Infertility is a widespread problem affecting many women of different races, different colour and different religion in the world. It is a heavy burden of failure that the woman carries with her when her body has failed in it's most basic task.
What is female infertility?
There are a lot of different understandings and definitions of the term,"female infertility" according to how different people view the problem. Because of this, it has been a bit difficult to find a one size fits all definition for female infertility. This is where the World health organization comes in. They developed a definition that incorporates the basic opinions of other people and keeps no stone unturned. According to them, infertility in women exists when a woman is unable to conceive, keep the pregnancy without having a miscarriage, or keep a pregnancy up till she gives birth to a living child. Another definition sees an infertile woman as a woman who is unable to get pregnant after one year of unprotected sexual relations.
Distribution of infertility
According to estimates, there are roughly 48 million women who are going through the harrowing experience of infertility in the world. Despite the fact that this number is in respect to the whole world, there are areas in the world of that have a higher number of infertile women. Perhaps it is something in the water, or soil or something the women in that area do or eat. Somehow, their areas have a higher number of infertile women.
Areas that have a higher number of infertile women include Central Asia, sub-saharan Africa, North Africa, Central Europe, Eastern European, and the Middle East.
Causes of Infertility
It's one thing to know that you are an infertile woman and it is another thing entirely to know why you are infertile. Fertility has a lot of reasons, ones you most probably know and even others you wish you knew before. Finding out the cause of your infertility is something that should be at the top of your list soon after you have been diagnosed because it would help you know what treatments to take for your infertility. There are so many factors that affect fertility in women. Based on these factors, here are some of the causes of infertility in women.
1. Genetic Factors
Due to mutations in certain genes, a woman could be rendered infertile. In some rare cases a woman could be infertile as a result of a genetic mutation that can't be pinpointed. In other cases, layers or parts of a chromosome needed for reproduction would be missing or totally skipped causing a lack of the necessary genes needed to be reproduce. Some genes whose mutations are liable to cause infertility in woman are Fibroblast growth factor receptor 1, follicle stimulating hormone receptor, Follitropin subunit beta, leutinizing hormone beta polypeptide, and many others.
2. Infertility caused by your bodies immunity.
Sometimes, our bodies can be our enemies and they fight us through our immune system. Case in point are allergies. Your body could be the reason you are unable to get pregnant and it is all thanks to your overzealous immune system. In some women, their immune systems categorize the sperm as an invader come to harm the body and as a result fight it with anti bodies. The antisperm antibodies are produced in response to the body categorizing the sperm as a foreign harm causing agent. The antisperm antibodies are quickly produced and dispatched to the woman's vagina to lay in wait for the unsuspecting sperm. The antisperm antibodies affect the sperm's movement and could even end up killing them entirely.
3. Infertility caused by radiation
As if living with cancer and going through the long and tough journey to recovery is not enough, you learn that because of the bad hand that life dealt you, you would most probably be infertile, unable to conceive and bear your own child. The exposure to radiation would most definitely have killed some of the normal cells in the and the ovarian cells could be one of them. This is why doctors strongly advice female patients who are slated to receive any form of chemotherapy to remove and freeze their eggs so that in the event that the chemotherapy renders them infertile, they would still have viable eggs that can be used for reproduction purposes when they eventually need it.
4. A woman's age
The age factor is one of the biggest biological causes of fertility in women. Biologically, a woman's fertility increases as she grows older. Some women may not associate their infertility with their ages but the truth is that the older a woman gets, the lesser her appeal to the opposite sex and the lesser her ability to get pregnant as she approaches menopause. Women hit their peak of fertility in their mid and late 20's. When a woman is 35 years and above, it is a feat in of itself for her to get pregnant and another one to carry it to term. Being older might be the cause of your infertility.
5. Vaginal Infections
In of itself, Vaginal infections are not really harmful and do not pose any known risk to a woman's fertility. Pretty much every woman is familiar with Vaginal infections such as the vaginal yeast infection as a whopping 75% of them have experienced it before. But Vaginal infections can affect a woman's fertility only when they are not treated on time. So, it is better for you to make the decision to go treat that little infection than live with the consequences of infertility. On the hand, sexually transmitted diseases can have a big impact on a woman's fertility. Sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia and gonorrhea most often lead to infertility in women.
6. Body weight
There is a marked relationship between being over weight and infertility. A percentage of all the infertility situations are caused by weight be it over or under weight problems. This is simply because fatty cells produce the hormone estrogen. This hormone is produced in very high quantities when a person is overweight leading the woman to develop a condition named estrogen dominance. This estrogen dominace is one of the biggest causes of other infertility related causes such as ovarian cyst, endometriosis, polycsytic ovary syndrome, fibroids, and sparse ovulation. On the other hand, being underweight gives the opposite results. The body does not produce enough estrogen and this can also cause infertility since estrogen is one of the hormones that causes the production of the leutinizing hormone which jumpstarts ovulation.
Smoking as unlikely as it sounds is one of the causes of infertility in women. It is a fact that women who don't smoke actively or passively have a much easier time getting pregnant than the women who smoke. Smoke causes infertility because the component of the smoke greatly affects the stages of ovulation and even the production of the hormones that are related to reproduction. In fact it does not matter if she smokes actively or passively, they both have the same results. So, it is important that both the woman and her partner stop smoking if both of them do. If the woman has been inhaling smoke passively from her husband, quitting might bring about the change they want in her fertility.
Too many women to count have found themselves infertile because of the presence of fibroids in their uterine walls. The fibroids take up the space needed for the child's growth and development in the womb thus causing the woman to either miscarry often or have a hard time conceiving in the first place.
9. Obstructed fallopian tubes
This does not directly cause infertility like other things such as body weight but it also does its part to ensure a woman has a hard time getting pregnant. An obstructed fallopian tube would definitely prevent conceiving because the sperm would most likely not get to the egg because of the blocked fallopian tubes since it has to move through the fallopian tubes to get to the eggs.
10. Scars from a previous surgery
This cause of infertility is as a result of chance and not a medical condition with drugs as remedies. A previous surgery done on the uterus might have caused scar tissue to grow inside the uterus and might prevent the attachment of the fertilized zygote to the uterine walls leafing to no conception.
Detection of infertility in women
There are many ways through which a doctor can determine that a woman is infertile and some of the tests imclude;
The Laparoscopy is a test to check for infertility in a woman that is done with an instrument called a laparoscope which is a lighted tube. The tube is passed into the woman's uterus and fallopian tubes to check for scar tissue obstruction or a blocked fallopian tube via the vagina.
Ultrasonsography is another method used to test for infertility in women. This method makes use of sound waves to check for signs of ovulation. It can be done through the vagina or via the woman's stomach.
Checking the production of the leutinizing hormone
The leutinizing hormone is in charge of ovulation and so is a very important part of reproduction. If a woman does not ovulate, she can't get pregnant. This test is done making use of the ovulation predictor kits. These ovulation predictor kits give the amount of the leutinizing hormone in the body and based on that information, the doctor can tell if you are ovulating or not.
The sonohystogram is anither method of testing for infertility in women. In this procedure the doctor makes use of a saline injection together with an ultrasound to detect any anomalies in the uterus.
After diagnosis comes treatment. After diagnosing infertility, the doctor would prescribe certain treatments to combat the causes of infertility for the situations that can be reversed. Some common treatments include;
- Taking supplemental hormones such as the leutinizing hormone to induce ovulation.
- Opting for artificial insemination for women whose bodies develop the antisperm antibodies
- Getting rid of an infection with the help of antibacterial drugs
- Undergoing surgery to correct a problem in the uterus or fallopian tube. Some women based on their doctors orders also go for surgery to reduce the fibroid cysts in their uterus to allow for conception.
- Taking fertility supplements to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Social stigmatization of infertile women
The society has no mercy or regard for women who are infertile. In advanced countries such as the United States of America, fertility is one other issue that a couple attacks squarely and faces together however, the reverse is the case for some women in other countries. Fertility is seen as something every woman should be born with, no concessions given. Infertility is one of the biggest issues that women face especially in countries where being unable to conceive and give birth is seen as a slight on the woman. In some countries In Africa, the woman is stigmatized, disgraced and labeled all sorts of things. She is shamed and in some extreme cases divorced because she is infertile. Her family is also publicly ostracized and treated less courteously and so being fertile is something of a must leading women to search high and low for ways to combat their infertility problems.
Infertility is an unfortunate but treatable situation. However, having known the causes of infertility, women should do their best to avoid some of the avoidable causes of infertility such as the late treatment of infections, smoking and body weight. These factors that can be controlled should be controlled to prevent infertility. However, if after all of these factors have been controlled, the woman still is infertile then she should seek professional medical help to know what step to take. See a doctor before self medicating on fertility supplements to avoid risking other complications.