What Factors Increase a Woman’s Risk of Infertility?
- Posted on: Jan 10 2014
by Dr. Deborah Smith
Infertility within a woman is the inability to produce a viable egg for use in conception. There a number of conditions that can cause this, with many of the more common conditions impacting the ability of the uterus to ovulate.
One of the main signs that a complication in ovulation has arisen is when women to begin having irregular periods, if not missing them altogether. Infertility in women contributes to only about one-third of the overall number of infertile couples.
One common cause of infertility within women is the presence of a poor ovarian reserve due to age. The ovarian reserve is the collection of remaining eggs that could be used for ovulation, which degrades in egg quality with each menstrual cycle.
When this reserve has run out, the women has achieved menopause, rendering her completely infertile. The age of a patient directly ties into her chances of infertility, with those women over the age of 35 having an increased chance of becoming infertile with each passing year.
Women who are overweight -or significantly underweight- are potentially impeding the ability of their body to ovulate, rendering the patient either infertile or sub-fertile (regular cycles, decreased chance of pregnancy).
The most common way of examining this is to calculate the BMI of a patient. Every point beyond a BMI of 29 reduces the chance of pregnancy by 4%. Returning to a body weight healthy for the patients’ height can increase the frequency of ovulation, resulting in the release of more eggs ready for fertilization.
The consumption of either of these can negatively impact a woman’s ability to remain fertile. Each has the potential to damage the fallopian tubes, rendering the eggs inaccessible to sperm. Smoking in particular can also increase the chance of a miscarriage occurring and is thought to prematurely age the ovaries, resulting in a depleted ovarian reserve.
In some cases, infertility has occurred as the result of a hormonal imbalance within the uterus. If the uterus does not have enough FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) it will not ovulate an egg during the menstrual cycle. Contrary to this, if too much is present it may stimulate uterus to release an egg too early.
Fallopian Tube Damage
Some women suffer from a condition called endometriosis, in which the lining of the uterus grows excess tissue that may scar. In these cases, it is possible for this scar tissue to encompass either the ovaries or the entrance to the tubes -or both- making it physically impossible for sperm to reach an egg to fertilize it.
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