Understanding Female Infertility: Navigating Your Unique Journey
According to a recent report from the CDC, roughly 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. For these and so many others, the road to understanding infertility can seem like an uncertain and sometimes complex path. When embarking on your own journey with infertility, it can feel like they are so many different definitions and phrases being tossed around which can leave you feeling even more confused than when you started.
Although there are many trusted ways to gather research on these terms and conditions through websites and blogs, it can be helpful to have a source for the most common and prevalent conditions that you may be experiencing. As always, there are many factors that can cause infertility, so it is recommended to consult a trusted provider to further diagnose and assess your unique symptoms.
PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome)
PCOS presents itself in a variety of ways, but most common is a combination of absent ovulation or lack of regular periods associated with symptoms of oily skin, abnormal hair growth, and sometimes weight gain.
Endometriosis occurs when the cells that are typically found in the uterine lining (endometrium) grow outside of the uterus in the pelvis, possibly resulting in pelvic pain, cyst formation, scar tissue formation, and infertility.
Fibroids are benign muscle tumors of the uterus, which can be related to heavy menstrual bleeding, infertility, and may lead to pregnancy complications. Fibroids may require surgical removal and, in severe cases, may lead to early hysterectomies.
Hormones play a large role in infertility. Hormones can be impacted by genetics and medications, which is why it is important to consult a trusted provider before making any changes with supplementation and diet to determine what the best game plan is for your unique fertility journey.
The following hormones are the most commonly monitored hormones during both evaluation and treatment:
Estradiol is the hormone that is produced by the developing follicle on the ovary and stimulates the regrowth of the uterine lining after menstruation.
Progesterone is the hormone that prepares the uterine lining for implantation of a fertilized egg.
Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
LH is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that stimulates ovulation. A LH surge triggers the ovaries to release an egg during ovulation and form a corpus luteum.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
FSH is produced by the pituitary gland and controls the estrogen production by the ovaries. FSH tells the ovaries to produce follicles in the follicular phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
TSH is the hormone secreted by the pituitary that regulates thyroid hormone production. Thyroid hormone is important in the regulation of metabolism and certain thyroid conditions can affect a woman’s fertility.
Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates breast milk production. If this is elevated, the body may think you are breastfeeding another baby and may interfere with natural ovulation and conception.
Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH)
AMH is a protein secreted by small follicles (egg sacs) in the ovary, which can be helpful in determining ovarian reserve.
Keep in mind that infertility not only affects women but is common in a growing number of men. Infertility in men can be due to a number of factors with regard to movement of sperm and sperm count, testicle health, injuries, chronic illness and more. It is recommended that any individual or couple experiencing unexplained infertility should consult a trusted provider to rule out and/or have these and other complications diagnosed.
Knowledge is power and taking the steps to learn more about possible conditions and factors that could impact your fertility will provide you with the tools to assist in navigating the journey.