Causes of infertility

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Psychological factors

Stress and anxiety can have a big impact on your hormone levels, and this in turn can affect ovulation. For the guys, stress can contribute to problems such as impotence. Having difficulty conceiving is itself stressful, and can lead to feelings of helplessness, guilt, anger and sadness that only worsen the situation. If stress is a factor in your life, don’t forget to schedule some “ME” time into your busy day. This is definitely the time for some creative readjusting of priorities! We've all heard stories of couples who conceived as soon as they stopped trying, or when they adopted a baby. Taking the pressure off and looking after yourselves can really help.

Age

Biologically, the best time for a woman to get pregnant is in her twenties. But biology and life have a tendency to get in the way of each other, and so age has become a major factor in the fertility of women. Over the past few decades there has been an increasing tendency for women to delay having children, with nearly half of women in Australia now having their first baby in their 30s. However, a woman's fertility is already declining by her early thirties, with a sharp decline over age forty. 

Unhealthy Lifestyle

A woman’s supply of eggs is depleted more rapidly if she smokes. Smoking also affects oestrogen production, and oestrogen is vital for making the cervical mucus that is essential for fertility. Excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine have also been implicated in difficulty in conceiving. A healthy diet has been associated with a lower risk of ovulatory disorder infertility.

Overweight/under-weight

Fertility can be adversely affected in very underweight women because they may not ovulate normally. Women who are overweight may have hormonal imbalances. You can improve your chances of conceiving by getting into your healthy weight range with a healthy diet and exercise.

Ovulation problems

Ovulatory dysfunction is the absence of ovulation or abnormal ovulation activity. It is a major cause of infertility. It is often associated with abnormal mucus patterns and irregular menstrual cycles, and is usually caused by hormonal disorders. Your doctor may organise some simple blood tests to check your hormone levels and to see if you're ovulating.

The most common example of a hormonal disorder that causes ovulation problems is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Other hormonal disorders that can cause ovulatory dysfunction are Hyperprolactinaemia and Hypothyroidism. These conditions are often associated with PCOS. You can read more about PCOS, Hyperprolactinaemia and Hypothyroidism here.

Keeping a chart of your cycles and your cervical mucus patterns will help your doctor diagnose your condition and plan your treatment. It will also help you recognise when you do ovulate so you can time sex to coincide, optimising your chances of conceiving. Your Billings Ovulation Method™ tutor will offer you the time, support and practical advice to deal with everyday problems. You will be referred for professional help where appropriate.

Tubal abnormalities

Your doctor may decide that you need further tests to check that your fallopian tubes are clear and able to allow the passage of the sperm and the fertilized egg. If an abnormality is discovered it may be possible for doctors to correct it. You may also be referred for ultrasound to check that your internal reproductive organs look normal.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) refers to infection of the reproductive organs, especially the fallopian tubes. It occurs when bacteria move from the vagina or cervix into the reproductive organs, and is often sexually transmitted. Up to 15% of women with PID may become infertile because of scar tissue blocking the normal movement of the egg and sperm through the fallopian tubes. Interfering with the normal environment of the vagina with the use of douches, vaginal deodorants and lubricative jellies may increase the risk of developing PID. These products also contain chemicals which may be harmful to sperm.

Symptoms include an unpleasant odour, itching, soreness and burning when urinating and persistent back pain. However, sometimes there are no symptoms. Early detection and treatment is vital for fertility, so if you suspect you have PID you should see your doctor.

Endometriosis

This is a condition where the endometrium grows outside the uterus. The fallopian tubes, ovaries, urinary organs or intestinal organs may be affected. The cause of this condition is unknown, but risk factors may include early onset of menstruation, allergies, obesity and genetic predisposition.

About 30 to 40 percent of women with the condition may experience infertility because of scarring in their reproductive organs. Symptoms vary, but may include irregular and heavy menstruation, pain during sex, and pelvic pain for a few days before and during menstruation. By being familiar with your normal patterns of cervical mucus you are likely to detect this problem at an early stage because the pattern may not develop normally.

Treatment may include hormone therapy or surgery. Having the endometriosis removed via surgery may give you a "window of opportunity" if you are trying to conceive. Including 5 hours a week of aerobic exercise reduces your risk of recurrence by around 50 percent. Childbearing can also significantly reduce the risk of recurrence.

Last modified on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 21:27