 35 years or older should see their doctors after six months of trying. This is because of the decrease in a woman's chances of having a baby after the age of 30 years.
Women can also visit their doctors early if they suffer from
- Irregular periods.
- Scanty periods.
- Extremely painful periods.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
It is wise for women to talk to their doctors before trying to get pregnant. The doctor can do a complete health evaluation and suggest ways to help women in achieving a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.
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Female infertility. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/female-infertility/symptoms-causes/syc-20354308
Infertility FAQs. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility
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