Reasons for Being Infertile and How to Treat It

grayscale photo of woman

For a couple to be classified as infertile means the couple has been trying to get pregnant with frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year with no success. This is the obvious sign of infertility. However, if a woman has an abnormal menstrual cycle (too long or too short) this can also be a symptom of female infertility.

Factors

There are many reasons why a woman could be infertile. The Mayo Clinic reports that 25 percent of infertile women are infertile because of an ovulation disorder. These disorders could be due to a variety of reasons including premature ovarian failure, luteal phase defects, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and abnormal follicle-stimulating (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) secretions.

Other factors for female infertility could be caused by:

  • Damaged fallopian tubes
  • Endometriosis: tissue growth in locations other than the uterus
  • Cervical narrowing or blockage
  • Uterine causes: including benign polyps or tumors

For some women, infertility has no explanation. For this category there are many lifestyle choices that could influence the risk of infertility. They are:

  • Being age 32 or older
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Drinking caffeine
  • Being overweight or underweight
  • Having a sexually transmitted disease

Tests to Determine Infertility

If a year has passed and a woman is still not pregnant, there are tests her doctor can perform to determine her infertility.

Ovulation kits are sold over-the-counter, however; the doctor will draw blood to check for progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone produced after ovulation. Testing of specific hormones can determine if infertility could be caused by or could be interfered with by a medical condition.

Another test for further evaluation of infertility is a hysterosalpingography. This test checks the size and shape of the uterine cavity and whether the fallopian tubes are open. A laparoscopy is done on an outpatient basis and with anesthesia. The doctor will examine the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus to check for various abnormalities.

This last test is for women at risk with a lower egg supply due to age or lifestyle. It is a variety of blood and imaging tests which are done on specific days of the menstrual cycle to check for ovary reserves.

Restoring Fertility

When a woman is infertile, there are ways to try and restore fertility. Most are by medication but there are also surgery options.

If a woman is infertile due to an ovulation disorder, the most common method to restore fertility is by fertility drugs. These drugs trigger ovulation. The Mayo Clinic states oral medications have a five to eight percent chance of conceiving multiples. This chance increases by 20 percent when taking injectable medications.

There are multiple drugs for abnormal LH and FSH production. They include clomiphene citrate, gonadotropins, metformin and aromatase inhibitors.

There are four surgeries to improve fertility. There is tissue removal which removes endometriosis or pelvic adhesions.

A tubal surgery can be used when the fallopian tubes are blocked. This surgery creates a new tubal opening.

Tubal reversal surgery is for women who have had their fallopian tubes cut and tied. This surgery can reconnect the tubes. The doctor can be selective of candidates for this surgery as with in-vitro fertilization.

In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is reproductive assistance where a woman’s mature eggs are taken, fertilized with sperm in a laboratory dish and then implants the embryo into the uterus. There is a chance multiples will develop in an IVF procedure since multiple fertilized eggs are transferred to the uterus.

Normal Fertility

There are many tips to take to heart when improving fertility naturally. They are to maintain a normal weight, quit smoking and drinking, reduce stress and limit caffeine.

If a couple suspects infertility, a trip to the doctor will help diagnose for an easier and less stressful journey to a successful pregnancy.

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