Infertility is a major concern for a large number of couples throughout the world. According to estimates, about 15% of American couples are infertile. Infertility is usually defined as the inability to conceive despite trying for a period of at least 1 year.
Both men and women can suffer from infertility. Women are usually likely to experience a gradual decline in their fertility after the age of 35 years. Fertility is governed by several factors. The following are some of the common factors that can cause infertility in women.
Causes of Female Infertility
Female infertility can result from a number of gynecological problems, or a problem or defect in the reproductive organs, like the ovary and the fallopian tubes. It can also be associated with a failure to ovulate. Even hormonal disorders and certain diseases can cause infertility.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
The ovaries are responsible for producing eggs, and hence any problem with the ovaries can affect fertility. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is characterized by the overproduction of the hormone androgen by the ovaries, can cause infertility. The disease got its name for the appearance of small cysts along the edges of the ovaries. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the most common causes of infertility and irregular menstruation in women.
Endometriosis is the condition characterized by the growth of endometrial tissues outside the uterus. Normally, endometrial tissues form the lining of the uterus. But sometimes, these tissues can grow outside the uterus in places like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and anywhere inside the pelvic cavity. The growth of endometrial tissues outside the uterus can prevent the passage of the egg, and affect the normal functioning of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the uterus, which can result in infertility.
Damaged or Blocked Fallopian Tubes
If the fallopian tubes are damaged or blocked, the fertilized egg cannot reach the uterus for implantation. This can increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy besides causing infertility. Ectopic pregnancy is the condition where the fertilized egg gets implanted outside the uterus. Fallopian tubes can be damaged by sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Problems in Ovulation
Pregnancy cannot occur if ovulation does take place. Ovulation refers to the release of an egg from the ovary. This process is regulated by the luteinizing hormone (LH) and the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Any irregularities in the secretion or production of these hormones can prevent ovulation, without which women cannot conceive. The absence of ovulation can be associated with disorders of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are responsible for regulating ovulation and the entire menstrual cycle in women.
Premature Ovarian Failure
Premature ovarian failure is also known as early menopause. This condition is characterized by the early depletion of ovarian follicles that produce eggs. As a result, the ovaries fail to produce eggs, which can eventually lead to infertility. Some of the possible causes of premature ovarian failure are, disorders of the adrenal, pituitary, and the thyroid gland, cancer treatment, and autoimmune diseases.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease is considered one of the most important causes of infertility in young women throughout the world. Pelvic inflammatory diseases can be caused by bacterial infections of the reproductive organs, and other structures located in the pelvic area. Among the reproductive organs, the fallopian tubes are more commonly affected by this condition, and it accounts for most of the cases of infertility associated with pelvic inflammatory disease. Sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea are some important risk factors for pelvic inflammatory disease.
Infertility can also be associated with conditions like hormonal imbalance (especially the excessive secretion of prolactin, and a deficiency of the follicle-stimulating hormone), the development of uterine fibroids or benign tumors in the uterine wall, pelvic adhesion, structural defects of the reproductive organs, sperm allergy, thyroid disorders, cancer and cancer treatment, and the intake of certain medications. It has been observed that factors like, smoking, obesity, being underweight, recurrent miscarriage, malnutrition, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia, and the excessive consumption of alcohol can also cause infertility at times.
Treatment for Female Infertility
In many instances, it is possible to treat infertility successively. The success of infertility treatment depends on several factors, including the underlying causes, age of the woman, and for how long she has been infertile. Many times, fertility can be restored by curing the underlying medical condition. Normally, fertility drugs are used for women who fail to conceive due to a problem in ovulation.
Sometimes, surgery can also be required for the treatment of this condition, depending on the underlying causes. For examples, if the fallopian tubes are blocked, it can be corrected by surgical procedures. If infertility cannot be corrected, then a woman can opt for assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization and assisted hatching.
To sum up, human infertility can result from a number of conditions. The proper treatment of this condition is possible only after ascertaining the underlying causes. Though there are no specific symptoms associated with infertility, it has been observed that many infertile women have a history of irregular or abnormal menstrual cycles, and severe pelvic pain. Therefore, women with a history of irregular menstrual periods, as well as those with conditions like endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease should get themselves properly evaluated, if they fail to conceive even after trying for more than a year.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.