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Top 5 Causes of Female Infertility

As an acupuncturist and chiropractor, I examine simple and natural solutions to solve most health problems.  Even though many of these conditions are treatable with natural and holistic medicine, it is still important that you are aware of your options.  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.  Multiple ovarian cysts form and then create a hormonal imbalance, causing your body to produce androgens (male hormones) and decrease your ability to ovulate. While it is not impossible to get pregnant with PCOS, your ability to release eggs is impaired, so becoming pregnant can be difficult. 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, and anxiety and depression.  

If you think you may have PCOS, it is so 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.  At this point 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 endometrium, or uterine lining, develops outside your uterus. Your endometrium can grow on your fallopian tubes or ovaries, creating cysts. Though this tissue can be removed, scarring can occur on your reproductive organs that can block the passage of sperm, preventing a pregnancy. 

Other symptoms of endometriosis 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. There are many effective natural treatments for endometriosis, however, the standard allopathic treatment involves medications and surgery. Medications for endometriosis include NSAIDS, naproxen, contraceptives, and drugs that decrease estrogen and increase progesterone.    

3. Pituitary Problems

The pituitary gland is commonly known as the "master gland" because it controls the entire endocrine system! If you have dysfunctions with your pituitary gland, this can create problems throughout your entire body, because it controls your thyroid, your adrenals, your pancreas, and your ovaries. Even though natural medicines are wonderful for creating balance and managing your symptoms, access to a good endocrinologist is essential. Many times, these conditions must be managed with medications and not receiving the proper treatment can leave you very sick!

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. Hyperprolactinemia occurs when the anterior portion of your pituitary gland produces too much prolactin, decreasing the amount of estrogen in your body. Sometimes, hyperprolactinemia goes away on its own, but medication can be prescribed to manage this condition.  Other signs may include hypothyroidism, adrenal insufficiency, and Cushing’s disease.

Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid is under-functioning and does not produce enough thyroxine (T4). Your chances of conception are impacted because lack of T4 interferes with ovulation. Fortunately, this is an easy fix! Most thyroid medications are relatively safe during pregnancy, and if you are trying a natural path, supplements, diet, and certain Yoga poses may be beneficial.

Adrenal insufficiency occurs when your adrenal glands don't produce enough cortisol (stress hormone) and ATCH. This condition is also known as Addison's disease. Even though it has a bad reputation, cortisol is a vital hormone that is necessary for immune function, stress response, and homeostasis.   If you have adrenal insufficiency, you just have to take your medications. Hydrocortisone is preferable to other steroids, as this is the closest to the natural cortisol produced by your body.

Cushing's disease occurs when a benign tumor on your pituitary gland wreaks havoc on your entire 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 docs may advise you to "watch and wait," which is fine if your symptoms are mild, but it's better to get the surgery sooner rather than later. When the tumor is small, they can go up your nose or through your eye. Even though this sounds scary, it is a relatively low-risk procedure and it's better than them opening up your skull!

4. Premature Ovarian Failure

Premature ovarian failure occurs when your ovaries no longer produce eggs. However, you can miss this if your doctors marginalize you and label you as "menopausal" or "perimenopausal." This is why blood work is so important, because it provides tangible evidence of your condition! Symptoms of premature ovarian failure are often associated with a decrease in estrogen and may include irregular or missed periods, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, irritability, and of course, infertility.

If you have premature ovarian failure due to chemotherapy, it is most likely that your oncologist has discussed this with you. If not, you need a new doctor.       

But if you have premature ovarian failure due to genetics or an autoimmune condition, it doesn't hurt to tune up your Throat Chakra and ask your doctor to prescribe blood work. Some tests that your doctor might want to consider would be to test your estradiol levels, your follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) levels, and your prolactin levels. 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 - as females we are XX - are intact. This is important because 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. This can be the saddest of all because there is no “traditional” medical answer and 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.

But this is when you really want to focus on alternative methods like acupuncture, massage, herbs, and nutrition. These approaches will support and nourish your body and help you to be better able to support a baby.

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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.