About 15% of the couples have trouble conceiving even with frequent sexual intercourse. About one-third of total infertility in couples is due to female factors. Female infertility can be difficult to diagnose but there are many treatment options available for females with infertility.
Symptoms of Female Infertility
The main sign and symptom of infertility is the inability to get pregnant. If your menstrual cycle is too long, too short, irregular, or absent, it can mean that you’re not ovulating. Other than this, there may be no other outward signs or symptoms.
You should visit a doctor if you have any fertility problems or have a history of painful periods, repeated miscarriages, pelvic inflammatory disease, or endometriosis.
Causes of Female Infertility
- Ovulation Disorders: This means that you either ovulate infrequently or don’t ovulate at all. Ovulation disorders account for infertility in 25% of infertile couples. Ovulation disorders can be caused due to problems with regulation of reproductive hormones by the hypothalamus, or the pituitary gland or problems in the ovary. PCOS, hypothalamic dysfunction, premature ovarian failure, and hyperprolactinemia are some common ovulation disorders.
- Damage to fallopian tubes: Also known as tubal infertility, in this condition, the damaged or blocked fallopian tubes keep sperms from getting to the egg or block the passage of the fertilized egg into the uterus. Fallopian tubes can be damaged due to pelvic inflammatory disease, previous surgery in the pelvis or abdomen, or pelvic tuberculosis.
- Endometriosis: This occurs when tissue that normally grows in the uterus implants and grows in other locations. This extra growth can cause scarring that may block fallopian tubes and prevent an egg and sperm from uniting. This condition can also affect the lining of the uterus disrupting the implantation of the fertilized egg.
- Uterine Causes: Several uterine causes can affect fertility by interfering with implantation. Some of these causes are benign polyps, endometriosis scarring, uterine abnormalities present from birth, and cervical stenosis.
- Unexplained Infertility: Sometimes, the reasons for infertility cannot be found and remain unexplained. This problem can sometimes correct itself. One should always take treatment for this problem.
Diagnosis for Female Infertility
You should always seek help from a doctor if you are unable to conceive within a reasonable period. Some of the fertility tests include:
- Ovulation Testing: This includes an ovulation prediction kit to detect a surge in luteinizing hormone that occurs before ovulation, a blood test for progesterone, and a test for checking the level of prolactin.
- Hysterosalpingography: This test includes injecting an x-ray contrast into the uterus to detect abnormalities in the uterine cavity. It also determines whether the fluid passes out of the uterus and spills out of your fallopian tubes. Further evaluation may be needed if abnormalities are found.
- Ovarian Reserve Testing: This test helps to determine the quality and quantity of the eggs available for ovulation.
- Other hormone testings: These tests help to check the levels of ovulatory hormones, thyroid hormones, and pituitary hormones.
- Imaging tests: A pelvic ultrasound and sometimes a sonohysterogram can be used to see details inside the uterus.
In rare cases, the doctor may include hysteroscopy, laparoscopy, or genetic testing.
Treatment for Female Infertility
Treatment for female infertility depends on the cause, age, the period of infertility, and personal preferences. As this is a complex problem, the treatment involves financial, physical, psychological, and time commitments. As each woman’s disorder is different, their treatment may also be different from that of others. Some tests for female infertility are:
- Laparoscopy: For those who are diagnosed with a tubal or pelvic disease, one of the options is to get surgery to reconstruct your reproductive organs. In this procedure, a small incision near the belly button is made to get rid of scar tissue, treat endometriosis, open blocked tubes, or remove ovarian cysts.
- Hysteroscopy: In this procedure, a hysteroscope is placed into your uterus through the cervix to remove polyps and fibroid tumors. It is also used to divide scar tissue and open up blocked tubes.
- Medication: You may be prescribed fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation.
- Intrauterine Insemination: In this procedure, the semen is rinsed with a special solution and is placed into the uterus when you’re ovulating. It is sometimes done when you’re taking meds that help to trigger the release of an egg.
- In Vitro Fertilization: In this procedure, the doctor combines an egg and sperm in a dish in a lab to facilitate fertilization and places the embryo/fertilized egg into your uterus.
- ICSI: In this, the doctor injects a healthy sperm directly into the egg in a dish and then places it into your uterus.
- GIFT: In this procedure, the sperm and eggs are mixed before the doctor transfers it back to your body.
- ZIFT: In this procedure, an egg is retrieved and combined with sperm in a lab. Within 24 hours, the fertilized egg is placed into the fallopian tubes.
- Egg Donation: If you have a normal uterus and your ovaries don’t work, you can remove eggs from the ovary of a donor who has taken fertility drugs and transfer the fertilized eggs into your uterus.
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Is the egg retrieval painful?
During egg retrieval, you will be sedated and given medication so that you don’t’ feel the pain. After the surgery/procedure, you may feel cramps, soreness, or fullness.
Is bleeding expected after egg retrieval?
After egg retrieval, vaginal bleeding/spotting is common. It is similar to bleeding in periods. In case of excess bleed, you should contact the doctor immediately.
How long do I have to stay in the hospital during and after the procedure?
IVF Procedure does not require any hospitalization. It only requires frequent visits from time to time.
How soon can I return to normal life after IVF?
Once the embryo transfer is done, you can resume your normal life. You may experience cramps because there might be a minor swelling in the ovaries. Stick to a mild routine and avoid exertion as it may affect your chances of getting pregnant.