Author: Dr. Kathyani V S
Qualification : MBBS, DGO, Fellowship in Reproductive Medicine
Infertility in Women: Causes & Symptoms
Typically, infertility is described as a condition in which pregnancy is not achieved after trying for at least one year (6 months if the woman is over 35 years of age). It can be caused as a result of hormone problems, physical problems, age, lifestyle or environmental factors. Studies suggest that as much as it occurs due to a problem with the woman, it is due to a problem with the man. And then there are cases where infertility occurs due to male and female factors combined.
The diagnosis of female infertility can be very tricky. Depending on the cause of infertility, there are multiple treatments available. In order to develop a deeper understanding in the subject, let’s explore some of the causes and symptoms of infertility in women.
Common Causes of Infertility in Women
Failure to Ovulate
The most common cause of infertility in women is the failure to ovulate. Studies show that over 40% of women with infertility issues do not achieve pregnancy as a result of failure to ovulate. Now, it’s important to know that such a failure can result from factors like:
- Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
- Diminished ovarian reserve (low egg count in a woman’s ovaries) due to normal aging.
- Endocrine disorders (thyroid disease or hypothalamus problems) which affect the hormones produced by the body.
Menstrual Cycle Issues
Menstrual cycle is an integral process in preparing the female body for pregnancy. Problems or inconsistencies in the menstrual cycle are among the main causes of female infertility.
Egg Failing to Mature Properly
Ranging from conditions like PCOS, obesity and lack of relevant proteins, the reasons for the failure of an egg to mature properly are multiple. An immature egg may not be released at the correct time, may not make it down the fallopian tubes or may not be fertilised.
Structural Problems of the Reproductive System
Some specific structural abnormalities of the reproductive system that result in infertility include:
- Endometriosis is referred to the condition when the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus is found in other places blocking the fallopian tubes.
- Uterine fibroids are additional growths that appear around or within the uterus wall. While some women with fibroids have no difficulty with fertility, others may have problems getting pregnant naturally or may suffer multiple miscarriages.
- Polyps are the non-cancerous growths on the interior surface of the uterus. It can interfere with the function of the uterus and make it difficult for a woman to remain pregnant after conception.
- Scarring in the uterus is known to increase the risk of miscarriage and interfere with implantation, thus causing infertility. Scarring in the uterus can result from surgery, injuries or infections.
Autoimmune disorders are known to cause the body’s immune system to affect the even those body tissues it would normally ignore. Autoimmune disorders like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and various types of thyroiditis are known to affect fertility in women.
Common Symptoms of Infertility in Women
Irregular Menstrual Cycle
The primary symptom of infertility is the inability to get pregnant. An average woman’s cycle is 28 days but anything within a few days of that can be considered as normal, as long as it’s consistent. A menstrual cycle that’s too short(less than 21 days), too long (35 or more days), irregular, or absent can be an indication of failure to ovulate.
While most women experience cramps during their periods, heavy or painful periods that interfere with your daily life may be a symptom of endometriosis.
Hormonal fluctuations in women could be potential symptoms of infertility. You know it’s time to pay a visit to the doctor when you’re experiencing thinning hair, skin issues, weight gain, reduced sex drive or facial growth.
Pain during sex could be related to hormonal issues, endometriosis, or other underlying conditions resulting in infertility in women.
A wealth of research shows that 15-20% of the couples trying to conceive face fertility issues. Typically, female infertility is to be blamed 40% of the time. So if you’re diagnosed with infertility or fear you might have difficulties conceiving, you are not alone. Don’t worry; consult your doctor about your issues. The medical landscape has made great advances in the past few years. So even if you’re diagnosed with infertility, there’s a high chance you may still be able to conceive.
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