Female Infertility can be defined as the inability for a woman to get pregnant after several months (12 months or more) of having unprotected sexual intercourse on a regular basis with her partner.
One is also considered infertile if she cannot maintain or carry a pregnancy through to live child birth. Although most women eventually conceive after several months or even years, of trying, it would be advisable to seek medical attention to identify the problem if conceiving is proving difficult.
Once the cause has been determined, your doctor can recommend certain treatments and or procedures that would make conception more possible.
There are numerous reasons why a woman may be experiencing infertility. Here are the most common causes:
Poor Egg Quality
Poor egg quality is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. Eggs are naturally produced in the ovaries, however, some women may produce fewer eggs than others. Furthermore, the rate of production, as well as the quality of the eggs produced decline with age.
According to research, women over the age of 35 produce lower quality eggs compared to those under the age of 30. This problem can, however, sometimes be improved by taking fertility supplements and drugs, which enhance hormonal health and support egg production.
Problems with ovulation is a highly common cause of female infertility, and account for around 30% of all cases. However, thanks to modern medicine, a large percentage of these women can be supported through to a successful pregnancy and birth with the use of drugs.
When the cause of infertility is due to a problem with ovulation, this can occur in several ways:
a). When the ovaries fail to release a mature egg
The inability for the ovaries to produce mature eggs usually means that no fertilization can happen at all. Unless this problem is detected early, a couple can spend a lifetime trying to conceive. Some of the possible symptoms of ovulation problems can include heavy or light menstrual bleeding, infrequent periods, or absence of periods for several months.
A common disorder related to this cause of infertility is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), please see below.
b). If the eggs don’t mature in the ovaries
Accounting for around 20% of female infertility cases and occurring due to either a lack of or over production of two important hormones, follicle-simulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing-hormone (LH). During normal function, these hormones are produced in the pituitary gland and facilitate egg maturation.
If this process is not occurring then, the cause is usually a problem with either the pituitary gland not producing LH and FSH or with the hypothalamus not stimulating the pituitary gland to begin the production of these two important hormones.
c). Problems with the follicles
Eggs are produced inside the follicles of the ovaries and rupture each month to release the egg during a normal functioning reproductive cycle. However, some women experience infertility due to an issue with the follicles not releasing the egg and, therefore, the egg remains inside the ovary and does not get released.
Endometriosis is a condition whereby the endometrial tissue (uterus lining where fertilized eggs attach) grows excessively and also often outside of the uterus in areas such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, abdomen or pelvis.
Although this condition may go unnoticed for several years, some women may experience painful intercourse or periods often accompanied by heavy bleeding. Some may also experience general pelvic pain, especially around the time of ovulation.
Although this condition makes conception more difficult, it can still be possible for a woman to conceive depending on the severity. However, most doctors recommend surgical removal of the endometrial tissue, which is then said to make conception more likely.
In most cases, the endometrial tissue often grows back over time after surgical intervention.
Damaged or Blocked Fallopian Tubes
Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes may also make conception extremely difficult or impossible in some cases, for eggs to be fertilized. Damaged tubes may also prevent a fertilized egg from getting to the uterus.
Some of the factors that lead to blocked or damaged fallopian tubes include sexually transmitted infections, sterilization surgery, congenital defects and pelvic inflammatory infections. Surgery may be the only solution for this, however, with modern advancements in surgical procedures, as many as 30% of women having operations to correct this issue go on to conceive and have a successful pregnancy.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
As mentioned earlier, PCOS is a common condition, which often renders a woman infertile. In PCOS, if follicles in the ovaries do not develop into mature ones, it then becomes next to impossible for the woman to produce mature eggs.
This condition is therefore characterized by small follicles, irregular ovulation patterns, and hormone imbalances. The woman may also have excessive hair growth, acne, and obesity.
If PCOS is detected early, this condition may be reversed through proper dieting and body exercise. The patient may, therefore, need to focus on foods that improve fertility such as fish, oysters, lean meat, white meat, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables.
For women suffering from this condition, IFV treatment may be a viable option to assist with conception.
Various lifestyle factors can also contribute to female infertility. These commonly include smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, poor diet and nutrition and being either over or under weight.
Women who take proper nutrition and regular exercise seriously are less likely to experience infertility problems.