It is relatively common for couples to experience infertility. According to a study published in the International Journal of Fertility and Sterility, infertility affects around 10-18% of married couples all over the world. It is estimated that approximately 72.4 million couples across the world might be infertile. It is believed that women are responsible for around 25-40% of cases of infertility whereas men account for 40-55%.
Infertility is defined as the failure to achieve a pregnancy after at least a year of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Primary infertility refers to couples who have never conceived whereas secondary infertility is usually defined as the inability to conceive for one year after having conceived at least once before.
The common causes of infertility in women include ovulatory disorders such as anovulation, amenorrhea and menstrual disturbances; tubal disorders, and endometriosis. Unexplained infertility accounts up to 10% of the cases. Moreover, factors such as smoking, alcohol abuse, age, stress, and obesity can also increase the risk of infertility in women.
What Are The Signs Of Infertility In Women?
Most of the couples do not have any significant symptoms of infertility. In fact, it is not until the time they try to conceive that they know about infertility. The signs of infertility in women could be related to the underlying cause of the condition. There are numerous conditions that can affect the chances of getting pregnant right from polycystic ovarian syndrome ( PCOS) and endometriosis to sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and pelvic inflammatory disease. These signs vary depending on the cause.
However, there are few common signs of infertility in women. These are:
1. Irregular periods
One of the most common signs that could indicate infertility in women is menstrual irregularities. If you have a menstrual cycle which is more than 35 days or less than 21 days, it is a sign of concern. The normal menstrual cycle is 28 days long. However, a cycle between 26 days to 32 days is also considered regular as long as your periods are consistent.
But if you fail to remember when was the last time you got your periods or if you get periods which are not consistent every month, then it could mean irregular periods. This could be due to an underlying hormonal condition such as PCOS or endometriosis, which can contribute to infertility.
2. Absence of periods
Just like irregular periods, the absence of periods could also be a sign of infertility in women. Every woman in her reproductive years gets periods every month unless they are pregnant. However, if you do not get periods in a month or two and are not pregnant, then it could mean you are not ovulating. Factors such as stress or heavy workouts can cause periods to not appear for a few months. But if you have not had periods for more than two to three months straight, then it is time to fix an appointment with your gynecologist and get tested for infertility.
3. Painful periods
Well, most women do experience abdominal pain and cramps during periods. However, if you are experiencing severe abdominal cramps or if your periods interfere with your routine life, then it could be due to endometriosis. If this is the case, do consult your doctor. Moreover, heavy periods or periods which last longer than seven days might indicate problems with the hormones. Hence, painful periods or heavy periods could be a sign of infertility in women.
4. Hormonal changes
One of the key reasons for female infertility is severe hormonal changes in the body. This is the reason why signs of hormonal fluctuations could indicate a potential risk of infertility. The signs of hormonal changes include reduced sex drive, weight gain, hair loss or thinning of hair, facial hair growth and symptoms of the skin such as acne. If you experience any of these symptoms that indicate a hormonal imbalance, then it is important to talk to your doctor and rule out any abnormal or underlying hormonal disorders that could be interfering with your chances to get pregnant.
5. Painful sex
Most women feel that pain during sex is quite common as they might have experienced painful sex all through their lives. However, this is not true. You might experience pain during your first intercourse or two but if you experience pain every time you have sex, it should not be ignored as it might be a sign of infertility in women. Pain during sex is usually seen in conditions such as endometriosis, hormonal issues or other gynecological problems that could be contributing to infertility. So talk to a sex expert or your gynecologist to know what could be the exact cause of pain during sex.
Signs Of Infertility In Women: When To Go To A Doctor?
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms of infertility or if you are facing any trouble in conceiving, then make an appointment with your gynecologist and share your concerns. Remember early diagnosis of infertility can increase your chances of getting pregnant.
When should you consult a doctor for infertility largely depends on your age. If you are below 35 years of age and trying to get pregnant, your doctor might advise you to try for at least a year before getting tested or treated. If you are between 35 to 40 years of age, you should consult your doctor after six months of trying. If you are above 40 years of age, your doctor might order a few tests and treat you to help you get pregnant.
If you have an underlying health problem such as endometriosis, PCOS or any known infertility problems of if you have a history of pelvic inflammatory disease, painful periods or repeated miscarriages, your doctor might advise you to get tested immediately and start the treatment right away. There are numerous treatment options for infertility that range from medications and surgery such as laparoscopy to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to egg donation.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)
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