The World Health Organization along with ICMART (International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies) has defined female infertility as "a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse". About 48 million women across the globe is estimated to suffer from this condition. Though highly curable, the social stigma associated with it in many societies makes it a rather emotionally draining disorder.
The symptoms of infertility, which is obviously the inability to conceive or give live birth, also includes the lack of ovulation cycle. An irregular menstrual cycle, which is too long, ranging 35 days and above or too short, ranging 21 days or below indicates lack of ovulation. This indication should not be taken lightly as with time the effectiveness of treatment can be prolonged.
Some of the common factors affecting infertility in women are as follows: -
The most fertile phase in a woman's life starts at the early twenties and continues to mid-twenties. From then on, the ability to conceive starts declining slowly. After the age of 35 the ability to conceive and give birth shows a sharp decline. However, the success of pregnancy and giving birth at an age beyond 40 largely depends on the health of the woman.
With the huge changes in our lifestyle since the last decade has induced the habit of smoking in women has increased considerably. Smoking affects ovulation by hampering the production of eggs.
Increased consumption of alcohol can affect fertility in a very bad way.
Obesity is another issue gifted by today's lifestyle. Being overweight or underweight affects fertility to a very great extent. A healthy Body Mass Index(BMI) helps increase ovulation thereby increasing the probability to conceive.
Some sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea can cause damage to the fallopian tubes. Unprotected sex with multiple partners can affect fertility in the long run.
Other than the factors mentioned above, infertility can be caused by certain disorders too. The most prevalent disorders found among women today is the ovulation disorder. Ovulation disorders can happen due to a number of reasons such as the growth of cysts in ovary. This is known as PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Hypothalamic distinction is another type of ovarian disorder caused by disruption in the production of pituitary hormones that aide ovulation. An excess of prolactin and premature ovarian failure are also classified as ovulation disorders.
Another reason for infertility in women is due to a damage in the fallopian tube. This disorder is also termed as tubal infertility. This can happen due to a previous surgery or a case of infection in the uterus or fallopian tube. pelvic tuberculosis is also a reason for tubal infertility. Endometriosis and disorders of cervical and uterine walls also contribute to infertility. In some cases, a combination of the above-mentioned disorders can be seen in a person.
An important fact to be taken into account is that most of the cases of infertility can be treated. The sooner, the better. The diagnosis for infertility consists of a series of test like ovulation testing, hysterosalpingography, hormone testing, ovarian reserve testing and imaging tests. Once diagnosed, the treatment depends on the age, health, the cause, the period of infertility and the personal preference of the patient. Infertility treatment can be a prolonged process depending on the extend of the disorder. So, it demands a physical, emotional and time commitment from the patient as well as the family.