Female infertility is the inability to conceive after 6 to 12 months of unprotected intercourse. It can also be defined as an expectant mother not being able to carry a pregnancy to a full term.
Female infertility is common across the globe. But, most times its misdiagnosed by people who forget that it takes two to make a baby. Meaning, infertility can also occur in males, know us male infertility.
According to Office on Women’s Health (OASH), an estimated 10% to 18% of couples across the globe have difficulties of getting pregnant or having a successful delivery.
While 10% of women in the United States of America have the infertility problem
The big problem is, infertility does not only affects women but also affects their relationships more especially the married women.
Common causes of infertility
Female infertility can be caused by many factors but the most common are:
Age contributes to infertility because; as a woman becomes older her fertility tends to naturally decrease due to a decrease of irons and calcium in the growing body.
Damages on the uterus or the Fallopian tube
The uterus and the Fallopian tube are organs that play major roles in the female reproductive system.
The fertilization process occurs in the Fallopian tube while the uterus plays the role of nurturing the fertilized ovum which develops into the fetus. Also, the uterine wall holds the fetus until the baby is mature enough for birth.
The following are damages on either the Fallopian tube or the uterus which can lead to infertility:
- Uterine polyps: growths attached to the inner wall of the uterus. The growth may at times extend into the uterine cavity.
- Endometriosis or fibroids
- Chronic disease of either the uterus or the fallopian tube e.g. cancer
- Birth defects
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
- Female born by mothers who used DES syndrome medication
- Pelvic inflammatory diseases like bacterial infections e.g. Chlamydia or gonorrhea
Problems in the cervix
It is a situation where the cervical has an abnormal amount of mucus, abnormal cervical mucus may at times prevent the sperm from reaching the ovarian egg or make it difficult for sperm to penetrate the egg.
Ovulation is the key to getting pregnant; experts say the perfect time to get pregnant is during the ovulation period. According to Mayo clinic, ovulation problems account for infertility in about 1 in 4 infertile couples.
The following conditions can lead to the disruption of the menstrual cycle leading to unpredictable ovulation period thus infertility:
- Hormonal imbalance due to the problems of the thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
- Excess weight
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- An Extremely short period of the menstrual cycle
Diagnosis of Female Infertility
One can be physically diagnosed as an infertile woman on the following situations also known as signs for infertility:
- Above 35 years; being intimate with a man to be pregnant for 6 months and you don’t become pregnant.
- Below 35 years old: having sexual intercourse with a male counterpart to become pregnant but you end up not getting pregnant.
- It can also include medical history like previous miscarriage or female born by a DES syndrome medicated mother
However, the diagnosis can be done through a medical test and examination as follows:
- Urinalysis conducted by the specialist to checks for infertility infections’ presence.
- A blood test is done to be able to tell the condition of the thyroid gland and how it functions for the case of hormonal imbalance
Medical examination of the reproductive organs
- The medical expert conducts a sonograhystogram together with ultrasound and saline injection on the uterus, looking for any abnormalities in the uterus.
- The laparoscope is inserted into the female abdomen for the medical specialist to view the status of the reproductive system. Looking for the blockage, scarred tissues and conditions like uterine polyps, endometriosis or fibroids.
- Use of hysteroscopy, a tiny telescope with a fiber light, to look for any abnormalities in the uterus
- The medical expert conducts a virginal or abdominal ultrasound to look at the uterus and the ovaries.
- Urinalysis checks for cervical mucus conditions, if sticky there is infertility possibility.
- Mucus sample and tissues to check for the ovulation status and determine whether ovulation is taking place
- The doctor inserts colored liquid to the Fallopian tube to check for blockage with the help of HSG type of X-ray, he/she is unable to tell if there is a blockage or not.
Can breast cancer treatment affect my fertility?
Treatments like chemotherapy during breast cancer treatment can affect your ability to become pregnant. As a breast cancer patient, you have to take drastic measures of your future on becoming a mother.
While your main concern is treating breast cancer, if giving birth is important to you then make sure you make use of the IVF or freezing egg procedure to safe your eggs for future you.
You should inform your doctor about your decision before your breast cancer treatment begins
Female Fertility Risks
- Age: the older the woman gets the decreased the number and quality of her eggs in her reproductive system thus the chance of being infertile
- The weight of the body: women with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia have a high probability of becoming infertile
- Use of alcohol and tobacco: Alcohol hurts infertility treatments. Women with a smoking lifestyle have a higher rate of miscarriages and tubal pregnancies.
- An unpredictable menstrual cycle is known as irregular periods: it is common on over or underweight women, you are advised to lead a healthy lifestyle and visit your doctor.
- Exercise: more frequent exercises that are strenuous and intense can affect a woman’s ovulation patterns it can even lead to a lack of menstrual cycles (monthly periods).
- History of sexually transmitted infection.
Prevention of Female Infertility
If your infertility is genetically transmitted like a female born by a DES syndrome medicated mothers or you had a chronic disease which leads to the removal of your womb prevention is inevitable.
However, there are various measures you can take as a woman to decrease the possibilities of being infertile. Those are:
- Avoiding drugs which can cause infertility
- Have annual check-ups with your gynecologist once you become sexually active
- Take preventive measure on STD/STI by abstaining from sexual activities before marriage or use condom
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle with nice personal hygiene
- Avoid any kind of medicines which may affect your fertility and even the fertility of your unborn child.
The infertile situation of almost a third of infertile couples has not been fully ascertained because the cause has not been recognized. So, the unascertained kinds of couples are given the diagnosis of ‘unexplained fertility’.
These couples are under infertility treatment. However, their fertility problem purely relays on the amount of sperm a man can produce. And the condition is male infertility.
Find out more about signs of male infertility.
Even if they are undergoing fertility treatment, the damaged has to be below 25% if the damage reaches more than 25% of sperm, there is a real chance of the wife conceiving.
Female infertility treatment
Depending on the cause of infertility in a woman, some infertility can be treated. If your infertility is caused by hormonal imbalance problem, a specialist can administer fertility hormones to restore the level of hormones which then restores your fertility.
Women with ovulation problems receive fertility drugs to help them ovulate
Fertility treatment steps
Fertility steps are procedures that an infertile woman with Fallopian tube blockage condition undergoes.
The patients with blocked Fallopian tubes need a surgery known as laparoscopic to unblock it which has various steps;
- Step 1: With the help of the HSG type of X-ray, the doctor can locate the blocked fallopian.
- Step 2: He will give you general anesthesia to start the procedure
- Step 3: The doctor inserts colored liquid into the fallopian tube.
- Step 5: The surgical process will officially start. The doctor will make a small cut in your abdomen and remove any blocked parts of your fallopian tubes.
- Step 6: Surgery is over, the doctor will now use absorbable stitches to reconnect the tubes with the hope of a successful surgery.
If the surgery does not work, the patient doesn’t conceive after a successful recovery of the surgery. Another measure has to be taken (in vitro fertilization).
IVF (In Vitro fertilization): sperms from the man and eggs from the woman counterpart are collected and brought together in a lab.
The fertilized egg grows for 3 to 5 days to form an embryo which is then placed in the woman’s uterus. Infertility situation is very expensive to treat. So, should prevent it.
Healthtuition has strict sourcing guidelines. We rely on academic research institutions, peer-reviewed studies, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
- Mayo Clinic Staff (July 27, 2019). Female infertility - Symptoms and causes. mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/female-infertility/symptoms-causes/syc-20354308
- Infertility. (2018). womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/infertility
- American Pregnancy Association (Apr 24, 2017). Female Infertility: Causes, Treatment and Prevention. https://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/female-infertility-70973/
- ASRM (May 10, 2016 ). Infertility: An overview — A guide for patients. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. reproductivefacts.org/news-and-publications/patient-fact-sheets-and-booklets/documents/fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/infertility-an-overview-booklet/
- Infertility. (2016). cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infertility.htm