Are babies on your mind? Deciding to get pregnant is a happy milestone for many couples. Yet, the American Pregnancy Association shares that 1 in 6 couples struggles with infertility. About half of these cases typically involve some kind of female infertility, while a third are solely because of female infertility. So, what exactly is happening?
Female infertility can be caused by underlying problems like endometriosis, a block in the fallopian tubes, or irregular monthly ovulation from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hormonal imbalances, eating disorders, stress, weight gain, or cysts. Needless to say, it can be a tricky situation. But if you can spot the telltale signs early, your doctor can also help as soon as possible. Knowledge is power, ladies.
Prep yourself by learning about these indicators of fertility problems. Remember, many of these are treatable. So, if you do experience some symptoms, it doesn’t mean your journey to parenthood is over. Sure, it may just take a little longer – but you’ll get there. It all comes down to awareness and actually listening to your body.
Aunt Flo can be complicated. But she can also let you know what’s going on inside your body. Are your periods erratic? Do some cycles last longer than others? Do they rarely last the same amount of time? These abnormal traits should not be ignored.
While cramping can be normal, you should watch out for extreme pain. This may include severe back pain, pain in the pelvic region, or intense cramping. Another red flag is an abnormal period that is lighter (or heavier) than usual. Absent or missed periods may also double as warnings. Specifically, irregular or abnormal periods are seen in PCOS while painful and irregular periods are seen in endometriosis. And since both are linked to infertility, they’re certainly worth paying attention to.
If your cervical mucus is thick, it can mean bad news for the sperm. This also holds true if the pH and texture are off. Basically, it’ll be tough for the sperm to survive long enough to make it to the egg. It’ll die out early on.
When you’re at your most fertile, the mucus should be of “fertile quality.” This means that it’s stretchy and clear, ready to protect the sperm from the acidic female reproductive system. It also helps keep the sperm moist and prevents it from drying out and dying.
Keep an eye out for an increase of mucus close to ovulation. As estrogen levels rise, you should see the color change from cream to clear – similar to an egg white. If this doesn’t happen, your fertility may be at risk.
Fibroids can cause bleeding that’s not period-related. These tumors, which are usually benign, form when the muscle tissue in the uterus overgrows. Unfortunately, fibroids also have the reputation of causing abnormal bleeding and infertility. If they grow close to the inner cavity or the center of the uterus, you may need surgery to remove them. And if you do conceive? Fibroids could result in a miscarriage, which is why it’s important to catch them early.
Sex shouldn’t be painful. But if you experience pain during or after intercourse endometriosis might be the issue. This condition happens to be a major cause of infertility. On top of that, your bowel movements might also be painful.
Another symptom of endometriosis is exhaustion. During your period, you may feel overly tired and groggy from the pain. Depression might also come on around ovulation. It might also show up with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), another culprit in infertility. Insomnia may also pay a visit.
Aside from crummy moods and sleepless nights, PID can cause scar tissue to develop in the fallopian tubes. These scars or abscesses make it hard for the egg to reach the womb, creating an additional hurdle for pregnancy. In fact, an estimated 1 in 10 cases of PID results in infertility, with the risk increasing the longer treatment is delayed. So, if you have chronic pain in the back, abdomen, or pelvic area, PID may be to blame. Endometriosis can also cause pain in the back and leg region.
While acne is a common ailment, it can worsen with PCOS. The condition, which causes greasy skin, results in breakouts that you probably haven’t seen since puberty. These pimples may show up on the face, chest, or back. So, what’s going on? The spike in a female’s testosterone blood levels is the reason here.
Aside from acne, that increase in testosterone can also change your hair growth. In this case, you might notice more facial hair than normal, especially on the upper lip or chin. It can also sprout up on the chest and abdominal region. Hair thinning on the front of your scalp is another giveaway. All of this points to an imbalance of sex hormones, which needs to be fixed in order for pregnancy to happen.
Any of these signs sound familiar? Consider meeting with your doctor as soon as you can. However, doctors generally advise against worrying if you’ve only been trying to conceive for a couple months. The rule of thumb is to make an appointment with your doctor if you haven’t been able to conceive for 6 months and are over 35 years old. For those under 35, failed attempts for at least one year should be the minimum benchmark. But if you’ve had miscarriages, irregular cycles, or painful periods, you should certainly see a doctor even earlier.