Continuation of a species requires reproduction. In humans, type of reproduction is a sexual reproduction in which male and female play an equal role. As human species are mammals, so for females, their role is a bit more complex. After coitus, they have to carry the fetus for approximately nine moments.
From the production of eggs to a certain level of pregnancy, a female’s fertility plays a significant role. Female or male fertility is the ability of them to achieve conception. In this article, we will concentrate on almost every aspect of female fertility.
Table of Contents
Menstrual Cycle And Female Fertility?
We know how important the first period is for a girl. The first menstrual period for a girl is the onset of her puberty and sign of her body attaining sexual maturity. The hormones released during adolescence leads to the ovary getting ready for producing eggs. This is the sign of females achieving fertility too.
Ovary producing eggs, fallopian tubes guiding them to the uterus, thickened uterus waiting for the egg to get fertilized, and when it doesnâ€™t, it disposes of the egg. The thickened part of the uterus also gets out of the body. Any of these steps can be disturbed because of certain disorders, diseases, syndromes, or conditions. In some cases, the whole cycle can also be compromised. Then the femaleâ€™s fertility is said to be affected. Through natural processes, a womanâ€™s fertile age is roughly 15-30. Many women have reported getting periods before 15, and many have reported the same even after 40.
There’s a thin line between smooth menstrual periods and female fertility. By now, you understand what menstrual periods are. Menstrual periods might or might be irregular, but still, a woman’s fertility might be affected. In some cases, a womanâ€™s menstrual cycle might be smooth, but still, they won’t be able to conceive, due to excessive mucus behind the vaginal opening, or scar tissue in route to the uterus, or very harsh conditions in the uterus for sperms, or then can be even unexplained conditions. All these with the problems, with the ones mentioned in the above paragraph, add to femaleâ€™s infertility.
“According to the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction, infertility currently affects about 10 to 14 percent of the Indian population, with higher rates in urban areas where one out of six couples is impacted. Nearly 27.5 million couples actively trying to conceive suffer from infertility in India.” Till now, no specific percentage of women with infertility issues has been determined. Still, it is believed by medical experts female infertility is rising. Female infertility is the inability of a woman to conceive. Issues like PCOS/PCOD, endometriosis, and more are becoming common and adding to female infertility. Also, female infertility causes are often difficult to diagnose as there are many causes for it. In the same way, there are many available treatments for a different cause of female’s infertility, you need to consult a gynecologist or fertility expert for the same.
Signs and Symptoms that Femaleâ€™s Fertility Might Be Affected
The primary sign of infertility is being unable to conceive even after having coitus for a year or half-year (for 40+ couples). While this duration passes, there are many signs and symptoms that can point towards infertility. If you experience any of the below, you are advised to undergo a checkup from the specialists.
Pain during sex, or dyspareunia
It can be a sign of a prevailing health problem that might be influencing a womanâ€™s fertility. Such health issues often include infections, endometriosis, and fibroids.
Heavy, long, or painful periods
They may indicate an underlying condition that has been affecting the menstrual cycle (gradually fertility). Apart from normal, a woman may experience a few days of light flow, or regularly experience heavy periods and painful cramps. Women who experience very heavy and/or painful periods may be showing signs of endometriosis.
Dark or pale menstrual blood
If the menstrual blood is regularly paler or darker than usual, it can be a sign too. Menstrual blood is often bright red during the commencement of periods and might get darker as the days passed. Passing very dark blood at the beginning of a period can also be a sign of endometriosis.
Irregular menstrual cycle
You know that the length of the menstrual cycle depends upon the female to female. What we mean here is that missing periods, delay or a gap of a few days, and irregularity can be a sign that the woman isn’t ovulating regularly. Ovulation means the release of the egg by the ovary. Often this happens due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), obesity, being underweight, and thyroid issues.
These signs can be nonspecific, and females might not be able to notice them. Even doctors are also required to test the patient for having an accurate diagnosis. Hormonal changes can result in unexplained weight gain, severe acne, cold feet & hands, reduced sex drive or loss of sexual desire, nipple discharge, facial hair in females, and thinning hair on the top of the head.
Causes of Female Infertility
As mentioned earlier, female fertility can be affected by a disturbed or impaired menstrual cycle. Below are the various disorders, diseases, deficiencies, and conditions that can affect female fertility:
Ovulation, as explained earlier, is releasing eggs. At the time of birth, a female has millions of undeveloped eggs, but they only release three to four hundred eggs in their lifetime. Ovulation disorders mean there’s a problem in the release of eggs. It may happen due to many reasons: Hormonal disorders such as PCOS/PCOD (Formation of cysts in ovaries), Hyperprolactinemia (a condition in which females produce too much prolactin), high/low production of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism respectively).
Fallopian tube damage or blockage
They guide the eggs from ovary to uterus. They are the only connections between them. The problem occurs when there’s a blockage or damage, which results in the egg being unable to reach the uterus. This can happen because of inflammation of the fallopian tube (called salpingitis), which can be a result of pelvic inflammatory disease. They can also get damaged from the scars that form after pelvic infections, endometriosis, and pelvic surgery.
Again and again, we have mentioned this disorder. It is an abnormal growth of endometrial tissue – usually present in the inner lining of the uterus. In this, it grows outside of the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes. It hampers their natural process.
Uterine or cervical abnormalities
Uterus is the place where the egg waits for fertilization. After contacting with sperm and fertilizing, the fertilized egg gets implanted on the thickened uterine wall. The abnormalities can be with the cervix, or polyps in the uterus or the shape of it. The noncancerous tumors (benign) in the uterine wall (uterine fibroids) can cause infertility by blocking the fallopian tubes or stopping a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
Primary ovarian insufficiency (early menopause)
This is the correct example of how lifestyle and early adolescence are affecting females. As females reach forty, naturally, their fertility starts declining, as the menstrual cycle concludes or gets irregular. Today, it happens for women, even during their thirties.
These are the bands of scar tissue that bind organs. They get formed after pelvic infection, appendicitis, endometriosis, or abdominal or pelvic surgery.
Cancer and its treatment
It is evident that if a woman has cancer/tumor in her reproductive organs, it will add to infertility for sure. Along with that, radiation and chemotherapy, which are part of all types of cancer treatment, affect fertility.
The cause hasn’t been identified in this type of infertility. The reports point out that everything is normal, even though the couple is unable to achieve conception. None can state whether the issue is in the male or female. Medical experts say that this is because we are yet to discover some reasons for infertility, or as life is getting more complicated, new causes of infertility might form.
Fertility in the Aging Female
The menstrual cycle often starts at 15 and ends in the fifties. Females tend to enjoy the best fertility years in their 20s. For some, it extends till the early thirties, while for some, it starts to decline in their late thirties. For most of the women, infertility hits them in the early forties. For each month that a couple tries, a healthy fertile 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of conceiving. By the age of 40, this chance starts to reduce by 5% per cycle. Women may get infertile even before menopause. The average age of menopause is 51, still, women are bound to lose fertility during the early forties.
Psychological Impacts of Infertility
Infertility is bound to have a profound impact on anyone’s mental health or a person as a whole. Reproductive diseases especially STDs and infertility can affect a person in physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, and financial aspects of life. Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health concerns informed by fertility patients. It also depends upon the person to person, as to how they individually take it. On the overall, psychological impacts on both the genders are still being researched. There are many theories but relatively only a few facts that have been established yet. There are researchers that suggest that men and women find infertility equally distressing, it’s just that their ways of expression are different. While some argue that women are more affected by men, and they support it by the stereotypes in society regarding gender roles.
Medical researchers who say that women are more affected have found that in the case of many women, each passing monthly cycle brings a roller coaster ride of emotions such as anger, betrayal, guilt, sadness, and even hope. As they close or in some cases even stranger women announce pregnancy, their anxiety and stress can become overwhelming. Infertility tends to affect a person’s sexual self-esteem, desire, and performance. Couples through coitus, connect on a higher emotional level, but in time of infertility, sex becomes associated with failure and frustration, so couples (mainly female) may lose emotional connection.
These issues often make a female choose isolation or indulge in substance abuse. That’s in current times, IVF centers have qualified psychologists or counselors with them.
The last thing that a couple can feel in this situation is a spiritual resistance. Certain religious beliefs sometimes lead to misunderstanding in females as an abandonment by God. However, doctors and counselors use this same spiritual and religious ideologies as a supportive tool for theists, and it has proven to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Advices on How to Prepare For A Fertility Treatment
The following points will help you to mentally and physically to prepare for fertility treatment, IVF cycles, and also in general well being. Every fertility treatment has a deep emotional impact, especially with females who have been unfamiliar with infertility. Apart from the following tips, we suggest that you stay connected with people who listen, connect, share advice & experiences, and remind you that you are not alone in this process.
It Always Starts With What You Eat.
Diet is an integral part of a healthy pregnancy. It can boost your chances of conception and IVF success as well. Reach for an apple or a few almonds when the midday hunger strikes. During the meal, trade that side of fries for seasonal veggies or a salad. Consult a nutritionist and keep a track of your diet. Ensure that your eating plan is balanced and provides you adequate calories and nutrients. Eat plenty of foods rich in monounsaturated fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds, sunflower oil and olive oil. A good diet is also needed for the development of a fetus.
Try To Eliminate Your Stress.
By this, we don’t mean an expensive vacation or regularly visit a spa. Be creative about what helps you to relieve stress. It can be asking your partner to provide you with a massage, binge watch a series, play with pets, or enjoy the evening with close friends. A simple activity like laughing can also help you reduce your stress hormones. In between the day, randomly close your eyes and take at least five full breaths, be mindful of the changes in your chest and lungs during this.
Do Not Exert Yourself With Tasks.
Anxiety and unwanted stress are always caused by excess clutter. Tackle one issue at a time, whether it’s the desk in your office, or the boxes in the attic, staying organized can give you more focus and can prove to be a stress reliever and weight loss activity too. Do activities that you can enjoy and make you feel fresh like listening to your favorite music, going to yoga, class meeting a friend, or having a date night.
Affirmations Are As Helpful As Any Therapy.
Start believing in simple things, take time for yourself, practice dairy writing and analyzing all the things you are fortunate to have in life. Being hopeful, positive, affirmative, and relaxed is not only helpful in infertility/IVF treatment but also in other phases of life. Note down your blessings, wishes, gratitude, and good events of your life. It might not take more than fifteen minutes of your day.
Some Lifestyle Changes.
Losing excess weight is helpful in many cases. Please remember by excess we mean ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ in terms of BMI. This is necessary because, if you already have normal weight or less, then losing weight will create an issue during pregnancy. It’s always good for your mind, body, and spirit to include some form of cardiovascular exercise in your daily routine. Like you might know by now smoking affects the quality of the egg and the sperm, so stop if you have the habit of it. Control your alcohol or stop it till you give birth to the baby.
Featured image source: Freepik