Female Infertility

Female Infertility: Overview

More women are waiting to bear children later in life.  However, waiting beyond your thirties leads to decreasing fertility and an increased risk of birth defects.

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Causes and Development

A woman who suffers from premenstrual symptoms such as bloating and breast tenderness is probably ovulating, so if she is having difficulty becoming pregnant, the cause probably lies elsewhere.

Treatment and Prevention

It may not be possible to prevent infertility, but there are measures that you can take to minimize the possibility.  If you have any suspicion that you may have contracted a sexually-transmitted disease, see your doctor promptly so that treatment, if necessary, can begin in a timely fashion.

A woman should have regular gynecological examinations starting at age eighteen or within six months of becoming sexually active, whichever comes first, so that any developing problems can be detected and corrected early.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes a wholesome diet, regular exercise, avoidance of toxins of all kinds (including recreational drugs), and measures to reduce stress.  If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation only.

Here are some things to try other than the remedies listed elsewhere:

  • Don't have intercourse more than three times per week.  More frequent intercourse may reduce the number of viable sperm in the male partner's semen.
  • Time intercourse to coincide with ovulation, which usually occurs midway between menstrual periods.  Some women can tell when they are ovulating.  Signs of ovulation include bloating and breast tenderness and, for some women, a slight cramping pain.  Unfortunately, many women experience no telltale signs.  There are over-the-counter tests that can help you pinpoint the time of ovulation.
  • After intercourse, spend ten to fifteen minutes quietly in each other's arms before getting up.  If a woman stays in a prone position for fifteen minutes or so following intercourse, this allows the sperm sufficient time to reach the egg.
  • If it has been determined that your body is producing antibodies that are damaging or destroying sperm, your partner should use a condom for six months.  Following no contact with the sperm, your antibodies may be lulled into inactivity.  After this rest period, time intercourse (without a condom) to coincide with ovulation.
  • Avoid vigorous exercise, hot tubs and saunas, as they may lead to changes in ovulation.
  • Do not take any drugs except those prescribed by your physician.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Female Infertility:

Symptoms - Reproductive - General

Conditions that suggest Female Infertility:

Reproductive

Counter-indicators
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Risk factors for Female Infertility:

Habits

Hormones

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism in women sometimes causes ovarian problems; ovulation may become less frequent or disappear altogether.

Lab Values

Elevated Cortisol Levels

Chronically elevated cortisol levels can stop a woman from ovulating and may lead to infertility.

Medical Procedures

Counter-indicators

Metabolic

Anorexia / Starvation Tendency

Anorexia or starvation causes difficulties in conceiving and carrying a baby to term.

Nutrients

Vitamin A Requirement

Vitamin A is involved in steroid hormone synthesis and cell differentiation.  It is important for healthy growth, normal reproduction and lactation.

Folic Acid Deficiency

Folic acid deficiency can lead to infertility.

Reproductive

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Impaired fertility is a prominent feature of PCOS.  This is believed to result from elevated insulin levels that stimulate excess androgen production by the ovaries.  The androgens cause premature follicular wasting which causes inconsistent or absent ovulation, which in turn is associated with infertility.

Endometriosis

It has been estimated that some 25-50% of infertile women suffer from endometriosis.  The cause of infertility is believed to result from the scarring and adhesions that form in the reproductive tract as a result of inflammationScar tissue and adhesions may reduce fertility by either obstructing or distorting the shape of the fallopian tubes, which in turn impedes the passage of sperm to the egg.  In the event that sperm do reach the egg, they may encounter a hostile environment unfavorable to fertilization.  Finally, scarring from endometriosis may obstruct the fallopian tubes so that if an egg is fertilized, it may be unable to travel to the uterus for implantation.

Sexually-Transmitted Diseases

STD Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can spread into the womb and fallopian tubes, resulting in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  PID affects more than 1 million women in the United States every year and can cause infertility and tubal pregnancy.

STD Chlamydia

As many as 40% of women with untreated chlamydia will develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  Undiagnosed PID caused by chlamydia is common, resulting in a 20% infertility rate.

Symptoms - Muscular

Being lean or underweight or being very skinny

Underweight women often have trouble conceiving due to not menstruating.  This may be Nature's way of preventing malnourished women from becoming pregnant.

Symptoms - Reproductive - General

Tumors, Benign

Fibroids

Submucous fibroids are the type that most commonly cause significant problems; even small tumors located in or bulging into the uterine cavity may cause heavy bleeding, anemia, pain, infertility or miscarriage.

Tumors, Malignant

Brain Tumor

In very rare cases, a brain tumor can cause infertility.

Female Infertility suggests the following may be present:

Metabolic

Anorexia / Starvation Tendency

Anorexia or starvation causes difficulties in conceiving and carrying a baby to term.

Reproductive

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Impaired fertility is a prominent feature of PCOS.  This is believed to result from elevated insulin levels that stimulate excess androgen production by the ovaries.  The androgens cause premature follicular wasting which causes inconsistent or absent ovulation, which in turn is associated with infertility.

Sexually-Transmitted Diseases

STD Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can spread into the womb and fallopian tubes, resulting in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  PID affects more than 1 million women in the United States every year and can cause infertility and tubal pregnancy.

Recommendations for Female Infertility:

Botanical

Red Clover

Red clover blossom may act as a female fertility enhancer.  It contains several estrogen-like compounds which may promote fertility in estrogen-deficient women.  [Duke, J.  A.  Handbook of Medicinal Herbs: 489.  Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985]

Vitex / Chasteberry

Vitex is often used to help infertility caused by a luteal phase defect (a shortening of the post-ovulatory part of the menstrual cycle): women taking vitex for three months appear to have more success at becoming pregnant.

Detoxification

Heavy Metal Detoxification / Avoidance

Investigate the possibility of heavy metal intoxication, which may affect ovulation.  A hair analysis can reveal heavy metal poisoning.

Diet

Gluten-free Diet

Strict adherence to a gluten-free diet has enabled many women who were previously unable to conceive to become pregnant.

Caffeine/Coffee Avoidance

Research has indicated that women who drank more than one cup of coffee a day reduced their likelihood of conceiving by 50%, and men who drank two to three cups of coffee a day had an increased incidence of abnormally formed sperm.  Having five cups a day appears to make sperm sluggish as well.

Increased Water Consumption

To flush toxins from your system, drink eight 8-ounce glasses of pure water daily.

Alcohol Avoidance

Alcohol consumption can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

Habits

Tobacco Avoidance

Cigarette smoking is associated with female infertility due to tubal and cervical causes.  In animal studies, nicotine has not only been shown to decrease tubal motility and blood flow, but appears to decrease estrogen levels as well.  Cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine, is found in the cervical mucus of female smokers, and may be toxic to sperm.

Aerobic Exercise

Exercise regularly but moderately.  Maintaining a high level of physical fitness increases the possibility of conception.  For both men and women, the ability to reproduce is dependent on a healthy body.  Stressing your body with intensive exercise can cause a decrease in fertility.

Hormone

Natural Progesterone

Progesterone is an important hormone in preventing miscarriage.  Without adequate progesterone, the lining of the uterus will remain rigid making pregnancy difficult to achieve.  The lack of normal progesterone production by the ovaries in the second half of the menstrual cycle is called luteal phase defect.  Women who have this defect are either unable to have their fertilized eggs implant in their uterine lining or, if the egg is implanted, it is so weak that miscarriage is a certain outcome.

To lessen the possibility of miscarriage, women who have a luteal phase defect use progesterone supplements after ovulation to help maximize the chance of carrying a pregnancy to full term.  Progesterone supplements are also prescribed to women who are undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and other methods of assisted reproductive technology (ART).  Progesterone supplements are given to women following an egg transfer in certain types of fertilization methods.  Treatment for all women using progesterone supplements continues for at least fourteen days following ovulation.  If pregnancy occurs in a woman who is taking progesterone supplements, her doctor may decide to continue the treatment for another 8 to 10 weeks until placental production of progesterone can carry the pregnancy successfully.

Mineral

Selenium

A deficiency of selenium can lead to infertility in women.

Psychological

Stress Management

Mental and emotional stress can impact fertility.  Try to eliminate the stress in your life as much as possible.  Infertility itself can be extremely stressful.

Vitamins

Vitamin Paba

Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) stimulates the pituitary gland and sometimes restores fertility to some women who cannot conceive.

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