During November we have been focusing specifically around issues related to women’s fertility and reproductive health, and in this article we shall give an overview of some of the most common conditions that may be preventing you from conceiving naturally or contributing towards early miscarriages. Try not to feel overwhelmed by the information. It is important to note that this is a very general overview and is provided in order to equip you with some possible areas to investigate further if you are finding it hard to conceive. Your doctor should help you to determine where any issues may lie through tests and screenings, but it is helpful to have an idea of things to be looking out for and ensuring your doctor is investigating thoroughly. Fertility is complex and things can be overlooked – be sure to arm yourself with the correct information and push for further investigations if you think they are needed. If you are diagnosed with any of the following conditions mentioned in this article, here at The Natural Fertility Clinic we can offer a range of holistic treatments including acupuncture, reflexology and abdominal massage as well as providing expert advice and support on diet and lifestyle changes to assist in managing them.
Endometriosis is the biggest cause of infertility in females and affects an estimated 176 million women worldwide. It is a disorder in which tissue from inside the uterus begins to grow on other organs, causing swelling, cysts or blockages that might prevent pregnancy. One of the main symptoms of this disease is pelvic pain which often, although not always, correlates to the menstrual cycle. For many women, this pain can be very severe and have a huge effect on their lives. The associated stress alone will surely have an impact on women’s overall wellbeing, which in turn can also impact on fertility.
To date, there is actually no official evidence to suggest that endometriosis can negatively affect fertility however studies do indicate that women who suffer with the disease may have a harder time conceiving. According to endometriosis.org/, some of the theories proposed to explain why this might be the case include:
- pelvic adhesions inhibiting the movement of the egg down the fallopian tube;
- chemicals produced by the endometriosis inhibiting the movement of the egg down the fallopian tube;
- inflammation in the pelvis caused by endometriosis stimulating the production of cells that attack the sperm and shorten their life span;
- eggs are of poor quality or are not released from the ovaries each month.
During the month of March 2019, in which Endometriosis Awareness Week takes place, we will be focusing on this condition in much greater depth with more detailed information and guidance on how we can support you at the clinic.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS as it is commonly referred to, is a hormonal condition that affects 1 in 5 women in the UK and is a leading cause of female infertility. The three main features are irregular periods, high levels of “male” hormones resulting in physical symptoms such as excessive facial hair, and polycystic ovaries where the ovaries are enlarged and contain fluid-filled follicles which can prevent an egg being released. Despite so many women being affected by this condition, many do not have any obvious symptoms and it is often difficult to accurately diagnose without more detailed blood tests and ultrasound scans. It is important to remember that being diagnosed with PCOS does not mean you are infertile. There are many effective methods of treatment including medication, as well as a range of holistic approaches. Eating healthy, being active, getting good sleep, and keeping stress at bay is also important so be sure to look after all aspects of your physical and mental well-being.
Over or Underactive Thyroid
The thyroid is a gland in your neck which makes two hormones that are secreted into the blood. These are necessary for all the cells in your body to work normally and they regulate the speed at which these cells work. If too much of the thyroid hormones are secreted, the body cells work too quickly; too little and the cells and organs of your body slow down.
A 2015 study published in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist supports the theory that thyroid disorders can contribute to ovulation and pregnancy problems and suggests that women having trouble conceiving be tested for over- or underactive thyroid. The thyroid produces hormones that play key roles in growth and development. Both an overactive and underactive thyroid can have significant effects on reproductive function. It can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, prevent ovulation, cause cysts to form on the ovaries, and even cause an increased production of prolactin, the hormone that controls milk production, which can also prevent ovulation.
Common signs of an underactive thyroid are tiredness, weight gain, constipation, irregular or heavy periods and feeling depressed. Symptoms of an overactive thyroid include anxiety, weight loss, difficultly sleeping, and diarrhoea. As this range of symptoms can be attributed to so many other conditions, thyroid issues can often be overlooked and so it is important to push for testing if you think this could be affecting you.
It is quite clear from reading about the conditions referred to within this article that hormones play a vital part in women’s overall health and when they are thrown out of balance through a wide range of reasons, they are responsible for several issues – many of which can have an impact on fertility.
Hormones are the chemical messengers of the body, flowing back and forth between glands and organs to tell them when and how to kick into gear; any change in your hormones can change the way your body functions. There are many hormones at work in the process of ovulation and conception and each of these must be present at the right time, and in the right quantity, to ensure that the process goes smoothly. For example, the right level of the luteinizing hormone (LH) is crucial for ovulation and after this takes place, progesterone aids implantation and supports the embryo during early pregnancy; not enough, and you could experience infertility or miscarriage. And if the levels of other hormones not involved in ovulation are too high, that could affect your body’s delicate balance as well. To read more about how to recognise if you have a hormonal imbalance, as well as how you can make changes to your diet in order to help address the issues, click here.
No surprises here! It is almost inevitable that any couple being affected by fertility issues will find the experience stressful, especially as time goes on. This combined with the day to day stresses we experience through work and busy lifestyles can mount up and have a detrimental effect on women’s overall wellbeing, potentially altering hormone levels which can in turn affect ovulation. The Natural Fertility Clinic team do not underestimate the stress caused by infertility and how it can significantly impact your fertility journey. We are here to support you and take your fertility as seriously as you do.
For more information on how our team of experts can support you with any of the conditions mentioned in this article, please contact us to make an appointment to discuss your personal circumstances in more detail.
By Suzanne Higgins
Christmas and the new year are fast approaching and next month we will be discussing ways to get through this often-difficult time and offer advice for how to focus on enjoying the festive period when trying to conceive.