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Female Infertility FAQs

Following are the common questions about Female Infertility:

  1. What is female infertility?
  2. How common is female infertility?
  3. What are the causes of female infertility?
  4. What are the symptoms of female infertility?
  5. Who is at higher risk of developing female fertility?
  6. When should I visit a doctor for female infertility?
  7. How is female infertility diagnosed?
  8. How is female infertility treated?
  9. What happens during IUI?
  10. What happens during IVF?
  11. What questions should I ask the doctor before female infertility treatment?
  12. How does age affect female fertility?
  13. Can female infertility be prevented?
  14. How does infertility affect a woman?

Q. What is female infertility?

A. Female infertility is a common condition when a female can't get pregnant or have a successful pregnancy even after having unprotected sexual intercourse for at least one year.

Q. How common is female infertility?

A. Research suggests that at least 10% of women have infertility and the chances of women getting infertile increase as they age.

Q. What are the causes of female infertility?

A. There are many possible causes of female infertility. However, it can be difficult to identify the exact reason as some women have unexplained or multifactorial infertility.

Following are some of the possible causes of female infertility:-

  • Problems with the uterus
  • Ovulation disorders
  • Issues with the quality and number of egg
  • Blockage in fallopian tubes
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Premature ovarian failure
  • Radiation therapy or other cancer treatments
  • Obesity
  • Over-exercising
  • Exposure to environmental toxins, such as pesticides.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
  • Diabetes
  • Age (chances of infertility increases in women aged 35)

Q. What are the symptoms of female infertility?

A. The following are considered the most common symptoms of female infertility:-

  • Inability to get pregnant
  • A menstrual cycle that's too long (35 days)
  • A menstrual cycle that's too short (21 days)
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • No periods
  • Abnormal, irregular, or painful periods
  • Skin changes, including more acne
  • Changes in sex drive and desire
  • Dark hair growth on the lips, chest, and chin
  • Loss of hair or thinning hair
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Hot flashes
  • Pain during sex or inability to have sexual intercourse
  • Milky breast discharge

If you experience any of the above, feel doubtful of infertility, or are diagnosed with infertility, you should meet an OB-gynecologist or fertility specialist and get the treatment as soon as possible.

Q. Who is at higher risk of developing female fertility?

A. Several factors such as general health conditions, genetic traits, lifestyle choices, and age can increase the risk of infertility in women. Specific causes of female infertility include the following:-

  • Age
  • Hormonal issues that prevent ovulation
  • Abnormal menstrual cycle
  • Obesity
  • Being overweight
  • Having a low body fat content from extreme exercise
  • Endometriosis
  • Structural problems with fallopian tubes, uterus, or ovaries
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Tumors
  • Autoimmune disorders include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto's disease, and thyroid gland conditions.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Primary Ovary Insufficiency (POI)
  • Excessive substance use (tobacco or alcohol)
  • A past ectopic (tubal) pregnancy

Apart from all the above, DES medication may also cause female infertility. DES stands for Diethylstilbestrol, also known as stilbestrol or stilboestrol, a drug prescribed to pregnant women to prevent premature birth or miscarriage complications.

Q. When should I visit a doctor for female infertility?

A. Suppose you are a female in a heterosexual relationship with regular sexual intercourse and menstrual cycles. In that case, you should visit a doctor after 12 months of trying to conceive a child without birth control (six months if you are over the age of 35). It's also important to regularly visit your doctor once you become sexually active.

Q. How is female infertility diagnosed?

A. The gynecologist recommends a woman with infertility undergo specific tests to determine the cause of the problem and other underlying medical conditions.

A gynecologist does the following to diagnose female infertility:-

  • Overall physical exam
  • Pelvic exam
  • Pelvic ultrasound
  • Examination of the breast for unusual milk production
  • Blood tests
  • X-ray hysterosalpingogram (HSG)
  • Laparoscopy
  • Transvaginal ultrasound
  • Saline sonohysterogram (SIS)
  • Hysteroscopy
  • Ovulation testing
  • Test for ovarian reserve

Based on the findings of the tests, the doctor chooses the best option and moves ahead with infertility treatment.

Q. How is female infertility treated?

A. The treatment of female infertility varies from case to case. It mainly depends on the evaluation of infertility and its cause. A gynecologist may choose medication or surgery to treat female infertility. In the case of drugs, the doctor prescribes clomiphene that stimulates the ovary to release one or more eggs.

The medication also helps in adjusting the hormonal levels. The gynecologist may recommend luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones to stimulate the ovaries to release eggs.

However, when medications fail, the gynecologist suggests the patient undergo surgical treatments where mature eggs are harvested after fertility drug treatment. This mainly includes Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

Q. What happens during IUI?

A. The gynecologist slides a thin and flexible tube through the cervix into your uterus during the procedure. After that, the doctor uses a small syringe to insert the sperm through the tube directly into your uterus. Pregnancy happens if the sperm fertilizes an egg and implants it in the uterus lining.

IUI is done at the doctor's office or a fertility clinic. It's a daycare procedure that hardly takes around 5-10 minutes to complete. So it's a pretty quick process, and you don’t need anesthesia. IUI is a painless process, but some women may experience mild cramping.

Q. What happens during IVF?

A. IVF is a lengthy treatment journey that includes multiple steps. First, IVF treatment involves the collection of matured eggs from the ovaries and fertilization by the sperm in the lab. Then the fertilized egg (embryo) or eggs (embryos) are transferred to the uterus. One complete cycle of IVF treatment takes about three weeks. Sometimes, these steps are split into different parts.

Q. What questions should I ask the doctor before female infertility treatment?

A. You can ask the following questions to the doctor regarding female infertility during your first meeting:-

  • What is the main reason for my infertility?
  • Is the problem of infertility only with me or with my partner too?
  • Are there any lifestyle and diet changes that can help me get pregnant?
  • What are the treatment options for me?
  • Can my infertility be treated with medicines?
  • If the cause of infertility is unclear, which line of treatment do you recommend?
  • What are my chances of pregnancy with these treatment options?
  • What is the quarantee that I will conceive with this treatment?
  • How does IUI or IVF work?
  • What is the cost of my infertility treatment?
  • What are the different payment options?
  • Do you accept insurance coverage?

Q. How does age affect female fertility?

A. As a woman ages, her chances of becoming pregnant decrease. In the last few years, age has become the most common factor in female fertility because many couples wait to have children until their 30s or 40s. Women over the age of 35 are at a higher risk of developing infertility. The following are the reasons for this:-

  • The overall number of eggs is lower
  • More eggs have an abnormal number of chromosomes
  • An increased risk of other health conditions

Q. Can female infertility be prevented?

A. Female infertility can't be prevented. However, you can control the risk factors that contribute to the development of female infertility. You can do the following:-

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise daily
  • Don't smoke
  • Limit or stop alcohol consumption
  • Reduce stress and try to be happy
  • Avoid exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxins.

Q. How does infertility affect a woman?

A. Infertility has no direct impact on health. Still, the condition itself, the way it's perceived by society, or its stigma can affect a woman emotionally and psychologically, further leading to turmoil, frustration, anxiety, hopelessness, guilt, and feelings of worthlessness in life. So if you are going through such a period, consult a gynecologist immediately.