Infertility: Knowing the Facts and Getting Help

August 26, 2021

Infertility affects millions of couples and individuals around the nation. It can be frustrating and heartbreaking for both men and women, and can leave lasting effects both physically and emotionally.

But what is infertility?

The medical definition of infertility is being unable to get pregnant after years of trying to conceive. It’s estimated that one-third of infertility can be attributed to women’s health issues and one-third to men’s health issues. The last third is either a combination of issues between both partners or unexplained factors that can’t necessarily be tied to either partner specifically.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the top causes of infertility and the signs and treatments linked to each cause.

1. PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormone-driven condition that, confusingly, doesn’t even necessarily involve cysts.

  • Common signs of PCOS include:
  • Missed or irregular periods
  • Excessive hair growth on face, back, arms
  • Acne
  • Weight gain or trouble losing weight
  • Frequent headaches

PCOS is typically diagnosed when a woman has at least two of these factors: irregular periods, high levels of androgen hormones, and/or cysts in the ovaries; however, you can have PCOS without developing cysts.

Treatment for PCOS often includes medications that help to normalize hormone levels, including those that balance insulin and glucose.

2. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus may appear and grow where it is not supposed to be. This can occur on the outside of the uterus, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and even the intestines.

This condition can cause symptoms like heavy and severe periods, back pain, and cramping. It is a common cause of infertility, and as many as 11% of women of reproductive age may have it.

When it comes to treating endometriosis for infertility, it depends on the severity of the disease. Some women may be able to conceive without assistance but may be prone to higher miscarriage risk. Women with more severe endometriosis may require IVF.

3. Fibroids

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that can occur inside or on the uterus and can be a contributing factor to infertility.

The cause of fibroids is not known, but they are common with as many as 80% of all women predicted to have one or more by the time she is fifty years old.

Fibroids can cause symptoms of:

  • Heavy, clotty periods
  • Lower back pain
  • Painful intercourse
  • Abdomen pressure or pain
  • An enlarged abdomen that may even appear pregnant

Fibroid treatment depends on the severity and location. Smaller ones may be treated with lifestyle adjustments like yoga, stress management, weight loss, and/or dietary changes. Eating more vegetables and fiber can help. According to research, vitamin D deficiency may contribute to fibroids, as well as a diet that is higher in red meat and lower in vegetables and fruits.

4. Physical Problems with Fallopian Tubes, Ovaries, Uterus, or Cervix

Any type of physical abnormalities with the structure or position of the uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix, and ovaries can influence the ease of conception. Previous complications can also influence the structure and function of reproductive anatomy. These can include losing a fallopian tube to ectopic pregnancy or having scars from previous surgical procedures, including C-sections.

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is often needed for overcoming physical reproductive system problems. IVF is often a solution for structural or physical challenges that prevent pregnancy since these can present barriers that cannot be overcome by diet, lifestyle, or other forms of treatment.

5. Female Hormone Issues

Any imbalance in estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and also thyroid hormones can lead to trouble getting or staying pregnant.

Your thyroid creates and produces hormones that play a role in many different systems throughout your body and optimal fertility requires a balanced thyroid.

If you’re already getting a full assessment to determine what’s causing your infertility, you might as well make sure your thyroid is in optimal shape. If it’s not, addressing it sooner rather than later can shorten your time to conception.

6. Your Age

As a female gets older and reaches into her forties, egg quality starts to decline. However, some women can experience a more pronounced decline when they’re younger, and this can be known as premature ovarian failure.

Fortunately, Myo-inositol and melatonin have been studied as ways to support egg quality, even in women of advanced maternal age. While studies show mixed results, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that individual factors such as methylation status, lifestyle, stress, diet, and nutrient status could impact egg quality.

7. Blood Clotting Disorders

Certain blood clotting conditions can cause infertility or recurrent miscarriages.
Types of clotting disorders include:

  • Antiphospholipid syndrome
  • Sticky platelet syndrome
  • Tissue plasminogen activator deficiency
  • Factor V Leiden
  • Elevated levels of PAI-1
  • Elevated lipoprotein(a)

The primary reason that clotting problems are associated with infertility is that they can change the way that the uterine blood supply interacts with the embryo, or they may cause problems with early implantation or the formation of the placenta.

8. Recurrent Miscarriages

Recurrent miscarriage can happen for many reasons, including:

  • Genetics
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Poor embryo quality (which could include sperm and/or egg factors)
  • Chromosome abnormalities
  • Structural or physical problems with the uterus

Multiple factors must be considered when testing for the cause of recurrent pregnancy loss.

9. Unexplained Infertility

Unexplained infertility is more challenging because, in essence, it means all typical avenues have been investigated, and no clear answers have been found. It can be exceptionally frustrating for the couple or individual who are looking for answers.

However, in these cases, it’s not uncommon, and probably advised, to ask for a second, third or fourth opinion to seek different possibilities and results.

10. Male infertility

Common diagnoses for male factor infertility include:

  • Low sperm count
  • Low sperm movement (motility)
  • Problems with sperm production
  • Problems with the shape of the sperm (morphology)
  • Varicocele (enlarged veins that lead to blockages which may decrease sperm quality and volume)
  • Other physical factors that involve the testicles and testicular function
  • Low testosterone levels

Male infertility can be much easier to diagnose and treat than a woman as there are fewer components to consider.

11. Epigenetics

Epigenetics is the process by which cells control gene activity without actually modifying the DNA sequence. In other words, it’s how your lifestyle impacts your genes. You can have epigenetic influences over your genes whether or not you have any “problematic” DNA or chromosomes.

When Methylation polymorphisms are combined with lifestyle, the epigenetic expression of those genes can be affected. Knowing which genes have these SNPs can help address that weakness and improve the body’s ability to make those genes work better.

Certain variants in the MTHFR gene and the methylation cycle do correspond with fertility troubles in both men and women. MTHFR has also been connected to recurrent pregnancy loss.

Regardless of the reason(s) behind an individual or couple struggling with infertility, it can be a disheartening and grieving time.

If you have questions or concerns about infertility, please reach out to one of our certified physicians at Integrative Wellness.


Categorized in: