Facts About Infertility – Part Three
Our last two posts on infertility covered the meaning of infertility, causes, diagnosis and the factors that can cause infertility in men. In this part, we will discuss the factors that affect the female party. To recap or catch up, please click Part One, Part Two .
The most common causes of female infertility include problems with ovulation, damage to fallopian tubes or uterus, or problems with the cervix. Age can also contribute to infertility because as a woman ages, her fertility naturally tends to decrease.
Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from the ovary, travels down the Fallopian tube to the uterus, and is ready to be fertilized. About every month, an egg will mature within one of the ovaries.
Factors that can affect ovulation
- A hormone imbalance
- A tumor or cyst
- Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
- Alcohol or drug use
- Thyroid gland problems
- Excess weight
- Intense exercise that causes a significant loss of body fat
- Extremely brief menstrual cycles
Causes of damage to the tubes and the uterus
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
- Infection (Previous STDs)
- Endometriosis (Fibroid)
- Adhesion (Scar Tissues)
- A previous ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
- A birth defect
Problems in the cervix can arise due to abnormal cervical mucus. It can prevent the sperm from reaching the egg or make it more difficult for the sperm to penetrate the egg.
If after a year of consistently trying to conceive and no result, it would be a good time to see a gynaecologist who can diagnose what the condition might be. Evaluation of fertility can be done through the following tests:
- A urine or blood test to check for infections or a hormone problem, including thyroid function
- Pelvic exam and breast exam
- A sample of cervical mucus and tissue to determine if ovulation is occurring
- Laparoscope inserted into the abdomen to view the condition of organs and to look for blockage, adhesions or scar tissue.
- HSG, which is an x-ray used in conjunction with a colored liquid inserted into the fallopian tubes making it easier for the technician to check for blockage.
- Hysteroscopy uses a tiny telescope with a fiber light to look for uterine abnormalities.
- Ultrasound to look at the uterus and ovaries. May be done vaginally or abdominally.
- Sonohystogram combines an ultrasound and saline injected into the uterus to look for abnormalities or problems.
Treatment of female infertility can take the form of one or more of the following
- Taking hormones to address a hormone imbalance, endometriosis, or a short menstrual cycle
- Taking medications to stimulate ovulation (Clomid, Bromocriptine)
- Using supplements to enhance fertility (Folic Acid, B6 for women, B12 for men)
- Taking antibiotics to remove an infection
- Having minor surgery to remove blockage or scar tissues from the fallopian tubes, uterus, or pelvic area.
Infertility due to genes or illness may not be preventable but women can take some steps to ensure high chance of fertility. They can prevent STDs, adopt good personal hygiene and visit their doctor annually for check ups.