For men and women with problems conceiving, the dream of becoming biological parents may seem just out of reach.
While there are many reasons an individual may have difficulty getting pregnant, there is always hope. There are a few common causes of infertility that we at First Steps Fertility treat on a regular basis:
Most causes of female infertility can be related to problems with ovulation. Without ovulation, there will be no eggs present to be fertilized.
Ovulation problems are most often caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. PCOS is a hormone imbalance problem, which can interfere with normal ovulation.
Excessive exercise or excessive weight loss may also lead to ovulation problems. Periods may not come back immediately with changes in lifestyle, however, these changes may be important for a woman’s overall health.
Primary ovarian insufficiency can also lead to an ovulation due to the fact that a woman’s ovaries may run out of eggs. This is a very rare cause of infertility, and may be impossible to treat.
Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is also a cause in female infertility, and occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop working normally before she is 40 years old. POI should not be confused with early onset menopause.
Endometriosis is a painful, chronic disease that 10-12% of women worldwide. It occurs when the endometrial tissue (the uterine lining that sheds with each monthly period) is found outside of the uterus, usually in the abdomen on the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, and ligaments that support the uterus, the lining of the pelvic cavity, etc.
It is often characterized by painful periods, infertility or both. Diagnosis may be made by a careful history, ultrasound or sometimes surgery. Treatment of this condition will depend on a woman’s age, ultrasound findings and immediate desire for a family.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus and can range in size from a quarter of an inch to larger than a cantaloupe. They are commonly found in 70 to 80% of women over the age of 50.
Though it is not known exactly why women develop these tumors, genetic abnormalities, alterations in growth factor expression, abnormalities in the vascular system, and tissue response to injury have all been suggested to play a role in the development of fibroids.
It is unclear whether fibroids interfere with fertility or not. Certainly their size and location are important considerations, and once these are determined with a special ultrasound further management of these common tumours can be determines.
It’s common for people to believe that fertility issues only affect women, but the reality is that in 3 out of 10 cases, problems with conceiving lay with the man.
Of the most common male fertility issues is varicocele, an enlargement of the veins that surround the scrotum. Similar to varicose veins that occur in your legs, varicocele are veins that have become enlarged, creating too much heat around the testicles, affecting the number or shape of the sperm, which can lead to problems with infertility. Though not all varicoceles affect sperm production, they can cause testicles to fail to develop normally or shrink.
While it is not certain what causes varicoceles, experts believe that they form when the valves inside the veins in the spermatic cord prevent blood from flowing properly, which results in a back up that causes the veins to widen. This may then result in damage to the testicle and result in worsened fertility.