Published by Vanessa Green
July 06 2023
Published byVanessa Green
July 06 2023
Fertility has long been considered a ‘women’s issue.’ But despite all the female-focused infertility information and resources that are available, women still face enormous challenges when it comes to managing their reproductive health.
Approximately 11% of American women struggle with infertility. Many only discover this later in life, making it much more challenging to treat. Part of the reason for this delay in diagnosis is a significant lack of education and awareness about female infertility for women until they’re well into their childbearing years.
We’ve looked at how women can take a proactive approach to their fertility and become better advocates for their reproductive health.
Diagnosing fertility problems early
Like any health concern, a proactive approach to your reproductive health is the best defence. The average age of women getting pregnant for the first time in the US is 30. By age 40, the chance of a woman getting pregnant naturally each month is just 5%.
Even if a woman isn’t ready to start a family, pre-pregnancy fertility testing can be done early on if she knows she’ll want to have children down the road. These tests help provide a baseline for her overall fertility and also help identify any potential or existing fertility issues she may have.
It’s essential for women to get regular gynecological exams and talk to their OB or healthcare provider early on about fertility testing. There are also certain symptoms to watch out for that may indicate potential fertility issues, such as heavy bleeding and significant pain during menstruation. These could be signs of endometriosis, fibroids, blocked tubes or other fertility issues. The earlier you’re diagnosed, the easier it is to get treatment.
[Read our blog post: The Truth About Undiagnosed Pain in Women and Infertility]
There are a number of tests available to women that can help reveal possible fertility issues, including:
- Ovulation blood test: A progesterone test that can help show whether low progesterone levels are causing female infertility
- Ovarian reserve testing:
- Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH): A measurement of antral follicles (also known as resting follicles) in the ovaries
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) – A hormone test that evaluates the amount of FSH in your blood and assesses the health of your ovaries or pituitary function
- Antral Follicle Count (AFC) tests – a non-invasive test used to assess the number of eggs in a woman’s ovaries
- Prolactin testing: A prolactin test measures the amount of the prolactin hormone in your blood. High prolactin levels inhibit the secretion of FSH, the hormone that triggers ovulation, and can also cause Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Estradiol testing: An estrogen test that determines the amount of estradiol in your blood and can indicate if you’re preparing to enter menopause or are already transitioning
- Saline Sonogram (SIS): A transvaginal ultrasound that detects uterine abnormalities such as endometrial polyps, fibroids, or uterine scars
- Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): An X-ray that looks at the uterus and fallopian tubes
- Hysteroscopy: A procedure that allows a surgeon to look inside your uterus to diagnose and treat the causes of abnormal bleeding
- Laparoscopy: A minimally invasive surgical procedure to examine pelvic anatomy for causes of female infertility in the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries and can also be used to remove scar tissue or endometriosis
If your results show signs of potential fertility issues, your healthcare provider may recommend freezing your eggs when you’re young. This method is becoming a popular way for women to help improve their chances of getting pregnant at an older age.
[Read our blog post: Your Complete Guide to Decoding Fertility Acronyms and Terminology]
Understanding how lifestyle issues affect fertility
There are a number of factors that can affect a woman’s fertility, and many of those concern her lifestyle habits. Ten years ago, the medical community didn’t know these habits played such a significant role in reproductive health, but we now know they have a considerable impact on women’s chances of conceiving. They include:
- Alcohol consumption
- Drug use – both recreational and performance-enhancing
- Environmental pollutants
- High-stress levels
- Caffeine consumption
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
There are also positive lifestyle changes women can make to help improve their chances of conception before they try IVF, including acupuncture, therapy and yoga.
Making healthy lifestyle choices won’t guarantee you’ll get pregnant, but it does help greatly influence your overall health and well-being, including fertility.