If you've been trying to conceive for a while, you may be starting to wonder if you are affected by any of the women's health problems that can impact fertility. In general, it's advised you see your doctor if you've been unable to conceive after a year of actively trying. There are a number of tests your doctor can carry out to assess your reproductive health, including determining whether you are ovulating regularly, how your endocrine system is functioning and whether you have any blockages in your reproductive system. There are a few key conditions your doctor will want to rule out during the course of their investigations, and these conditions are outlined below:
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that causes endometrial tissue, which is usually only present in the lining of the uterus, to grow on the pelvis, bladder and fallopian tubes. During menstruation, the endometrial tissue grows, and this can cause inflammation and scar tissue to develop. Scar tissue can cause blockages that prevent eggs being fertilised.
Symptoms of endometriosis include heavy menstrual bleeding, pain during intercourse and general pelvic discomfort. This condition can be treated with surgery to remove scar tissue and open blocked areas of your reproductive system. This can be enough to resolve fertility problems, but as endometriosis can recur after surgery, some women will require IVF to conceive.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is caused by hormone imbalances that prevent follicles in the ovaries from developing to the point they release eggs during ovulation. Sufferers can be failing to ovulate but be unaware of this, as they still have periods.
If you have PCOS, you may display symptoms associated with a hormone imbalance, such as weight gain, hair growth on your face or chest, acne or thinning hair. PCOS can be treated with drugs to stimulate ovulation or a surgical procedure known as ovarian drilling, which can trigger ovulation by reducing the presence of male hormones. IVF may be required if ovulation does not resume after treatment.
Damaged Fallopian Tubes
Damaged fallopian tubes can prevent your egg and your partner's sperm from meeting or prevent a fertilised egg from reaching your uterus for implantation. There's not always an identifiable cause when you're diagnosed with fallopian tube damage, but damage can occur as a result of previous abdominal or pelvic surgery, trauma and certain sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia.
There are often no symptoms present to indicate your fallopian tubes are damaged, but some people experience pelvic pain and tenderness. Damaged tubes can be surgically repaired, but if the damage is extensive, your doctor may recommend the tubes are removed if you want to undergo IVF. This is due to the possibility of scar tissue developing along the damaged sections of your fallopian tubes, which could impede implantation even with IVF.
If you have concerns about your fertility, or if you're experiencing any of the symptoms associated with the conditions mentioned above, schedule a consultation with your doctor as soon as possible.