What causes infertility?
Age – particularly the age of the woman’s eggs – is the most common cause of fertility problems. But many of my patients also have conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis.
Once you turn 36, your chance of conceiving naturally is half that when you were 20. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. As you get older, the number of healthy eggs you produce declines, and chromosomal errors may occur more frequently. If embryos are abnormal, they may not implant, or sadly result in early pregnancy loss.
Endometriosis is quite a common condition for women, and occurs when the endometrial cells lining the uterus grow outside the uterus. In more severe cases it can have a significant impact on your fertility. Surgery, known as laparoscopy, can be used to both diagnose and treat endometriosis.
Fibroids are also quite common – especially in older women – and they can prevent embryos from implanting. Some fibroids, depending on their location within the uterus, do not reduce fertility. These benign uterine growths may not have any associated symptoms. Surgery to remove fibroids is sometimes all you need to be able to fall pregnant naturally.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal problem that can make it harder to fall pregnant naturally. If you have irregular periods, I may check for PCOS using an ultrasound and blood test. Treatment options include improving your diet and doing moderate exercise, and we can also look at ovulation inducing medication and IVF treatment.
Health issues and lifestyle factors can also affect your fertility – smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity can all reduce your ability to conceive.
Whatever the problem may be, as you age it becomes increasingly important to act quickly when it comes to your fertility. Seeing a specialist is an important first step to finding out more.