Infertility the silent struggle.
Infertility is a highly personal and very sensitive topic for many women. There are many factors and reasons that could cause infertility for a woman. Determining what those contributing factors are and how to treat them can be a struggle, to say the least. Today I am going to discuss 4 factors that can contribute to infertility.
Blocked Fallopian tubes
Having blocked fallopian tubes is a reason that could contribute to infertility in many women. This issue is when a fallopian tube becomes blocked and doesn’t allow the egg to travel down the tube to become fertilized and it doesn’t allow sperm to travel upwards into the tube to fertilize the egg. Some cases of blocked fallopian tubes may find that they have only one tube that is blocked or that the tube is partially blocked. In cases where the tube is partially blocked it becomes a concern because this increases the risk of developing an ectopic pregnancy or tubal pregnancy can occur which is dangerous.
Common causes of blocked fallopian tubes are endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease. Both of these conditions cause adhesions and blockages to occur which can lead to blocked fallopian tubes developing. There are no visible signs and symptoms that are present within the body. A physician or doctor must run specific tests to determine that this indeed is the cause of infertility. Yet managing an underlying issue such as endometriosis or having had a pelvic inflammatory disease and struggling with becoming pregnant for a prolonged period of time may indicate that this may be an issue.
If it is confirmed that indeed you have blocked fallopian tubes and you are actively seeking to become pregnant the medical professional will suggest treatments that would be best suited for your unique situation. Some common treatments are laparoscopic surgery which involves removing adhesions that are blocking the fallopian tube, or IVF which involves taking healthy eggs and fertilizing them in a lab and implanting them back into the womb.
Hormonal imbalance can contribute to reproductive glands not working properly which can cause issues with conception. These imbalances can affect ovulation and cause ovulatory dysfunction to occur. The main hormones that need to remain at balanced levels in order for conception to occur are estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, DHEA, and low levels of testosterone.
Causes of hormonal imbalance are:
1. Poor Nutrition/Lifestyle Habits
Not adhering to a properly balanced diet and maintain healthy daily habits such as exercising regularly and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and lean meats can lead to hormonal imbalances.
2. Excessive Stress
The excessive stress placed on the body in any way whether it is physical, mental or emotional stress will have an effect on our hormone levels. Stress directly affects the cortisol hormone, which causes this hormone to become elevated. When cortisol levels become increased important sex hormones are suppressed which can decrease fertility odds and impair the ovulation process. Chronic stress that remains unchecked can lead to adrenal fatigue and thyroid problems.
Xenohormones and xenoestrogens can be found in many of the personal care products that we use, foods that we consume, products we use to store our foods in as well as many pesticides and household cleaning products. These hormones disrupt the ability of the bodies natural hormones to do their job properly by interfering with how they perform, how they are produced, how they are metabolized and how they are eliminated.
4. Unhealthy Body Weight
Not maintaining a healthy weight can interfere with hormone levels due to the amount of adipose tissue (fat) that the body has. Having a lower than average body fat percentage can lead to the body not producing enough estrogen and cause issues with missing and irregular periods as well as ovulation dysfunction. Having a higher body fat percentage than what your body needs can lead to the body producing excessive amounts of estrogen which can lead to fertility issues.
Symptoms that can present themselves and lead you to the possibility that you may have a hormonal imbalance include:
- Sluggish metabolism
- Fat gain around the abdomen
- Hot flashes
- Sensitive to hot or cold
- Mood swings
- Irregular periods
- Bloating & water retention
- Unexplained weight gain
- Thinning hair
- Lethargy and fatigue
If you suspect that you may have a hormonal imbalance, scheduling an appointment with your doctor to have bloodwork and a hormone panel done can help you and your doctor identify if you do have a hormonal imbalance, what hormones you are low in and what changes need to be made. Common treatments that your doctor may recommend include focusing on improving your diet and lifestyle, finding ways to manage and reduce stress, achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, becoming and staying active, and the possibility of undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
Low Ovarian Reserve
This is due to a reduction in the number of quality eggs present within the ovaries to assist in conception and fertilization of an egg. As far as what causes low ovarian reserve conditions that damage the ovaries such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, benign tumors, and pelvic adhesions play a factor. Age is another contributing factor that plays a role in low ovarian reserve. As women enter into their 30’s and beyond the number of eggs that are available in the ovaries that serve as viable eggs for conception diminish. This progresses with age.
There are no symptoms that occur with low ovarian reserve but there are a few signs that may present themselves such as experiencing shorter than normal monthly cycles. So instead of a 28-day cycle, you instead begin having 24-day cycles. Also, your estrogen levels may begin to decrease. Signs of waning estrogen levels are experiencing hot flashes, trouble sleeping, and missing periods.
If you have endometriosis or have had issues with ovarian cysts and have been trying to actively conceive without success you should definitely schedule a visit with your physician for an assessment and to see if this could be an issue for you. Also if you are a woman in your mid to late 30’s you should definitely visit with your doctor and have him perform tests and to evaluate if you are indeed ready and capable of conception via the natural route. These tests can determine if a low ovarian reserve is an issue for you as well as inform the doctor if you would be a good candidate for alternative reproductive treatments.
Poor Egg Health
Egg quality is related to having a low ovarian reserve. Poor egg quality means there is poor embryo quality which will affect how viable a person is for fertility treatments such as IVF. Some causes associated with poor egg health are environmental factors, diet, and lifestyle, stress, hormonal imbalance.
Similar to low ovarian reserve there are no set group of common signs or symptoms that will present themselves in the body. Egg health will have to be determined by a physician that will perform specific tests to determine the overall health of the egg.
If you have poor egg health there are some things you can do to improve the health of your eggs with your diet and lifestyle such as:
- Drink more water
- Exercise and stay active
- Maintain a nutritious diet full of fertility superfoods
- Take supplements as necessary
- Manage stress daily
- Make lifestyle changes as needed
- Fertility drugs and treatments as prescribed by your physician
This may aid you in increasing your egg health and can also be an aid for those that are preparing to undergo alternative reproductive methods such as IVF.
Work with Your Doctor
Regardless of what you may suspect to be the underlying issue that is causing your inability to conceive, it is vitally important that you visit with your physician and have the appropriate tests done in order to determine if you are a candidate for any of the above issues. Once you know what it is that you are up against you can work with your healthcare specialist or fertility expert to create a solid game plan that will increase your odds of becoming pregnant.