Motherhood is one of the greatest gifts for a woman, but not every woman is lucky to be bestowed by this blessing. Infertility is a common malady that affects over 15% of women across the world.
Infertility in women is the condition in which a female isn’t able to conceive even after having unprotected sex for 12 months, and 6 months for women over 35 years.
Those women who are unable to carry their child full term or have miscarriage also suffer from infertility.
The onus of infertility befalls on both men and women. In one-third of cases, it might be a woman’s problem, and in the third one-third a man’s, and in the remaining cases it can be both the partners’ issues or might not be even deciphered by the doctor.
For a woman to become pregnant, the egg that is released from the ovary travels down the fallopian tube, where it is met by the sperm, and fertilization occurs.
When the fertilized egg gets implanted in the uterus, a woman becomes pregnant. The entire procedure acts under the control of various hormones. The problem can occur in any of the steps and can lead to infertility.
Reasons for infertility in women
· Age– post 30 a woman’s quality and quantity of egg starts to decrease, thus decreasing the chance of conceiving.
· Smoking-it ages the ovaries prematurely, and affects the cervix and fallopian tubes and increases the chances of miscarriages and ectopic pregnancy.
· Alcohol abuse-heavy drinking is detrimental to a woman becoming pregnant.
· Stress-mental health has a direct effect on a woman’s fertility. Stay positive to reap the benefits of a happy life.
· Weight issues– being both overweight and underweight decrease a woman’s fertility. Athletes or women who weight train also find it difficult to have a child.
· Malnourishment-women whose diet lacks certain essential nutrients like folic acid, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, have an increased chance of infertility.
· Sexually Transmitted Infection-STIs like gonorrhea and Chlamydia can affect your reproductive organ. Unprotected sex with multiple partners is best avoided.
The early signs of infertility in women
The earlier the detection of infertility, the greater is the chance of proper diagnosis and response to fertility treatment. Most women become aware of their infertility issues after their failure to conceive naturally. It has been seen that women nowadays are embracing motherhood at a later age. About 65% of first-time mothers are above the age of 32.
Some of the signs that are often ignored as it can be a sign of an underlying disease:
· Painful sex
· Heavy and long periods
· Irregularity in menstrual cycle or skipping periods
· Menstrual blood is either too dark or pale
· Hormonal changes which result in acne, facial hair, hair loss, and loss in libido
What causes infertility in women?
It is the most common cause of female infertility and may be due to various medical conditions like:
· Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
· Hypothalamic dysfunction
· Premature ovarian failure
· Excess of prolactin
· Thyroid problems
Fallopian tube damage
A damaged fallopian tube prevents fertilization and implantation. The fallopian tube can get damaged due to:
· Pelvic inflammatory diseases due to STIs
· Pelvic surgery
Uterine and cervical issues prevent implantation and increase the chance of miscarriage.
· Benign polyps or fibroids
· Birth defect in the uterine
· Narrowing of the cervix
According to Mayo Clinic, endometriosis is a condition when the naturally growing tissues of the uterus are found in other locations. It can lead to scarring and blocking of the fallopian tube. It can also cause issues with proper ovulation.
Certain medication, chemotherapy and radiation, drug abuse and prolonged use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also lead to infertility among women.
Infertility diagnosis in women
To diagnose infertility in a woman, a gynecologist will first ask your medical history and might perform a physical examination. A pelvic ultrasound, hysterosalpingography, laparoscopy, and ovarian reserve testing are some of the diagnostic procedures. At-home ovulation testing should also be done. Hormone testing might also be prescribed.
The treatment plan for female infertility
Today with the advancement of medical treatment it is possible to embrace motherhood for women who are suffering from infertility. The treatment that is best suited for you depends on various factors like the specific cause of infertility, how long you have been trying to conceive, and the overall health condition of both partners. Your age is an important determining factor in deciding the course of treatment.
Certain medication is used to stimulate the secretion of hormones and is beneficial for those who suffer from ovulation disorder. There are several risks associated with fertility drugs like multiple pregnancies especially when taken in the injectable form. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and future risk of an ovarian tumor are some of the long-term risks associated with fertility medication.
Surgeries are also suggested to restore fertility, though it has become extremely rare these days due to the success of other methods of treatment. Surgeries might be performed to correct the uterine abnormalities and remove scar tissue or adhesions in the fallopian tube.
Assisted conception is the most popular and successful treatment method. The following methods of treatment are:
· Intrauterine insemination (IUI): sperm is directly injected in the uterus during the time of female ovulation thereby increasing the chance of fertilization.
· In-vitro fertilization (IVF): fertilization occurs outside the body, and the fertilized egg is then implanted directly in the mother’s uterus.
· Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
· Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT)
· Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT)
· Egg donation
· Surrogacy and gestational carrier
The success of fertility treatment is directly proportional to the woman’s age. For women under 35, the success rate is as high as 59%, and it reduces to a mere 21% for women between the age of 37-40 and it is just a measly 11% chance of success for women above the age of 40.
Ectopic pregnancy and failure of fertility treatment can take a heavy toll on a woman. There is not only financial setback but emotional and psychological issues. A supportive partner, friend, and family are required to cope during such trying times. Many women join support groups and counseling to cope with the stress of fertility treatment.
Lifestyle changes can often assist with pregnancy, like quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol consumption and incorporating a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Hope for the best, be prepared for the worst.