Causes of Women's Infertility; Experts Suggesting New Way

Image - Causes of Women's Infertility

Infertility can be the result of a number of problems either on the male or female side, but whatever the diagnosis, maintaining a positive outlook and leading a healthier lifestyle can improve your chances of conceiving. A variety of issues may have been identified. These might include hormone imbalances, reproductive organ abnormalities and age in women and so many factors that all cannot be explained.

A "female" factor -- scarring from sexually transmitted disease or endometriosis, ovulation dysfunction, poor nutrition, hormone imbalance, ovarian cysts, pelvic infection, tumor, or transport system abnormality from the cervix through the fallopian tubes -- is responsible for 40 - 50% of infertility in couples.

PCOS, POF, uterine fibroids:

PCOS, premature ovarian failure (POF)/ ovarian insufficiency, uterine fibroids are the most common cause of female infertility. A woman's ovaries have follicles, which are tiny, fluid-filled sacs that hold the eggs. When an egg is mature, the follicle breaks open to release the egg so it can travel to the uterus for fertilization. In women with PCOS immature follicles bunch together and form large cysts or lumps. The eggs mature within the bunched follicles, but the follicles don't break open to release them.

As a result, women with PCOS often don't have menstrual periods, or they only have periods now and then. Because the eggs are not released, most women with PCOS have trouble getting pregnant. Researchers estimate that 5 percent to 10 percent of women in the United States have PCOS.


Endometriosis is also a major cause of infertility, occurring in from 35-50 percent of women who have difficulty becoming pregnant. The researchers suspect that because the embryo cannot attach to the uterine wall, a pregnancy cannot become established, and infertility result.

Endometriosis occurs when endometrium, a tissue normally found in the inner lining of the uterus, grows elsewhere in the body -- most commonly in the abdominal cavity. The misplaced endometrial tissue begins as small lesions, or masses, but once blood vessels are recruited, the lesions grow larger and respond to female hormones, resulting in inflammation, cyclic pelvic pain, and infertility.


A University of Adelaide researcher has discovered scientific evidence that obesity is a key factor in infertility - because of how it affects women's eggs. Consuming a diet high in fat causes damage to eggs stored in female ovaries. As a result, when fertilized these eggs are not able to undergo normal, healthy development into embryos.

The hormone, called leptin that regulates appetite shown a clear connection also exists between fat, or energy storage, and the ability to reproduce; says Corrine Welt, an assistant professor of medicine who works at Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard affiliate. This suggests that leptin levels, which rise in response to an increase in body fat, are letting the body know that there’s enough energy available to sustain a pregnancy.

Miscarriage and abortion:

Overall, women who have abortions face an increased risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy and a more than doubled risk of future sterility. Perhaps most important of all that the risk of these sorts of complications, along with risks of future miscarriage, increase with each subsequent abortion. There is strong evidence that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer; which has been debunked by the National Cancer Institute.

Complementary or alternative therapies (CATs):

Many women use complementary or alternative therapies (CATs) to resolve fertility problems, even though there is little evidence that they are effective. According to Dr. Jacky Boivin, from the School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Wales, UK shown that they studied over 818 Danish women and around that women who went on to use complementary therapies -- for example reflexology and nutritional supplements -- during their treatments were more distressed and emotionally affected by their fertility problems (20% lower pregnancy success rate over the 12-month treatment) than non-user.

Women estimated their chance of having a multiple pregnancy as lower when they were experiencing more negative moods. European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology found significant association between women’s mood states and their perceptions of the likelihood of a multiple pregnancy. They examined the women who completed a Fertility Problem Inventory (FPI) that assesses and measures infertility-specific social, sexual, and relationship stress. Profile of Mood States (POMS) measures such transient moods as anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue, and provides a total score of overall distress.

Cancer chemotherapy:

The powerful chemotherapy drugs and radiation used to beat cancer can also result in a loss of reproductive function, which is a tremendous blow to young cancer patients who hope to have children.


Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College, London suggested that granulosa cells, which protect the egg inside the follicle, play a part in the immune response to infection ( such as sexually transmitted infections; Chlamydia) by recognizing that the toxin has entered the follicle and inhibiting production of oestradio; relating to ovulation. Infection can potentially damage the genetic make-up of an egg, and these 'errors' would be passed down from generation to generation. By suppressing the release of estrogen -- in effect, reducing sexual behaviors -- the granulosa are preventing those defects being passed on.


Methoxychlor (MXC), a common insect pesticide used on food crops, may interfere with proper development and function of the reproductive tract, leading to reduced fertility in women, researchers at Yale School of Medicine found. They found that MXC, which was manufactured as a safer replacement for the now-banned DDT, alters the estrogen-regulated gene Hoxa10 in the reproductive tract and reduces the ability of the uterus to support embryo implantation.

Diet and lifestyle:

The more trans fats a woman eats, the more likely she is to be infertile, Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and colleagues found. For every 2 percent increase in the amount of calories a woman got from trans fats instead of carbohydrates, the researchers found, her risk of infertility increased by 73 percent. The risk rose by 79 percent for every 2 percent of energy in trans fats if they replaced omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. And for every 2 percent of calories derived from trans fats instead of monounsaturated fats, the risk of infertility more than doubled.

Life Span care and consultative services for both males and females ranging in age from infants to the geriatric population who present with developmental, endocrine or metabolic disorders have impact upon their reproductive tract. Sexual abuse, sexually transmitted infections, the use of alcohol and recreational drugs, increased stress--all of these affect reproductive health. And the typical North American diet (which includes hormonally treated animal products, fast foods, and a deficit of fresh, non-processed foods) also interferes with the normal functioning of male and female reproductive systems.

How to improve odd for becoming pregnant:

Study supported that by eliminating sugar and tofu from diet, decreasing coffee consumption, and drinking more water may began ovulating almost immediately, and has had 35-40-day (ovulatory) cycles in the six months since. Many women's temperatures increase significantly when they cut soy out of their diets. Yet others become ovulatory after they cut back on sugar and increase their consumption of cod liver oil, butter and eggs.

Another study proposed that women had a lower risk of infertility due to anovulation - the failure to produce a viable egg every month - if they ate a diet that emphasized monounsaturated fats like olive oil over trans fats often found in baked goods; vegetable proteins such as in beans and nuts rather than animal sources such as red meat; whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates that cause too rapid a rise of blood sugar and insulin.

Women trying to get pregnant may boost their chances by adopting a "fertility diet" and lifestyle pattern, Boston-based researchers have found. In fact, they believe that the majority of cases of infertility due to ovulation disorders in otherwise healthy women might be prevented through diet and lifestyle modification.

"The take home message ... is that the dietary and lifestyle choices women make as they try to get pregnant can impact profoundly their fertility," Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro of Harvard School of Public Health, who worked on the study, told Reuters Health.

The fertility diet pattern is characterized by higher consumption of monounsaturated fat rather than trans fats, vegetable protein rather than animal protein, low-glycemic carbohydrates like whole grains, moderate consumption of high-fat dairy, multivitamins, and iron from plants and supplements, Chavarro's team reports.

Lifestyle factors that promote fertility include moderate levels of coffee and alcohol, increased physically activity, and staying away from cigarettes. For 8 years, Chavarro and colleagues tracked the diet and lifestyle patterns of 17,544 women as they tried to get pregnant or became pregnant. None of them had a history of infertility.

According to the team, greater adherence to the fertility diet pattern was associated with a lower risk of infertility due to ovulation disturbances and, to a lesser extent, of infertility due to other causes. Women with the highest fertility diet score, compared with those with the lowest, had a 66-percent lower risk of infertility due to ovulation problems and a 27-percent lower risk of infertility due to other causes, Chavarro and colleagues report in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The combination of five or more low-risk lifestyle factors, including weight control, physical activity and diet, was associated with a 69-percent lower risk of ovulation-related infertility. The researchers also found, consistent with earlier reports, that increased body weight raises the risk of infertility due to ovulation disorders.

"Women trying to become pregnant," the researchers conclude, "could consider following these lifestyle practices because they are consistent with an overall healthy lifestyle and may also help them become pregnant." Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume three or more daily servings of low-fat milk or equivalent dairy products: a strategy that may well be deleterious for women planning to become pregnant

Researchers hope:

McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) described a way to preserve the fertility of women who must undergo chemotherapy. This technique of immediately removing immature healthy eggs from the woman's ovaries without delaying chemotherapy, then maturing them by a technique called in-vitro maturation (IVM) and had been successfully used for eight female cancer patients.

Increased levels of cortisol, a hormone related to stress. Chronic elevation of cortisol levels heightens the risk for other health burdens, such as depression or osteoporosis, but chronic cortisol increases can often be reversed with behavioral therapy. In a pilot study by Professor Berga's team at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia suggested that "A staggering 80% of the women who received CBT started to ovulate again, as opposed to only 25% of those randomized to observation" and underlines the important contribution that lifestyle factors play in determining overall health and reproductive health in particular.

Embryo transfer is known to be a stressful time for patients, and it may be that the procedure is the peak of their stress in IVF. A team from Soroka University, Israel, found 28% of women in the group who were hypnotized became pregnant, compared with 14% of those who were not. Hypnotherapy could help women relax and therefore improve the chances of conception.

In general, studies seem to indicate that doing acupuncture about 30 minutes before and after in vitro fertilization can increase the chance that the embryo will be implanted successfully and reduce the chance of miscarriage.

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