HAV ING explained all that pertains to m ale infertility in the previous article, our focus today is about the fem ale, who in alm ost all cases carries the blam e and stigm a of infertility.
Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having freq uent, unprotected sex for at least a year. Note that infertility m ay result from an issue with either m ale or fem ale, or a com bination of factors that prev ent pregnancy.
Pregnancy is the result of a process that has m any steps which involv es; release of an egg from one of the wom an’s ov aries of which the egg m ust go through a fallopian tube towards the uterus.
Then a m an’s sperm m ust j oin with the egg along the way and finally, the fertilized egg m ust attach inside the uterus. Infertility can happen if there are problem s with any of these steps.
The m ain sym ptom of infertility is being unable to get pregnant. Other sym ptom s include having irregular or absent m enstrual periods. You probably don’t need to see a doctor about infertility unless you have been trying regularly to get pregnant for at least one year.
Wom en should talk with a gynecologist earlier, if they are age 35 or older and have been trying to conceive for six m onths or longer, have irregular, painful or absent periods, have a known fertility problem , hav e been diagnosed with endom etriosis or pelv ic inflam m atory disease, hav e had m ultiple m iscarriages and also those who hav e undergone treatm ent for cancer.
In wom en, changes in the m enstrual cycle and ov ulation m ay be a sym ptom of a disease related to infertility. Sym ptom s include: Abnorm al periods.
Bleeding is heav ier or lighter than usual; Irregular periods whereby the num ber of days in between each period varies each m onth; No periods, that is you have nev er had a period, or periods suddenly stop; Painful periods which are accom panied with back pain, pelv ic pain and cram ping. Som etim es, fem ale infertility is related to a horm one problem .
In this case, sym ptom s can also include; Skin changes, including m ore acne, changes in sex driv e and desire, dark hair growth on the lips, chest and chin, loss of hair or thinning hair and weight gain.
Other sym ptom s of disorders that m ay lead to infertility include: Milky white discharge from nipples unrelated to breastfeeding and pain during sex. Note that m any other things can be related to infertility in wom en and their sym ptom s v ary.
C auses of fem ale infertility m ay include: ovulation disorders, which affect the release of eggs from the ov aries or other underlying causes m ay include too m uch ex ercise, eating disorders or tum ors, Uterine or cervical abnorm alities, including abnorm alities with the cervix , polyps in the uterus or the shape of the uterus.
Noncancerous (benign) tum ors in the uterine wall (uterine fibroids) m ay also cause infertility by blocking the fallopian tubes or stopping a fertilized egg from im planting in the uterus.
Other causes include; Fallopian tube dam age or blockage, often caused by inflam - m ation of the fallopian tube which norm ally result from pelv ic inflam m atory disease; Other causes include; Endom etriosis, which occurs when endom etrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, m ay affect the function of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes; Prim ary ovarian insufficiency (early m enopause) is also a cause of infertility and Pelv ic adhesions, that can form after pelvic infection, appendicitis, endom etriosis or abdom inal or pelvic surgery and cancer and its treatm ent.
Many risk factors for fem ale infertility are alm ost the sam e as those of m ale and include: The wom an’s age since fertility gradually declines with age, especially in the m id-30s, and it drops rapidly after age 37 .
Infertility in older wom - en is likely due to the lower num ber and quality of eggs and can also be due to health problem s that affect fertility.
Other risk factors include; Tobacco and alcohol use, being overweight or underweight and exercise issues for instance lack of exercise contributes to obesity, which increases the risk of infertility.
Ov ulation problem s m ay also be associated with freq uent strenuous, intense exercise in wom en who are not ov erweight. Som e types of infertility aren’t preventable but several strategies m ay increase your chances of pregnancy for instance; Have regular intercourse several tim es around the tim e of ov ulation for the highest pregnancy rate. Intercourse beginning at least fiv e days before and until a day after ovulation im prov es your chances of getting pregnant.
Note that ovulation usually occurs in the m iddle of the cycle halfway between m enstrual periods for m ost wom en with m enstrual cycles about 28 days apart. Other strategies that m ight increase a wom an’s likelihood to conceive are; Q uit sm oking since tobacco has m any negativ e effects on fertility, not to m ention your general health and the health of a fetus.
Av oid alcohol and street drugs since they m ay im pair your ability to conceive and hav e a healthy pregnancy; Lim it caffeine intake; Ex ercise m oderately since regular ex ercise is im portant, but exercising so intensely that your periods are infreq uent or absent can affect fertility and note that being overweight or underweight can affect your horm one production and cause infertility so avoid weight extrem es. Infertility treatm ent depends on: causes of infertility, duration, you and your partner’s age and Personal preferences.
Som e causes of infertility can’t be corrected but cases where spontaneous pregnancy doesn’t happen, couples can often still achieve a pregnancy through use of assisted reproductive technology.
Coping with infertility can be extrem ely difficult because there are so m any unknowns. The journey can take an em otional toll on you. If you’v e been diagnosed with infertility, or fear you m ay have trouble conceiving in the future, you’re not alone.
All you need to do is stay positiv e and seek treatm ent. Fortunately, there are m any safe and effective therapies that significantly im - prov e your chances of getting pregnant and m ost couples will ev entually conceive, with or without treatm ent.
● Racheal Masibo, Assistant Lecturer at St John’s University of Tanzania ( SJUT)-Dodom a. Em ail: rackelm asibo@ yahoo.com Mobile: 07 17 513598