Female Infertility Tips

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How does my thyroid dysfunction relate to infertility?

Thyroid Infertility

For women with a thyroid disorder, such as underactive (hypothyroid) or overactive (hyperthyroid) thyroid, getting pregnant can be a challenge. When the thyroid is a contributor to fertility problems, the condition is called "thyroid infertility."

Your thyroid gland releases hormones that help to regulate body functions including temperature and metabolism. When these hormones are out of balance, they impact other hormones in your body, including ones responsible for reproduction. Fortunately, thyroid infertility is one form of infertility that can be managed with proper treatment of the thyroid.

The keys to overcoming thyroid infertility include:
1) taking your medication as the doctor prescribes - don't skip doses or double up, to catch up if you missed a dose
2) getting your thyroid blood tests done on schedule - these help your doctor monitor your thyroid function and make adjustments in your treatment
3) keeping your appointments with your physician, so that they can help you manage your disease, to better your chances of conceiving

Taking control of your thyroid disease means reducing your risk for thyroid infertility.

   
What is BBT and how will it help my infertility?

Basal Body Temperature Charting

For some women, getting pregnant comes very easily, while others have a more difficult time conceiving, due to female infertility. One method that has been used for many years to help couples conceive is called "charting."

This involves daily journaling of specific changes in your body, which can lead to a better understanding of your menstrual cycle, and enhance your chances of overcoming female infertility, and pregnant.

The most popular method of "charting" is Basal Body Temperature, or BBT. To chart your BBT, you need to take your temperature each and every day. To make the most of this method, you will need to do the following:

1. take your temperature every day at the same time, each day, preferably first thing in the morning

2. do absolutely nothing before taking your temperature - do not eat or drink, smoke, or get up and move around, as these actions can alter your body temperature

3. take your temperature the same way each time; it doesn't matter which method your choose (oral, rectal or vaginal)

Normally, as you ovulate, your temperature goes up a very small amount. Keeping track of your temperature for several cycles can give you clues to the best time to try to conceive. Remember that no method is foolproof. It may help to have your doctor review your temperature journal, to help you interpret it. You may get an "off" temperature, occasionally, so don't panic.

Journaling your Basal Body Temperature is one way to better anticipate your menstrual cycles, and assist in achieving pregnancy.

   
Why do I feel like I am grieving over my infertility?

Infertility and Grief

Female infertility is more than just about being unable to conceive; it is about loss. And with every loss, there comes grief.

The losses, for women affected by female infertility, include:

1. Feeling like you are less than a "whole" woman because you cannot conceive.

2. Experiencing the loss of conception, pregnancy and motherhood - experiences met with great anticipation in women seeking to have children.

3. Loss or change in partner intimacy due to the stress and anxiety associated

with conception difficulties.

4. Loss of social identity, since society generally equates being a women with

being a mother.

Recognizing that infertility encompasses many loss and, with it, feelings of grief, is the first step to taking effective action to cope and heal your grief.

   
Does the position of my uterus affect my ability to get pregnant?

Uterine Position and Infertility

Some people believe that the position of your uterus impacts your ability to conceive, and that different uterine positions may actually contribute to female infertility.

Generally speaking, the uterus in most women tilts toward the bladder - to the front. Some women have a uterus that tilts backwards. Since the cervix - the opening to the uterus - remains in essentially the same position, it is believed that the actual direction in which the uterus tilts has no real effect on a woman's ability to get pregnant, nor does it cause female infertility.

   
What are the hormones involved with fertility and what do they do?

Hormones and Infertility

The human body utilizes numerous chemicals, called hormones, to regulate body functions ranging from growth to conception. The primary hormones responsible for the menstrual cycle and fertility include:

1) Gonadotropin-releasing hormone - this governs the amount of estrogen in the body, and stimulates the release of the next two hormones

2) Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)- stimulates the ovary to produce eggs

3) Luteinizing hormone - promotes thickening of the uterus lining in preparation for receiving a fertilized egg

4) Progesterone - controls FSH levels, to stop ripening unnecessary eggs, once one is ready to be released by the ovary

5) estrogen - governs thickness and consistency of the mucus that sperm travel in, to reach the egg, as well as helps in thickening the uterine wall

These hormones peak and ebb to create the menstrual cycle and key in ovulation and conception.

   
What are the main causes of female infertility?

Most Common Causes of Female Infertility

Female infertility is a complex problem that can have many contributing factors. The most common contributors to infertility are:

1) Structural problems: blocked fallopian tubes, fibroids or other masses inside the uterus, or blockages or problems with the cervix.

2) Mechanical issues: scar tissue left by infections, endometriosis or prior abdominal surgeries (called adhesions), and obesity.

3) Ovulation variances: lack of egg production, or irregular egg production.

4) Other contributors: thyroid dysfunction, presence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, inadequate production of fertility hormones, anorexia, drug use and stress.

   
How does stress impact fertility?

Stress and Female Infertility

During periods of stress, the human body responds with altered secretion of some hormones, changes in blood flow, enhanced senses and increased respiration. Muscles tighten, blood flow decreases in the abdominal organs, and your eyes dilate. This is akin to the "fight or flight response" in animals, and each of these changes help animals to better manage dangerous or life-threatening events.

Humans, however, do not generally have life-threatening events that require mobilization of such extreme responses. We do experience the side effects of the stress response, though, and stress may impact fertility in the following ways:

1) disturbed sleep and wake cycles - altered sleep patterns effect hormonal production

2) altered pituitary hormone production - The pituitary produces hormones for the menstrual cycle.

3) blood flow is decreased to the abdominal organs, including the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes

4) stress chemicals, like cortisol, are released into the bloodstream, which can impair thyroid function.

Thyroid dysfunction is a known contributor to infertility. A certain amount of stress can improve your performance at work and in sports, and can energize you and enhance your senses. However, prolonged stress has many negative side effects, including: high blood pressure, insomnia, chest pain, digestive problems, and certainly not least, it may contribute to female infertility.

   
What does ovulation have to do with infertility?

Ovulation and Infertility

Ovulation (egg production) is one of the key factors associated with fertility and infertility, since failure to produce viable eggs impairs a woman's ability to conceive.

This includes not only total lack of egg production, but also irregular ovulation, which is seen with irregular menstruation, and abnormal bleeding or "spotting."

If you are having irregular periods, spotting or other menstrual challenges, it may be more difficult to conceive. And since there are many causes for variations in your periods, it is best to see your Physician, and be evaluated for correctable causes of menstrual irregularity.

Your physician can rule out endometriosis infertility, thyroid infertility and many of the other causes of ovulation problems. Getting your periods back on schedule will greatly improve your changes for getting pregnant!

   
What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis and Infertility

Endometriosis is a painful condition which is hallmarked by the development of uterine tissue outside of the uterus. The endometrium is the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus, and which thickens each month, in preparation for pregnancy. With endometriosis, a tissue very much like the uterine tissue grows elsewhere, including in your fallopian tubes, ovaries, and even on other internal organs. This can result in endometriosis infertility.

Like the tissue in your uterus, this "lost" tissue thickens with the hormonal changes that accompany your menstrual cycle, but it cannot "shed" like your uterine tissue, because there is no where for the shedded materials to go. Instead, the shedded tissue accumulates in abnormal places, causing pain, irritation, inflammation and scarring. This scarring of pelvic tissues, which can include the fallopian tubes and ovaries, is a prime contributor to endometriosis infertility.

There are several options for managing endometriosis. If you have having trouble conceiving, and are also experiencing pelvic pain, abdominal pain or other usually symptoms, especially during your cycle, see your physician to be evaluated for endometriosis and discuss your options.

   
What causes a "period?"

Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

For most women, the mature female body prepares each month for pregnancy. This occurs on a schedule that usually ranges from 25 to 32 days, though the average is 28 days. During this cycle, called the Menstrual Cycle, the body experiences hormonal changes that stimulate the three (3) primary phases of the cycle:

1) follicular phase - where eggs are being ripened for release, during the:
2) ovulatory phase - when the egg is released into the fallopian tube, then comes the:
3) luteal phase - when the lining of the uterus thickens and prepares to accept the (hopefully) fertilized egg.

These phases are controlled by a complex series of hormones, released in a specific sequence, which prepare the egg, stimulate its release, and then prepare the uterus for receipt of the egg.

If the egg is not fertilized by sperm, after ovulation and before the egg reaches the lining of the uterus, the uterus will shed its thickened lining, resulting in a woman's "period."

Understanding the Menstrual Cycle can help to demonstrate how even small variations in this precise sequence of events, can impact female infertility.

   
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Guru Spotlight
Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.