Up 18% of couples have trouble getting or staying pregnant. That’s 1 out of every 5 couples. Infertility and pregnancy and infant loss are real issues that aren’t often talked about, but like every challenge, understanding the situation is the first step to overcoming it.
Here are some questions to consider if you’re a woman facing infertility.
What is your age?
- 35 and under: Try for at least a year before consulting a doctor for help.
- 35-40: Try for 6 months before consulting your doctor.
- 40 and over: Speak to your doctor early about any concerns.
Are your ovaries doing their job?
- Insulin resistance, obesity, abnormal hair growth, and acne can be signs of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is the most common cause of infertility in women.
- Irregular periods, missing periods, emotional or physical stress, and drastic changes in weight (up or down) can mean a hypothalamic dysfunction. This means that your ovaries aren’t getting the right balance of hormones for a smooth ovulation.
- Autoimmune issues due to genetics or chemotherapy can lower estrogen and mean your body’s not producing eggs.
- Medications you’re taking for another reason, or problems with the pituitary gland can also reduce estrogen and cause infertility.
Are your fallopian tubes clear?
- STDs, infections, inflammation of the pelvic region, and previous abdominal surgeries can all be the cause of blockages in your fallopian tubes.
Is your uterus participating?
- Sometimes the lining of the uterus (endometrial layer) will grow in abnormal locations, blocking the fallopian tubes or not allowing the sperm and egg to meet safely.
- While benign polyps or fibroids are common in healthy women, they can sometimes interfere with fertility.
- Naturally occurring malformations or damage to the uterus or cervix can cause problems with becoming or staying pregnant.
Is your cervix okay?
- Cervical stenosis can be inherited or caused by damage. In this case, the cervix is locked up tight and won’t allow sperm into the uterus.
- Sometimes your cervix isn’t producing the best kind of fluids for sperm to travel through on their way to the egg.
What are the treatments available?
- Start with a hysterosalpingography (his-tur-o-sal-ping-GOG-ruh-fee). It’s an x-ray of your uterus that can detect abnormalities. The test also determines whether fluid can pass out of the uterus and through the fallopian tubes. In some women, this test can flush out the fallopian tubes and increase fertility all on its own. If any abnormalities are found, you will likely need further treatment.
- Fertility drugs are most common for women who have difficulty ovulating. There are many medications available, both as pills and injections. All these medications have the same intended effect: better or more ovulation.
- Laparoscopic or hysteroscopic surgeries are minimally invasive and remove obstructions or correct abnormalities. Tubal surgeries are rare, but focus on removing adhesions, dilating the fallopian tubes, or creating new openings.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
- Millions of healthy sperm are injected via a small catheter into the uterus close to the time of ovulation.
Take care of yourself.
Facing the challenges of female infertility can be exhausting– both physically and mentally. There will be ups and downs, successes and disappointments. To make sure you’re as healthy as possible for your growing family, be sure to do the following things:
- Ask your doctor to explain your situation and treatment as clearly as possible. Not understanding can cause unnecessary anxiety.
- Be open about your infertility with trusted family, friends, and support groups.
- Exercise regularly and keep up healthy eating habits.
- Consider other options such as adoption, donor sperm or egg, or living without children.
Infertility is deeply personal, whether is means being unable to conceive or being unable to carry a pregnancy to term. We at Thomas Medical wish you the best of luck in your treatments, and a happy, healthy family in the years to home.
For more information we recommend talking to your doctor or visiting https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/female-infertility/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354313