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Top 5 Causes of Female Infertility

As an acupuncturist and chiropractor, I prefer simple and natural solutions to solve most health problems. Infertility is no exception. A strong understanding of the allopathic world is essential, because information is power, and there are few things more disempowering than not being able to conceive. While there are many different causes of infertility, let's learn about the top five that plague so many women.

1. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)                                                                    PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women. According to Dr. Louise Chang, PCOS affects over 7 million women. The multiple ovarian cysts that occur with PCOS create a hormonal imbalance, causing your body to produce androgens (male sex hormones). Androgens hinder your ability to ovulate and become pregnant. While it is not impossible to get pregnant with PCOS, your ability to release eggs is impaired. Symptoms of PCOS include insulin resistance, obesity, abnormal hair growth on the face or body, irregular or missed periods, acne, skin tags, male-pattern baldness, anxiety, and depression.

If you think you may have PCOS, it is important to get treated because you may be at a greater risk for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, endometrial cancer, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. There is no conventional cure; however, there are methods to help you manage your symptoms and prevent co-morbid illnesses. 

2. Endometriosis                                                                                                                Endometriosis is a painful condition that occurs when your uterine lining, or endometrium, develops outside of your uterus. Your endometrium can grow on your fallopian tubes or ovaries, creating cysts. Symptoms include pelvic pain, excessive bleeding, painful periods, and pain with intercourse, urination, and bowel movements. You may also experience nausea, fatigue, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Allopathic treatment for endometriosis involves medications and surgery. Medications include NSAIDs, naproxen, contraceptives, and drugs that decrease estrogen and increase progesterone. While surgery removes misplaced endometrial tissue, it can scar your reproductive organs and block the passage of sperm.

3. Pituitary Problems                                                                                                        The pituitary gland is known as the "master gland" because it controls the entire endocrine system. Dysfunction with your pituitary gland negatively impacts your thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, and ovaries. Many times, pituitary dysfunction requires medication and a good endocrinologist.

Your pituitary gland produces two major hormones that stimulate ovulation: follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). The most common signs of imbalances of FSH and LH are irregular or absent periods. Other signs include hyperprolactinemia, hypothyroidism, adrenal insufficiency, and Cushing's disease.

Hyperprolactinemia occurs when the anterior portion of your pituitary gland produces too much prolactin. Too much prolactin decreases your body's estrogen production, making conception difficult. Hyperprolactinemia may resolve on its own, but is often managed with medication.

Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid does not produce enough thyroxine (T4). Your chances of conception are affected because low levels of T4 interferes with ovulation. Fortunately, this is an easy fix! There are a variety of thyroid medications on the market and most are relatively safe to take during pregnancy. Integrative approaches such as supplements, diet, and certain Yoga poses may also be beneficial

Adrenal insufficiency occurs when your adrenal glands don't produce enough cortisol and ATCH. Even though cortisol has a bad reputation, this stress hormone is necessary for immune function, stress response, and homeostasis. If you have adrenal insufficiency, you have to take steroids to make sure you stay alive. Hydrocortisone is the closest to the natural cortisol produced by your body.

Cushing's disease occurs when a tumor on your pituitary gland wreaks havoc on your body. Common symptoms of Cushing’s disease include truncal obesity, excessive hair growth on your face and body, rounding of the face (“moon face”), spinal distortions ("Buffalo hump"), weakening of your muscles and bones, fragile and thin skin, fatigue, acne, and of course... elevated cortisol. Some doctors may advise you to "watch and wait," which is fine if your symptoms are mild. But it is ultimately better to get the surgery before the tumor grows too large. When the tumor is small, surgeons can remove it by going up your nose or through your eye. Even though this sounds scary, it is a relatively low-risk procedure. It is better to have the tumor removed when it is small, so the surgeons do not have to open your skull.

4. Premature Ovarian Failure                                                                                        Premature ovarian failure occurs when your ovaries no longer produce eggs. The decrease in estrogen that occurs produces the following symptoms: irregular or missed periods, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, irritability, and of course, infertility. Premature ovarian failure may also be caused by chemotherapy, and you will want to inform your oncologist if this happens to you.

However, you can be misdiagnosed and labeled as "menopausal" or "perimenopausal." This is why blood work is so important, because it provides tangible evidence that cannot be dismissed. Blood work should test the levels of your estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and prolactin.

Another option would be genetic testing. Genetic testing may include a "karyotype" that would examine your chromosomes for any problems and an FMR1 test to make sure that both of your X chromosomes are intact. In addition to infertility and discomfort, prematurely low estrogen can lead to osteoporosis, heart disease, and dementia.

5. Unknown                                                                                                                          Sometimes there is no known cause for not being able to have a baby. When there is no “traditional” medical answer, there is no way to label your infertility. Even though you and your partner may both be very healthy, it still hurts. Since there is no "reason" you are left feeling even more helpless. When there is no apparent reason for your infertility, focusing on alternative methods such as acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition, can be extremely beneficial. These approaches will support and nourish your body and help you to be better able to support a baby.

Whatever the reason for your struggle with fertility, know that you are not alone. I encourage you to reach out for support to friends, family, coaches, and counselors. 

If you would like to learn more and be part of a group of kind and caring individuals, please feel free to join our Facebook group, Hope & Healing Fertility.