It is estimated that approximately a third of the time that couples cannot conceive a pregnancy is due to female infertility problems. A third of the time it is due to male fertility problems and the remaining third is either a combination of the two, or because of unknown causes. Let’s take a look at signs of fertility problems in women, and the kind of fertility support that is available for couples who want to conceive.
What Is Infertility?
The World Health Organisation estimates that 10% of women experience fertility or subfertility issues. Infertility is defined as the absence of a pregnancy or inability of a couple to fall pregnant, despite having frequent intercourse. Female fertility problems are more difficult and complex to diagnose and manage than men’s and the type of treatment adopted usually depends on the nature and cause of the problem. A lot of couples will go on to conceive naturally after two years without intervention.
Signs Of Fertility Problems In Women
One of the signs of fertility problems in women concerns the menstrual cycle. Women who have long menstrual cycles that exceed 35 days, or short cycles that are shorter than 21 days, may struggle to conceive. Furthermore, an absent or irregular cycle may also indicate a problem with fertility – although it is possible not to have any signs of the problem. Heavy menstrual periods may also indicate the presence of a problem.
When Should You Consult With Your Doctor?
If you are younger than the age of 35 most doctors will recommend that you try to conceive naturally for at least a year before seeking treatment. Once you are between the ages of 35 and 40, this window will reduce to six months of trying before seeing your doctor for help. Once you are older than the age of 40 you can ask your doctor to assist with testing and treatment immediately.
Complications With Women’s Health That May Affect Fertility
In order for pregnancy to occur, the female’s ovaries need to release an egg to be fertilised. Sometimes a problem can occur at this stage of the process. An ovulation disorder occurs when you do not ovulate or you ovulate infrequently. This can be the result of a disorder with the hormones that control ovulation. If hormones play a role you may also experience skin changes, darker hair growth, weight gain or hair loss. Some hormonal conditions that may affect fertility include:
- Hypothalamic dysfunction
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Too much prolactin being produced
- Ovarian failure
Endometriosis is a condition affecting women’s health where tissue that should develop inside the uterus grows in other areas. When the tissue grows, and when it is removed, it can cause the development of scars that result in blockages in the fallopian tubes, and this prevents the fusion of the sperm cell and egg. It can also affect the uterus lining, which has an impact on the implantation of the fused sperm cell and egg.
Problems With The Fallopian Tubes
If the fallopian tubes are blocked and damaged it can stop the egg and sperm cell from reaching each other, or the fused cell from reaching the uterus. Damage and blockages to the fallopian tubes can be the result of
- Surgery including surgery for ectopic pregnancy
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Pelvic tuberculosis
Cervical And Uterine Causes Of Infertility
If there is a problem with the cervix or uterus, you may have an increased chance of miscarriage or problems with implantation. Some of these causes may include
- The presence of benign tumors or polyps
- Uterine abnormalities that you were born with
- Scarring or inflammation from endometriosis
- Cervical stenosis or narrowing of the cervix
Treatment And Fertility Support For Women’s Health
Keeping a healthy body and mind can assist couples on their journey towards better health, and improve their efforts at conceiving. Some ideas to lead a healthier lifestyle that supports a healthy pregnancy and baby include
Tobacco directly and negatively affects fertility. It also has an adverse effect on the health of the mother and developing baby. Quitting at any age has a number of health benefits.
Don’t Drink Alcohol
Heavy drinking is associated with fertility problems and can decrease fertility. If you do want to conceive or are pregnant you should avoid alcohol.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for women’s health and losing some weight may provide some fertility support and benefit. Overweight and underweight women may not be able to conceive as quickly as they want to and may benefit from the intervention of a physiotherapist for lifestyle assistance. A physiotherapist can give you tailored exercise advice to help you maintain a healthy body weight and develop the physical strength to support a healthy pregnancy. In the event that you do fall pregnant your physiotherapist would be able to modify your exercise program so that you do not overexert yourself, and so that you can circulate maximum oxygen for your health and that of your developing baby.
Manage Your Stress Levels
Not being able to conceive a baby can have profound effects on your stress levels and make it more difficult to fall pregnant. Fertility problems may also lead to increased tension between a couple, and it may be a good idea to seek help in managing and reducing your stress.
If you are presenting with any of the signs of fertility problems in women or have any concerns about your ability to conceive, you should speak to a professional. Please contact us for a confidential appointment: (02) 9884 9300.