Female infertility -- How do you diagnose and treat it?

by Mollee Bauer

Diagnosing fertilityOne out of every six couples is affected by infertility. Couples who are unsuccessful in their attempts to get pregnant can undergo an infertility diagnosis.

If the condition rests primarily with the female partner, that's commonly referred to as female infertility.

According to recent studies, approximately 50 percent of all infertility cases are affected by this condition and account for approximately one-third of all infertility cases. Let's find out how to diagnose and treat it! We've listed your different options below.

What triggers it?

If there is a problem with ovulation, damaged fallopian tubes or uterus, or if there is a problem with the cervix, these aspects are considered female infertility. A woman's age could also contribute to struggles with fertility because the chances to conceive decrease as a woman gets older.

If you have problems ovulating, it could be caused by one or more of these issues:

• A hormone imbalance
• A tumor or cyst
• Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
• Alcohol or drug use
• Thyroid gland problems
• Overweight
• Stress
• Intense exercise causing a loss of body fat
• Extremely short menstrual cycle

If you have damage to your fallopian tubes or uterus, it could be from:

• Pelvic inflammatory disease
• A previous infection
• Polyps in the uterus
• Endometriosis or fibroids
• Scar tissue or adhesions
• Chronic medical illness
• Surgery to remove a tubal pregnancy
• A birth defect

There are a couple other conditions that could cause trouble. DES syndrome occurs if your mother took the medication DES to prevent miscarriage during her pregnancy with you. Another cause of infertility is abnormal cervical mucus. It could prevent the sperm from reaching the egg or make it more challenging for the sperm to penetrate the egg.

How do you diagnose it?

If you believe you suffer from this condition, you can be tested by a thorough physical exam. The exam will include going over your medical history to discover potential factors that could contribute to your infertility.

One or more of the following tests might be done to assess your condition:

• A urine or blood test to check for infections or a hormone problem
• A sample of cervical mucus and tissue to determine if ovulation is occurring
Tracking your ovulation helps your healthcare provider assess your fertility status
• A laparoscope inserted through your abdomen to view your organs to check for blockage, adhesions or scar tissue
• An x-ray of your fallopian tubes

How do you treat it?

Female infertility is mostly treated by conventional methods that include:

• Taking hormones to address a hormone imbalance, endometriosis, or a short menstrual cycle
• Taking medications to stimulate ovulation
• Taking antibiotics to remove an infection
• Having minor surgery to remove blockage or scar tissues from the fallopian tubes, uterus, or pelvis area
• In vitro fertilization could also be used to address the problem of blocked or damaged fallopian tubes.

Can you prevent it?

If it's caused by genetic problems or illness, there's little that you can do to prevent that. However, there are things that women can do to decrease the chances of experiencing an infertility issue:

• Avoid sexually transmitted diseases
• Avoid illicit drugs
• Avoid heavy or frequent alcohol use
• Keep good personal hygiene and health practices

When do I seek a healthcare provider?

You should seek assistance if you experience any of the following symptoms:

• Abnormal bleeding
• Abdominal pain
• Fever
• Unusual discharge
• Pain or discomfort during intercourse
• Sore or itching in the vaginal area

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.