Female Infertility

In about 40% of infertile couples, the problem is a male factor and in about 40% it is a female one, and for the remaining 20% it seems to be a joint factor or the cause is unknown. Finding out you are infertile can be one of the most difficult situations you might ever have to face and can have a huge emotional impact on your well-being.

Causes of Female Infertility

Female infertility

There are many possible causes of female infertility and in fact the issues involved with female infertility are far more complex than male infertility.

The major causes of female infertility include:

1.   Absence of/Irregular Ovulation: Many factors play a role in anovulation or irregular ovulation, including:

  • Hormonal irregularities
  • Malnutrition/low levels of body fat
  • Genetic factors
  • Stress
  • Chronic disease

Some of the causes are treatable with drugs and sometimes lifestyle changes, others are not treatable and pregnancy may only be possible with the help of an egg donor.

2.   Blocked Fallopian: Blocking of the fallopian tubes and other organs impede the passage of sperm or eggs. Tubes can be blocked because of a number of reasons:

  • Blocked from birth
  • Intentionally blocked to prevent pregnancy (tying/clipping)
  • Accidental damage following surgery
  • Severe Endometriosis
  • Inflammation (i.e. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)

3.   Endometriosis: is when cells break away from uterine lining (the endometrium) and become implanted and grow outside the uterus. When they develop on the surface of the ovaries or fallopian tubes, they may block the passage of the egg and impair conception. Hormone treatments and surgery sometimes reduce the blockage enough to make conception possible. Endometriosis can be diagnosed by a laparoscopy, which is an inspection of the pelvic cavity with a long and narrow tube inserted through a small incision in the navel and it can often be treated at the same time.

4.   Declining hormone levels: Declining hormone levels of oestrogen and progesterone that occur with aging may prevent the egg from becoming fertilized or remaining implanted in the uterus.

Possible Solutions for Female Infertility

Fertility Drugs:

Ovulation is a result of a well-balanced endocrine system (pituitary, hypothalamus, and gonads). However, some women have hormone irregularities that may interfere with the process of ovulation. Fertility drugs promote ovulation by stimulating hormones in the brain to get one or more eggs ready and released in the ovaries each month. This is often the first step in treatment and many problems can be treated with fertility drugs, such as clomifene (Clomid) and gonadotrophins.

However, it is important to note there is a higher chance of multiple births and a condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is a serious side effect of some fertility drugs and is caused by the ovaries rapidly swelling due to the increased number of ripening eggs.

Surgery:

Cervical, vaginal or endometrial abnormalities that prevent conception may be corrected surgically. Scar tissue, cysts, tumors, or adhesions, as well as blockages inside the fallopian tubes, may be surgically removed. The use of diagnostic techniques such as laparoscopy and hysteroscopy are also common.

  • Laparoscopy: A medical procedure in which a long, narrow tube is inserted through a small incision in the navel, permitting a direct view of all the pelvic organs, including the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Laparoscopy is used as both a diagnostic and a treatment tool.
  • Hysteroscopy: Hysteroscopy enables a physician to look through the vagina and neck of the uterus (cervix) to inspect the cavity of the uterus with an instrument called a hysteroscope. Hysteroscopy is used as both a diagnostic and a treatment tool.

IVFIn Vitro Fertilization (IVF):

This is a reproductive procedure in which a woman's eggs are removed from her body, fertilized with sperm in a laboratory, and then surgically implanted back into her uterus. In 1978, Louise Brown, the first test-tube baby was born in England, since that time thousands of babies have been conceived in this fashion.

Donor Eggs & Embryo Transplants:

Some women may not be able to produce healthy eggs due to ovarian failure or age-related infertility. For these women, egg (oocyte) and embryo donation have been successful. An embryo transplant involves artificial insemination of a donor's egg with the male partner's sperm. After fertilization has occurred, the embryo is transferred to the female partner's uterus. To be successful, it is imperative that fertility drugs be used to synchronize both women's menstrual cycles.  The first baby conceived with a donor egg was born in Australia in 1983.

Surrogate Parenting:

For women who have healthy eggs, but cannot sustain a pregnancy to term, surrogate parenting is an option. The couple's sperm and egg are combined, and the zygote is implanted in another woman, called a gestational carrier.

Women who can neither sustain a pregnancy not produce their own eggs may arrange to have another woman's eggs fertilized by the father's sperm. The woman who carries the foetus is called surrogate mother.  At birth the child is then given to the noncarrying woman and her partner.

Please contact your doctor for further details and specific medical advice and assistance in your case of infertility.

Prevention of Female Infertility

Your lifestyle can have an impact on your fertility and leading a healthy lifestyle can have a positive impact.

Positive steps to improve your chances of healthy pregnancy:

  • Give up smoking
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Limit your caffeine intake
  • Improve your diet
  • Avoid getting STI's
  • Find ways to cope with stresses and anxiety
  • Complementary therapies may be useful, such as acupuncture (please consult your doctor before taking any additional substances like herbs or homeopathic treatments)
  • Taking folic acid and/or multivitamins (please consult your doctor about appropriate dosage)

 

 


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