When we think of infertility, our minds tend to immediately lead us to problems related to the female reproductive system. While this is true in the majority of cases male factor infertility and a combination of both female and male factor diagnoses can lead to problems with infertility as well.
This is a basic list of diagnoses related to female factor infertility, it is not meant to be a comprehensive list and only basic information is listed here. Please contact your health care provider if you have specific problems.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – PCOS is a complex endocrine disorder that usually affects women of child-bearing age and is one of the most common causes of female factor infertility. An imbalance of female sex hormones leads to irregular menstrual cycles including the inability of the body to release a mature egg, changes in the skin including acne, increased body hair and darkening of the skin at the armpits, neck and breast, small ovarian cysts, weight gain and insulin resistance. Treatment differs between women but can include medications such as birth control pills to regulate cycles, metformin to increase insulin sensitivity and medications to promote egg maturation and release.
- Hostile Cervical Mucus – Cervical mucus protects sperm from the acidic environment of the vagina and helps the sperm travel to the fallopian tubes. When cervical mucus is too thick to allow sperm to move through the cervix, it is referred to as hostile and decreases the ability to conceive.
- Endometriosis – Endometriosis, or endo as you may hear it referred to, occurs when the lining of the uterus grows outside of that organ and attaches to other organs in the pelvic region including the fallopian tubes and ovaries. Women can experience pain and irregular bleeding but often there are no symptoms. The cause of endo is unknown and treatment can vary from exercise to hormone treatments to laparoscopic surgery.
Other causes of female infertility include abnormal pelvic/uterine area, blocked fallopian tubes, irregular ovulation, premature ovarian failure and uterine fibroids. Infertility can occur even after you have had a successful pregnancy and is known as secondary infertility. Secondary infertility can be caused by any of the above conditions as well.
Resolve gives an accurate description of the emotional effects of infertility as well:
Infertility is a major life crisis for 1 in 8 couples. For these women and men fighting the disease of infertility, the infertility experience involves many hidden losses for the individuals, their loved ones and society as a whole, including:
- Loss of the pregnancy and the birth experience;
- Loss of a genetic legacy and loss of future contributing citizens to the next generation;
- Loss of the parenting experience;
- Loss of a grandparent relationship;
- Low feelings of self-worth;
- Loss of stability in family and personal relationships;
- Loss of work productivity; and
- Loss of a sense of spirituality and sense of hope for the future.
Because infertility often involves major personal life issues and decisions, it is often experienced as a private matter and is not ordinarily discussed in public forums. The personal nature of the infertility experience contributes to the failure of the public, politicians, healthcare professionals and the media to recognize infertility as a disease. This causes a lack of sound knowledge and available resources about infertility.
Infertility has a strong impact on self-esteem. Suddenly your life, which may have been well-planned and successful, seems out-of-control. Not only is your physical body not responding as expected but it feels as if your entire life is on hold. Facing the disappointment of not becoming pregnant month after month can lead to depression for both you and your spouse.