Are you at risk for fertility problems?

Statistics have revealed that fertility is declining around the world. People are struggling with trying to conceive and turning to doctors for help. Specialised fertility clinics have sprung up all over to cater to this growing need. Today it comes as no surprise when a couple discovers that they are not able to have a child. It is not uncommon for young couples to seek medical intervention to start a family. One in every 6 couples has some kind of fertility issue which hampers their ability to get pregnant.

How do you know if you are at risk for fertility problems? No one grows up, wondering if they are fertile or not. You never doubt your fertility. It is when you want to get pregnant and find out that things are not going exactly the way intended, that infertility becomes a concern.

Many people do not even realise they are infertile until they start trying for a baby. This is when the starling reality hits. Something that you had never thought of earlier or even imagined in your wildest imagination. Unfortunately, leaving aside pessimists, we all expect the thing to go well for us and normal life as per schedule. So where does infertility fit in?

What is infertility? When a person is not able to conceive and have a baby due to some problem, it is clinically termed as infertility. Male infertility is linked to shortcomings in the sperm while female infertility could pertain to a number of different factors related to the different female reproductive organs and their functioning.

When Should You Be Concerned About Your Fertility?

The rate of infertility among women is about 18%. So there is no real reason to start getting worried about your fertility. To some women, worry comes naturally while others prefer to have their facts in place before they give a problem, some thought. Pointless worry doesn’t profit you anything, so why waste your time and emotional energy.

Ovulation

When you are planning a pregnancy, the first step is tracking your cycle. Learn how to calculate your ovulation date. Generally, a woman ovulates around mid-cycle. This could be on the 14th day of her cycle or somewhere around that time. The exact date may vary from person to person. Ovulation is the day the ovaries release the mature oocyte (female egg) into the fallopian tubes for fertilisation. The oocyte will remain there for about 12 to 24 hours, and this is called the fertility window. If sperm miss this, then you have to wait for the next fertility cycle to get pregnant.

Ensure you have sex at least on three of the 5 days leading up to your ovulation. Ensure you have regular sex at least 2 or 3 times a week throughout the month. This keeps the sperm healthy and active.

If you have been trying to conceive for more than a year with the required parameters and have been unsuccessful, then you should consider getting a fertility test. There is a high probability that there is nothing wrong with you. Maybe the sperm didn’t find the egg or your timing was off and the sperm and egg were never present at the same time in the fallopian tube. There are all kinds of possibilities, so keep trying even when you are mid-cycle, and ovulation is a couple of weeks off.

Symptoms Of Infertility

There are no particular symptoms of infertility. The only way to find out that you are infertile is when you are not able to conceive after trying for several months. This is when you undergo fertility tests to determine what is wrong and why you are not able to conceive. Infertility is not a disease; rather, it is a state of the body which can go on functioning as it is. It does not cause your daily life too much inconvenience; it just prevents you from having children.

Some women may have a forewarning that something is wrong with their reproductive system. The regularity of your periods is a very noticeable way to discover that something is not quite right with your reproductive system. Delayed periods, very heavy periods or scanty periods are all warning signs that things are not as they should be. Women should look out for:

  • Abnormal periods: Very light and scanty periods are abnormal. If you have periods that are very light and last for only a day or two, this is not normal. You should bleed for at least 3 days and on the last two days, you may have scanty bleeding. Similarly, very heavy bleeding during your periods is also abnormal. If your periods are for longer than 5 days, it is not normal. Either of these conditions means that something is not right with the menstrual cycle and you may not be ovulating.
  • Irregular periods: A normal menstrual cycle is 28 to 30 days. Anything beyond 35 days is a delayed period. Having your periods after longs gaps or within a short span of fewer than 26 days is a cause for concern. Some women have what is known as surprise periods, and they never know when they are going to have their next period; it comes as a surprise. This is a sign that something is wrong.
  • No periods: Women who do not get their periods for months at a stretch should not consider it as a relief from the monthly discomfort, but should rather seek medical advice. This is a matter of serious concern. The lack of periods probably means that you are not ovulating. Ovulation is the process in which an egg matures in the ovaries and is released into the fallopian tubes and is ready to be fertilised by a male sperm. Some women have never had their periods ever, and this is not a good sign of fertility.
  • Painful periods: Most women suffer a cramping sensation and an uncomfortable bloated feeling during their periods. This is quite natural. A slight amount of pain with your periods for a few hours is also felt by some women. Very painful periods where the pain is intolerable and lasts for over a day or two is abnormal and is a sign that something is not right. Many women do not realise that intense abdominal pain during their periods is not natural. It could mean that there is something wrong reproductive organs.

Fertility in the human body is controlled by the hormone. Both male and female reproduction is dependent on the proper release and regulation of hormones in the body. Any irregularities in the number of hormones produced by the body could lead to a malfunction of the reproductive organs. The ovaries need the FSH to stimulate them to mature an egg, which in turn leads to the menstrual cycle.

There are some hormonal imbalances which can lead to infertility. A hormonal change is usually detectable with the following symptoms and changes in the female body:

  • Skin irregularities: Changes in the skin with the season are normal, but when you notice unusual changes in your skin, this could mean a hormonal imbalance. Skin changes can be reflected in changes such as skin quality, and your skin suddenly doesn’t feel as smooth as it used to or you see discolouration. The appearance of acne is always associated with changes in the hormones. Some women suffer from slight acne during their menstrual cycle. This is known to be caused due to the hormonal changes in the body which induces ovulation. A lot of acne on the face and sometimes even on other parts of the body are related to hormonal irregularities and is not normal.
  • Abnormal hair growth: Women generally have some hair on their arm and legs, but this is much lesser than the hair growth that a male has. Men have hair on other parts of their body like chest and face, which is not found in women. If you notice thicker hair growth on your arms and legs or unusual hair growth on your chest and face, it could be due to a hormonal imbalance and a higher production of the male hormone called androgen. This male hormone induces the growth of hair in uncommon areas, similar to that of a man. When the female body is producing an increased amount of androgen, it means that something is wrong.
  • Sexual desire: Any change in your sexual desire is a symptom of some change in your hormones. The hormonal changes in your body, which induce ovulation also boost sexual desire on the days leading up to ovulation as a natural reaction by the body for procreation. Reduced libido is a sign of hormonal imbalance. This should not be ignored as a passing stage or related to age.
  • Head Hair loss: Men are prone to balding and loss of hair on their scalp. Women, on the other hand, do not get bald naturally and have a full head of hair till they die. If you are experiencing unusual hair fall and thinning of the hair on your head is a sign of hormonal imbalance. This could also mean excess androgen in the body.
  • Weight gain: Gaining weight due to an increase in diet or change in lifestyle is acceptable and is usually gradual. Some women find that they are suddenly gaining weight within a short span of time without any change to their diet or lifestyle. This unusual weight gain is usually associated with a hormonal imbalance and a malfunction of the thyroid gland. This is a sign of fertility problems and should be mentioned to your doctor.

With any of these symptoms, women should visit a doctor immediately. These are possible symptoms of infertility, and if detected in time can be prevented from manifesting any further though these symptoms may seem like common occurrences, insignificant and non-harmful they should be attended to immediately as they are tell-tale signs of greater problems.

Risk Factors For Infertility

There are many factors that put you at risk for infertility, and most people are not even aware of them. You need to not only be aware of these but also tell your doctor about them. Some of these are:

  • Medication that you have been taking including vitamins, minerals, supplements and any other prescribed medication for ailments. They could have side effects associated with them or some contents harmful to fertility.
  • Any changes in your body which you noticed and thought of as unusual, this could include a different reaction to the way you do things, or just the way your body responds to routine actions is somewhat different now.
  • Surgeries, especially to the abdominal or pelvic region. Surgery could cause damage to surrounding organs like the fallopian tubes in women and vas deferens in the men.
  • Cancer treatment, radiation or chemotherapy, these have been known to cause infertility
  • If you have any genetic diseases or disorders, chronic illness like diabetes or thyroid problem. Anything for which you are taking prescribed medication like hypertension or blood pressure should be intimated to your doctor.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases almost invariably have some negative effect on your fertility, whether you are a man or a woman.

When your doctor is updated with this information, it makes your fertility treatment much easier. This becomes the background for your medical case history.

Nidhi and Anurag visited Medicover when they found that they were not able to conceive after 3 years of marriage. Nidhi had conventional surgery for gallbladder at a clinic in a small town where they did not have a laparoscopic facility. Anurag had undergone surgery for appendix with other complication. Based on their medical history, their cause of infertility could easily be diagnosed, and they were recommended the required test to check the doctor’s suspicions. In both cases, they had suffered damage to their tubes, which were hindering their ability to get pregnant. Through the Semen Analysis Test, it was found that there was some damage to the tubes, and his sperm flow was restricted. The couple had IVF treatment and are now parents of a healthy baby.

By presenting your medical history with the medical report if you have any, to the fertility consultant, it becomes much easier to diagnose where the problem may be.

Causes Of Infertility

Till date, no specific cause of infertility has been identified, but researchers and scientists have identified a number of possible things which could lead to infertility. Some aspects that put you at higher risk for infertility are:

Age: As women get older, their fertility diminishes. The number of eggs in your ovaries reduces, and the quality of eggs deteriorates too. To have a healthy pregnancy, a woman should get pregnant before she is 35. By the age of 40, a woman has a reduced likelihood of getting pregnant. When it comes to fertility, the age of a woman is her greatest enemy.

Weight: Obesity is directly linked to infertility. The excess fat in your body leads to the sluggish activity of all your organs, including your reproductive organs. Being underweight can be as bad for fertility as being overweight. Women who are underweight are usually unhealthy and have a problem with their periods and ovulation. Exercise is important, but too much of it can also be bad for you. Dieting is a bad idea, especially if you want to get pregnant.

Smoking: Whether its tobacco or marijuana it affects your fertility. Women who smoke have a higher risk for miscarriages. Smoking also leads to premature menopause besides affecting the quality of your eggs.

Alcohol: Regular alcohol consumption has been known lower your probability of getting pregnant. Drinking any alcohol when you are pregnant can cause birth defects. Staying away from alcohol is probably better for you if you want to get pregnant.

Stress: Today, life has become stressful with all the pressure that bombards us from every side. Stress affects the body in negative ways that even researchers are not able to fully comprehend. Stress interferes with the normal functioning of our body. This includes adversely affecting a woman’s ability to get pregnant as well.

Depression: It is not very clear how it happens, but poor mental health affects physical health as well. Endorphins that boost the mood and general health in the body are not being produced, and instead, depression leads to the formation of harmful carcinogens. Depression, in particular, has a very negative effect on the hormones and their proper release. An irregularity in the hormone release in the body is a sure thing that leads to infertility.

STD: Sexually transmitted diseases especially chlamydia and gonorrhoea, can are dangerous. These can lead to a pelvic inflammatory disease which damages the fallopian tubes and leads to infertility. It also leads to infertility in men by causing blockages in the tubes that transport the sperm from the epididymis. When having unprotected sex with multiple partners, the use of a condom can protect you from possible infections that cause long term damage.

Environmental factors: Living or working in an environment that is polluted or has a high concentration of toxic gases can have a negative effect on not only your fertility but on your overall general health as well. For good fertility, it is important to remain in a clean and healthy environment.

Common Fertility Problems Among Women

Some fertility problems are more common than others.

  • Blocked fallopian tubes: The egg travels through the fallopian tube into the uterus. The fallopian tubes could have a partial blockage, total blockage, single tube blockage or bilateral tube blockage. If there is a partial blockage and fertilisation of the egg takes place, it could result in an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Endometriosis: This is a condition in which the inner lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus and onto the surrounding organs. Most commonly, it affects the fallopian tubes and the ovaries as these are the nearest to it.
  • Ovulation disorder: When the ovaries are not functioning correctly, a woman has problems with her periods. This could mean that none of her eggs matures due to lack of stimulation or interference in the hormone release. In these cases, either the woman does not ovulate at all or occasionally ovulates instead of regularly with every fertility cycle.
  • Hormonal imbalance: A hormonal imbalance can be caused due to a number of different factors and medical conditions. This could affect the way the ovaries function resulting in anovulation. This means that the egg is not released by the ovary.

There are many factors that could result in infertility among women. Some of these conditions of infertility can either be rectified with the help of medication or surgery. However, in most cases, infertility treatment is the only solution.

Medical Tests To Check Your Fertility

Many women have advised a series of medical test to check for different factors of infertility. A blood test is routine and can help to determine the hormone levels as well as the presence of any infections such as HIV or hepatitis. Some of the tests that the doctor may prescribe are:

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): Fallopian tube obstruction is a very common cause for infertility. To check the state of the fallopian tubes, the doctor conducts the HSG test. In this test, a coloured dye is injected into the cervix. This travels through the uterus into the fallopian tubes. A series of x-rays are taken to view the areas filled with the dye. Any blockage in the fallopian tubes will show up in the x-ray. The blockage or obstruction is detected by studying the movement of the dye in the fallopian tubes.

Pelvic examination: The doctors will do a physical examination of your vaginal cavity. During this examination, they will look for signs of genital infections like chlamydia, gonorrhoea and others that could contribute to infertility.

Transvaginal ultrasound: A procedure to check the status of the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the uterus to figure out if they are working correctly. This test also helps to check if the follicles are responding normally. The transvaginal ultrasound is usually performed around 15 days prior to the next menstrual cycle.

Hysteroscopy: It is performed by inserting a probe inside the uterus through the vagina to get an internal view of the uterus and fallopian tubes. It also helps to check the quality of the uterus lining and if the patient has endometriosis.

Laparoscopy: The laparoscopy procedure is performed to get a clearer view of the reproductive organs. This procedure helps to determine if there are any adhesions or scarring of the fallopian tubes and to check for endometrioses. This test can also be used to check for the presence of cysts in the ovaries. It is a minor surgical procedure and conducted under anaesthesia.

Fertility Treatment At Medicover

Medicover Fertility is one of the most reputed fertility clinics in India. It is part of a European health care group and specialises in advanced fertility treatment procedures. Medicover Fertility provides an international standard of fertility treatment. It has the latest technology infrastructure and setup. Currently, Medicover has 13 fertility clinics in India and is growing at a rapid pace.

Medicover Fertility boasts of a very high IVF success rate globally, and this is attributed to their highly qualified team of specialist as well as the use of the latest procedures and facilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

I Get My Periods Every 34 To 37 Days. Could I Be Infertile?

If your periods have always had this cycle, there is a probability that it is normal and you are fine. If this is a recent occurrence, then it is better to check with a gynaecologist.

Recently I Have Been Putting On A Lot Of Weight. The Only Change Was My Job 3 Months Ago. Is This A Symptom Of Infertility?

Sudden weight gain is a symptom that something is wrong and you should have yourself checked so that the problem can be treated in the initial stages itself.

 I Have Always Had Scanty Periods But Never Bothered About It. Will It Make Me Infertile?

Scanty periods are a sign that there is some problem with your fertility cycle. Most probably, you are not ovulating.