Female sterility is also known by the more common name of female infertility. In women, infertility is the inability to conceive a child. Alternative names for female sterility include pelvic inflammatory disease and polycystic ovaries, although these properly refer to only two of the diseases that can be responsible for female infertility.
Popularly, female infertility is known as inability to conceive or unable to get pregnant. Unfortunately, there is a certain stigma associated with this particular medical problem. Both men and women feel that their equipment is inadequate. Counseling may be needed in some cases in order to help a particular couple understand what their options are.
Symptoms and Risk Factors of Female Sterility
The most obvious symptom of this problem is the woman failing to achieve pregnancy after at least one year of sexual intercourse without any form of contraception. There are many other symptoms that couples can use to determine if either the woman or the man is sterile or infertile. Keep in mind that it is entirely possible for a woman to have regular menstrual cycles, a healthy sex life, have none of the risk factors and be healthy in general, and yet still suffer from infertility. This highlights the incredible sensitivity of the reproductive system to even minor changes in a couples’ sexual regimen.
The above notwithstanding, there are several warning signs that couples can use to indicate female infertility before they start trying to get pregnant for a year on their own.
Irregular menstrual cycles
This is the first and biggest warning sign of female infertility or sterility. The irregularity can be either too short or too long, for example less than twenty-four days and more than thirty-five days, respectively. If the woman’s cycles are completely unpredictable, that is the largest warning sign of all. Irregular cycles could be an indication of problems with the woman’s ovaries.
Uncommon bleeding and cramps
Menstrual bloodflow lasting anywhere from three to seven days is completely normal. However, if that bloodflow is extremely light or extremely heavy, or if the woman has intensely painful cramps during discharge, that is another sign of possible infertility. Another sign in this area is if the bleeding changes significantly from month to month.
As the woman ages, the chances of getting pregnant decrease dramatically. This is due to a simple biological fact: the female reproductive system is only able to produce children for a certain period in her life. After the woman reaches thirty-five, it is highly unlikely that she can get pregnant at all. Even after thirty, the odds decrease significantly. This is because the reproductive system gradually begins to enter menopause and cease ovulating. If the woman is over thirty-five and fails to achieve pregnancy after six months of sexual intercourse, the couple should seek out medical advice.
Male impotent and ejaculatory problems
Infertility on the male side is not so obvious to detect; it’s unlikely that the couple will notice it themselves, although they might if the male fails to ejaculate at all. The best way to determine if there are male infertility problems is to get a sperm analysis done on the man’s semen. Sexual dysfunction on the part of the male is a definite red flag for female infertility. It counts as female infertility because the couple acts together as a unit to produce a child; a problem with one is a problem with both.
If either the man or the woman is overweight or underweight, that can lead to infertility problems, as well. Fertility is an intimate part of the body’s homeostasis, and dietary problems can directly affect a couple’s ability to conceive.
A miscarriage, or spontaneous abortion, is the loss of a gestating infant within the first twenty weeks of pregnancy. In other words, the pregnancy terminates itself. This can be an emotionally devastating event for the couple. If the woman has had three miscarriages in a row, that is a definite sign of fertility issues. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy termination.
If either of the partner’s have any illnesses classified as chronic, such as thyroid problems, hypertension or diabetes, this could also be an explanation for infertility. Since the reproductive system is intricately linked to the body’s production of hormones, any problems with any of the hormonal glands as a result of illness will definitely result in fertility being affected in both men and women.
If either partner has been treated for cancer, especially cancer relating to any organ near the reproductive system, that could have resulted in complete sterility in one or both partners. Radiation therapy is particularly devastating to both male and female reproductive systems.
Sexually transmitted diseases are known causes of infertility problems in men and women. Get screened for STDs if either partner has had unprotected sex with anyone else.
Smoking and drinking
Doing either of these things while pregnant is strictly prohibited, as everyone knows. Smoking and drinking while trying to get pregnant is also damaging to fertility, as well.
Causes of Female Sterility and Infertility
- Many symptoms of female infertility are also causes of female infertility, as the previous list demonstrates. That being said, there are definite causes of female infertility that have nothing to do with dietary habits, sexual dysfunction, or anything that either of the partners controls. The two biggest reasons why pregnancy fails to occur is the ovaries not producing eggs, or the fallopian tubes not functioning properly.
- Ovulatory issues account for thirty percent of women’s infertility, and tubal problems account for a further twenty-five percent. The remaining sixty-five percent are due to other issues relating to particular biological or biochemical imbalances and irregularities. For instance, ten percent of infertility problems result from a condition called endometriosis. This is where the lining of the uterus, which ordinarily catches and nurtures the developing embryo, grows so quickly and so fast that the embryo cannot be caught. Sometimes this condition even destroys embryos due to the excessive growth.
- Endometriosis is characterized by heavy, long and painful menstrual periods as the uterus discharges the overly large uterine lining. Sometimes there are no symptoms whatsoever. This is because endometriosis has no link between how severe the condition is and how severe the symptoms are. This makes it very difficult to identify.
Aside from a condition such as this, the causes of infertility as they relate to ovulatory problems are as follows:
Fortunately for women suffering from ovulatory irregularities, if the problems are the result of hormonal issues, they can be treated in seventy percent of cases by drugs like Clomiphene and Menogan/Repronex. Hormonal problems result in the failure to produce mature eggs, malfunction of the hypothalamus gland, which operationally leads to the failure to produce mature eggs, and the malfunction of the pituitary gland, which also leads to the failure to produce mature eggs.
The hypothalamus sends a hormonal signal to the pituitary gland, which in turn notifies the ovaries to bring an egg to a mature state. The malfunction of this system results in the inability of the ovaries to product mature eggs, hence leading to infertility.
If the ovaries have been physically damaged, they will likely lose their ability to produce eggs at all, much less mature ones. Damage can result from trauma, invasive surgical procedures or infection from sexually transmitted diseases.
As of yet, this is an unexplainable condition. There is simply no reason why this should occur, yet it does. A possible hypothesis is that the female runs out of the supply of eggs earlier in life than she should.
The ovary stores eggs in little capsules called follicles. Ordinarily, a mature egg would be released by the follicle, but when the follicle suffers problems, this does not occur. The egg is not released from the ovary and therefore does not become fertilized by the man’s sperm. If this occurs often enough, pregnancy may be prevented altogether.
The causes of infertility as they relate to tubal problems are as follows:
This is the most common cause of problems with the fallopian tubes. The infectious agent, which can be either bacteria or viruses, is usually transmitted sexually. There are other diseases, especially those affecting the vaginal canal, kidneys, bladder and other organs surrounding the area that can easily spread to the fallopian tubes. Infection causes the tubes to inflame in an attempt to fight the disease, which leads to scarring and permanent damage if the infection is not countered or treated.
Appendicitis, colitis and other diseases affecting the abdominal region can easily spread to the reproductive system. The same result occurs no matter what the disease: the fallopian tubes inflame to fight the infection, which leads to scarring and permanent damage.
Pelvic and abdominal surgery can accidentally damage the fallopian tubes, which leads to the same result. Adhesions resulting from surgical instruments can block the tubes to such an extent that eggs cannot travel through them.
This is an extremely dangerous and potentially deadly condition for the woman. The egg is fertilized and implanted in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. If this condition continues, the woman will face an infant growing in a place that cannot accommodate it. The organ will eventually burst under the pressure, which can cause severe internal bleeding and threaten the woman’s life.
These are extremely rare operationally, but some women are simply born with tubal irregularities that have nothing to do with disease, surgery or reproductive malfunction.
Preventing Female Sterility
Sadly, most causes of infertility cannot be alleviated through preventative measures. On the other hand, this in no way means that couples should not take care when trying to conceive. There are certain lifestyle precautions that must be met. This includes physical and emotional health precautions, since conception involves optimum factors of both sides of a couple’s life.
Some basic lifestyle precautions are:
- avoid excessive exercise as it can lead to menstrual disorders
- do not take any recreational drugs whatsoever
- quit smoking
- minimize caffeine consumption
- use stress-relief methods that do not rely on alcohol
- abstain from sexual intercourse outside of marriage
- maintain a constant body weight
- avoid exposure to environmental hazards, such as pesticides, heavy metals and electrical, electromagnetic, and nuclear radiation
- keep a monthly chart of menstrual cycles, as this is the best indicator of the woman’s health
Researching fertility history on both sides of the couple’s family is an excellent way to prepare for any surprises. For women, the mother’s genetics can play a huge role in determining any congenital defects. For men, their father’s virility can play an equally large role, as well. Look into any medications either partner is taking for implications or consequences for fertility, as certain drugs can alter the body’s normal functionality in terms of reproductive health and other bodily systems.
Both the man and the woman should be tested for infertility upon failure to conceive, aside from taking all the preparatory measures they can.
There are three types of treatments for female infertility: herbal remedies, drugs and surgical procedures. Here is an examination of each one in turn.
- Banyan roots, jambul or jamun leaves and the herb known as winter cherry are the best at handling female sterility. Banyan roots are tender and should be dried in shade before being crushed and powdered. Banyan roots are best administered in the form of twenty grams mixed with approximately one hundred grams of milk. Take them at night for three consecutive nights after the end of the woman’s monthly cycle. No other food should be eaten for a short while thereafter. Continue administering the roots every month after the completion of her cycle until conception takes place.
- To prepare a remedy using jambul or jamun leaves, pour two hundred and fifty mililiters of boiling water over twenty grams of leaves. Let it steep for two hours, and then take them either with two teaspoons of honey or two hundred mililiters of buttermilk.
- Finally, winter cherry is prepared by powdering it and mixing it in the amount of six grams with one cup of milk. The woman should drink this mixture for five or six nights after menstruating.
- Keep in mind that herbal remedies can have serious side effects, such as heart attacks, strokes and seizures. This danger is especially so when mixing herbal remedies with drugs, since the herbs amplify the effect of the drugs. The cost of herbs is pretty negligible; most of them can be purchased cheaply for five to twenty dollars per container.
- As noted above, ovulatory disorders are responsible for about thirty percent of fertility issues. There are two drugs that are used to treat problems of this type: human menopausal gonadotropins such as Pergonal and Fertinex, and clomiphene citrates like Clomid and Serophene. Both of these can be supplemented with other drugs, and there is an increasing variety of drugs that are used with them.
- A typical cycle of clomiphene citrate will cost around fifty to one hundred dollars. Side effects can include hot flashes, mood swings, headaches, nausea and vomiting and even ovarian swelling and cysts. A cycle of hMG will cost eight hundred to one thousand dollars and must be administered by injection. Side effects include fatigue, mood swings, headaches, bloating and weight gain, and most seriously swelling at the site of injection. There is a significant risk that the ovaries will become overstimulated using hMG, and other drugs will probably have to be prescribed in order to keep this from happening.
- Surgery is usually called for with problems relating to the cervix, such as structural problems. Abnormalities within the reproductive system, for example in the fallopian tubes, can usually be corrected with surgery. Almost all physical problems can be treated with assisted reproductive technology, which involves such techniques as artificial insemination, a relatively well-known procedure. Surgery can lead to serious problems if not performed with the utmost care, so make sure you locate a specialist that you trust.
Female sterility or infertility can usually be treated. Even if all of the above solutions fail, adoption or surrogacy are always viable options for couples who want children.