Most Common Causes of Fertility & Gynaecological Problems in Young Women

Infertility in women can be caused by many different factors. It is estimated that approximately 1/3 of problems regarding conception are due to the woman. Although infertility in women is often linked to age, with the biggest decrease in fertility being found when women reach their mid 30’s, little work has been done on the levels of infertility in women between the ages of 16 and 25 despite experts admitting that there has been an increasing number of young women unable to conceive.

1 in 2 women in the UK will suffer from some sort of gynaecological problem during their lifetime. As a country which prides itself on a strong healthcare system and advanced medical research, knowledge and facilities this is an alarmingly high figure. Despite an extensive list of gynaecological problems the causes for all are not known and treatment is not always available.

 

There are two types of infertility

Acquired Vs. Genetic- acquired infertility is when individual risk factors such as lifestyle, location etc. lead to infertility,  intrauterine exposure during fetal development also counts as a form of acquired infertility as it may present itself many years later as an adult. In comparison to genetic infertility which is passed down through a families gene pool.

Within these categories can be found;

Primary Infertility –  when someone who has never conceived a child previously has difficulty conceiving

Secondary Infertility- when someone has had one or more babies in the past but is having difficulty conceiving again.


Ovulation

Infertility is most commonly caused due to ovulation problems (the monthly release of an egg). In some cases women are unable to release eggs, and in other cases eggs are released intermittently (release of an egg one month but not the next).  Problems with ovulation can occur as a result of several conditions.

Premature Ovarian Failure

–         When a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs before the age of 40

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

–         A condition which makes it difficult for the ovaries to produce an egg

Thyroid Problems

–         An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) and an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can prevent ovulation.

Chronic (Long-term) Conditions

–         Sometime chronic conditions such as Cancer or AIDS can prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs.

Cushing’s Syndrome

–         A rare hormonal disease which can prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs.

Womb and Fallopian Tubes

The fallopian tubes act as a bridge between the ovaries and the womb. Eggs are fertilised as they travel from the ovary to the womb, where the egg reaches the womb it is implanted into the womb’s lining where it continues to grow developing into a zygote and then a foetus.

If any damage has occurred to the womb or the fallopian tubes, or they have stopped working it can become difficult to conceive naturally.  Damage to the womb or fallopian tube can occur for several reasons.

Pelvic Surgery

–         In some cases pelvic surgery can cause damage and scarring to the fallopian tubes.

Cervical Surgery

–         Cervical surgery can sometimes cause scarring, or shortening of the cervix (the neck of the womb)

Cervical Mucus Defect

–         During ovulation the mucus in the cervix becomes thinner allowing sperm to swim through more easily. If there is a problem with your cervical mucus it can cause you to have difficulty conceiving.

Submucosal Fibroids

–         A fibroid is a benign (non-cancerous) tumour which grows in or around the womb. Submucosal fibroids develop in the muscle beneath the inner lining of the wombs wall and grow into the middle of the womb.

Endometriosis (external)

–          a condition where cells like those found in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body. During your monthly cycle your hormones stimulate the endometriosis causing it to grow, break down and bleed, in the same way as the lining of the womb. Whereas the blood from your period is released from your body during your monthly cycle  the bleeding caused by endometriosis is unable to leave the body.

–         The new growths form adhesions (sticky areas of tissue) or cysts (fluid filled sacs) which can block or distort the pelvis, making it difficult for eggs to be released and become implanted into the womb.

–         Endometriosis can cause infertility because it disturbs the way in which a follicle (fluid filled space in which an egg develops) matures and releases an egg.

–         Causes inflammation, pain and formation of internal scar tissue which can also be found in the ovaries, and can form “chocolate” cysts so called due to their appearance.

(Internal)

Adenomyosis – also known as internal endometriosis, is when the endometrial tissue from the uterine lining penetrates and grows within the uterine muscle.

Can co exist with external endometriosis

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

–         An infection of the upper female genital tract, including the womb, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. PID is usually contracted as a result of a sexually transmitted infection which can damage and scar the fallopian tubes, making it extremely difficult for an egg to reach the womb.

Sterilisation

–         Women who choose to be sterilised as they do not wish to have children undergo a procedure which involves blocking the fallopian tubes making it impossible for an egg to travel into the womb. The process is rarely reversible and in cases where sterilisation is reversible it does not guarantee fertility again.

Medicines and Drugs

There are some types of medication which can affect fertility, reducing changes of conception or even causing infertility.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

–         The long term use or high dosage of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or aspirin can cause difficulty in conceiving.

Chemotherapy

–         The medicines used for chemotherapy (treatment for cancer) can cause ovarian failure, by preventing the ovaries from functioning properly. Ovarian failure can be permanent.

Neuroleptic Medicines

–         These are antipsychotic medicines which are often used to treat psychosis. They can cause missed periods or infertility.

Spironolactone

–          A medicine used to treat heart failure. It can cause irregular periods and infertility.

Illegal Drugs

–         Drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin can seriously impair fertility. They can cause difficulty in ovulating and can adversely affect the normal working functions of the fallopian tubes.

Other Factors Affecting Fertility

Weight

–         Being overweight or obese reduces fertility as it can affect ovulation. Also being underweight can have a negative impact on fertility levels, as women who are severely underweight will not ovulate.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s)

–         There are several sexually transmitted infections which can lead to infertility as a result. Chlamydia is a common STI which affects the fallopian tubes damaging them and making it impossible for eggs to travel down to the womb.

Smoking

–         Smoking can adversely affect fertility particularly if practiced over a long period of time. Exposure to the chemicals in cigarettes can lead to different types of cancers.

Occupational and Environmental Factors

–          Exposure to certain pesticides, metals and solvents can affect fertility in women.

Stress

–         Stress can reduce the libido (sex drive) which in turn can reduce the frequency of sexual intercourse. Severe stress may also affect ovulation and limit the release of eggs.

Abortion

–         One of the results of abortion can be future fertility problems or infertility. Those terminations which are carried out after 10 weeks place the woman at higher risk of future fertility complications.  

Contraception

–         Birth control medications or contraceptive devices can affect fertility levels. In most cases as soon as you stop taking or using a contraceptive your fertility levels will return to what it is supposed to be, however it will not return to what it was prior to you using the contraceptive. 

Comments

  1. i have had trouble conceiving its been almost a year now, my periods are irregular and not how they used to be before contraception, i had blood tests done and something came up on my thyroid bloods, i think it is slightly underactive, wont know until monday when i see the doctor, will he prescribe me thyroxine? and how long will it take for fertility to return to normal?

    • Hello!
      Apologies for the late reply we’ve been super busy recently. We aren’t medical professionals and so are unable to give out advice. In this instance I think the best thing to to is to wait until Monday and seek the advice of your GP or doctor. Your fertility levels should return to normal after you stop taking your contraceptives. If your thyroid is underactive it best to ask your doctor what the best course of action to take is and based upon this prescription when they feel your fertility levels should return to normal. ALternatively if you feel unhappy with the recommendations of your medical professional we can refer you to another Doctor if you contact us.

      We hope this information is helpful.

      Kind Regards and best of luck with your diagnosis!

  2. Valuable information. Lucky me I found your site by accident, and I am shocked why this accident didnt happened earlier! I bookmarked it

  3. Hey, i just read the contraception section and wondered if the implant is one of the contraception devices that may affect fertility levels. I recently had mine taken out before the date of removal and before I had it inserted I was told that once it was taken out everything goes back to normal and my fertility shouldn’t be affected at all.

    Many thanks

    • The implant like all hormonal contraceptives will affect fertility levels as its sole purpose it to prevent conception. However it is very unlikely that fertility levels will decrease following removal of an implant they should return to their normal level.
      I hope this information helps I would like to point out that although we do like to try and provide as much information as possible we are not trained medical professionals, all information on this website has been sourced from external sites and publications. If for any reason you are concerned you would be well advised to seek professional medical opinions. Here are links to 2 external sites which may be of use to you
      http://www.brook.org.uk/contraception/types-of-contraception/contraceptive-implant

      http://www.nhs.uk/Search/Pages/Results.aspx?___JSSniffer=true&q=contraceptive+implant
      I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for coming here and having a look around. We hope you found the information we provide useful and if you ever need any help or advice we are always here to help please feel free to contact us at thewombroom@hotmail.co.uk

      Kind Regards
      Saschan
      (Founder)

  4. I was really confused, and this ansrweed all my questions.

    • Hey im glad that you found the information useful please feel free to contcat us at thewombroom@hotmail.co.uk for further support and information or just for alittle chat!. i hope you continue to find the information provided educational and i would encourage you to sign up to the blog so you can remain up to date with new events!

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