With 1 in 8 couples experiencing difficulties conceiving, there are many common conditions that lead to infertility. While there are a number of reasons that couples may struggle to conceive, below are the most prevalent diagnoses that affect fertility.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance that results in a lack of, or irregularity in, ovulation, resulting in irregular menstrual cycles and infertility. Symptoms of PCOS include weight gain, excessive hair growth, acne, and irregular menstrual cycles. By ultrasound of the ovaries, PCOS can be visibly identified through the presence of many small cysts (that are actually follicles, each which contain a potential egg).
PCOS can make it difficult for women to conceive due to lack of ovulation and irregular menstrual cycles. Treatment options to help women with PCOS conceive include oral ovulation medications, IUI (intrauterine insemination), and IVF (In Vitro Fertilization).
Endometriosis is a condition in which the uterine lining seeds itself and grows outside of the uterine cavity in surrounding areas of the body like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, bowels, bladder, or abdomen. This condition can lead to ovarian cysts or scar tissue that can affect the fallopian tubes and cause infertility. Symptoms of endometriosis may include painful menstrual cycles, pelvic or abdominal pain, pain during intercourse, and infertility.
Treatment options for women with endometriosis vary based on severity of disease, the affect it is having on her daily life, as well as whether she wishes to conceive now or in the future.
Male Factor Infertility
Male factor infertility involves abnormal sperm count, movement, and/or shape. A few of the definitions include oligospermia (lower sperm numbers or concentration seen), asthenospermia (decreased motility of the sperm), and teratospermia (abnormal shapes of the sperm), each of which can affect the ability of sperm to travel to and fertilize the egg. Sperm abnormalities can be assessed by working with a fertility-specializing urologist, as well as pursuing procedures such as IUI or IVF with ICSI.
Diminished Ovarian Reserve
As a woman ages, and occasionally even in a younger woman, the ovaries may not always function as well as one would expect. Not only can the number of eggs decline, but the quality may also decrease, reducing a woman’s overall chance to conceive and increasing her risk of a miscarriage. Through advanced treatment options like IVF, the goal is to produce more eggs to increase the odds of a normal progressing embryo.
Premature Ovarian Failure
Women are diagnosed with premature ovarian failure (POF) if they are under 40 years old and their ovaries are no longer ovulating eggs. Having POF has a significant impact on a woman’s ability to get pregnant on her own. Unfortunately, when the ovaries are no longer producing eggs, the option to conceive routinely involves donor services (using either donated eggs and an egg donor, or donated embryos).
Recurrent Pregnancy Loss
Recurrent pregnancy loss is categorized by two or more clinical pregnancy losses. While pregnancy loss can be physically painful, the emotional impact is often the most difficult aspect. Finding and addressing the underlying cause of recurrent miscarriages is the best way to assist couples in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. A couple in this situation will typically be assessed for genetic causes, and the female for any clotting disorders, uterine abnormalities, or ovarian reserve issues.
Unexplained infertility occurs when a patient or couple completes fertility testing and there is no clear issue found that could be the reason they are struggling to conceive. This unfortunately affects up to 15-20% of couples, but it’s still possible to achieve the dream of pregnancy through reproductive assistance from a specialist.
If you’re unsure what may be causing your infertility,request an appointment online to meet with our physicians and to better understand what is causing your struggle, or keep reading to learn more about how we diagnose infertility.