When a couple even after regular and unprotected sex for at least a year has seen no success in conceiving, it is termed as infertility. Couples may be affected by male infertility, female infertility or a combination of both. The female infertility causes can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Lots of treatments are available which depend on the cause of infertility.
What are the symptoms of infertility?
The main symptom would be the inability to get pregnant. A menstrual cycle that is too short or too long, irregular or absent might mean that the person is not ovulating. Some outward signs or symptoms might be present as well.
What are the most significant causes of female infertility?
- Advancing maternal age - Before the latter 20th century, women were conceiving in their twenties or even teens. In the modern era, women are delaying childbirth and it has led to the discovery of the advanced maternal age on the function of the eggs. The age-related infertility is among the most common causes.
- Ovulation disorders - Regular and normal ovulation is very necessary for women for natural conception. Ovulation can be detected through a menstrual calendar. Many disorders can impact the ability to ovulate normally, the most common being polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Tubal occlusion - Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhoea, chlamydia and pelvic inflammatory diseases can predispose women towards blocked fallopian tubes. The ovulated eggs cannot be fertilised by sperms due to the blockage. If both the fallopian tubes are blocked, in vitro fertilisation is required.
- Uterine fibroids - Fibroids are very common among women though their presence does not cause infertility. There are three types of fibroids - subserosal, intramural and submucosal. The subserosal fibroids extend more than 50% outside of the uterus. The intramural fibroids are within the uterine muscles and do not cause any indentation of the cavity. The submucosal fibroids extend into the uterine cavity. The submucosal fibroids can reduce the chances of pregnancy.
- Endometrial polyps - The endometrial polyps are the finger-like projections in the uterine cavity found in the inner lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium. The abnormalities are mostly not associated with cancer. Polyps can also decrease the chances of pregnancy as much as 30%.
How can female infertility be treated?
- Education - The couple needs to be educated about the normal process of fertility and the problems that affect it. The treatment options can empower the patients to make the correct choices. Understanding the process is important before people can seek professional help.
- Medications to induce ovulation - The medications that help the eggs to mature for ovulation are available in the form of pills and injections. The most commonly prescribed injections that stimulate the ovary are the gonadotropins. Most common are follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), or a combination of this with the LH (luteinizing hormones).
- Insemination - Intrauterine insemination is a process in which the sperms are washed and placed into the uterine cavity. Thus, the cervix is bypassed and a higher concentration of motile sperms can be chosen in the process.
- In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) - IVF is a process where the eggs are collected and fertilised by sperm outside the body. IVF involves removal of eggs from the ovary, fertilisation with sperms in the lab, followed by transfer of the embryos into the uterus.
Since advancing maternal age is a risk factor, the couple should visit a doctor if they cannot conceive even after a year of regular sexual activities.