Although rarely talked about, infertility is a common problem that can affect almost 1 in 7 couples. It is officially defined as the inability to get pregnant after one year of trying.
Surprisingly to many, getting pregnant is an intricate process.
First, the woman must ovulate, then the egg must make its way through a fallopian tube toward the womb. The sperm must travel through the vagina, then the womb and go through the fallopian tube to fertilise the egg. Finally, the fertilised egg must attach itself to the uterus.
If you are a couple trying for a baby and are unsuccessful, it often becomes stressful trying to diagnose the issue or problems.
Signs of Infertility?
When faced with any medical difficulties in the advent of the Internet, our first instinct may be to do a Google search in attempt to self-diagnose (probably how you came across this article).
There might be signs that are hard to recognise and an overwhelming amount of information to sieve through. But here are some more common signs of infertility in a woman:
Often a more recognisable cause for concern is the absence of periods. It is pretty normal for women to miss a period due to stress and other changes to one’s environment.
However, if you have not had a period in months and you have taken a test to determine you are not pregnant, then it is best to get it checked.
Monitor Your Periods
Irregular periods in adulthood may be an indicator of anovulation, where ovulation does not take place.
An irregular period is defined as a menstrual cycle that is either shorter than 21 days, or longer than 36 days. Research has found that variations in cycle length (for example, having 22 days in one month and 34 days in the other) are more symptomatic of infertility than having a regular cycle that is either shorter or longer than the average cycle.
If you experience irregular periods and are trying to conceive, it would be best to seek professional consult in order to determine whether you are ovulating.
If you are ovulating, just irregularly, there are ways to mitigate this. This can be using simple methods like an ovulation predictor, which works similarly to a standard urine pregnancy test, to determine the optimal period for intercourse.
Are You Experiencing Random Mood Swings
Signs of hormonal fluctuation can also be a symptom of potential fertility issues. This includes skin issues, facial hair growth, thinning hair, unexplained weight gain and a reduced sex drive. Because the functioning of a healthy reproductive system is governed by hormonal balance, their imbalance would affect ovulation.
Other signs include painful sex, which may be indicative of underlying conditions that might result in infertility, as well as a positive Chlamydia or Gonorrhea test. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are preventable causes of infertility as they can cause infection to the fallopian tube, uterus and surrounding tissue.
What Causes Infertility
There is a myriad of reasons for female infertility. Although frustrating, sometimes the cause of infertility is never found. Despite this, causes of infertility can be sorted into four main categories: ovulation disorders, damage to fallopian tubes, Endometriosis, and uterine and/or cervical causes.
Ovulation disorders account for infertility in approximately 1 in 4 infertile couples. Problems with the regulation and reproduction of hormones, or with the ovary, can result in anovulation. Look out for signs of weight gain, abnormal hair growth and acne. Or if you have recently been under excessive amounts of physical or emotional stress, have a very high or low body weight, or a recent substantial change in body weight.
Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes prevent the sperm from fertilising the egg or obstruct the passage of the fertilised egg into the uterus. The causes of problems with the fallopian tubes include Pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection due to STIs, previous surgery in the abdomen or pelvis, as well as Pelvic Tuberculosis.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue that normally grows in the uterus grows in other locations. The extra tissue growth and its surgical removal can cause scarring, which may obstruct fallopian tubes.
Infertility could also come as a result of Uterine or Cervical causes, which includes benign polyps or tumours.
There are also several risk factors that may put you at a higher risk. This includes lifestyle indicators like age (the quality and quantity of a woman’s eggs declines with age), smoking, being overweight or underweight, having unprotected sex with multiple partners, and alcohol consumption.
Facing infertility could be a stressful and isolating experience. But just remember that it is a common problem that can be addressed with professional help and guidance. It is important first to get an accurate diagnosis so that the root cause of the problem can be addressed.