Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 1 year of trying for a Woman below the age of 35 and for 6 months for a Woman above the age of 35. Approximately 1 in every 5 couples seeks professional help for Infertility, this means that including the couples that suffer from Infertility but do not seek professional care, the number of couples actually dealing with Infertility is much higher. Approximately 1/3 of Infertility cases are due to a Female factor, 1/3 are due to a Male factor, and 1/3 are due to combined Male & Female factors. Roughly 10% of Infertility cases are defined as Unexplained Infertility, meaning that there is no identifiable cause. This is just a category, and there is still a lot more investigation that can be done and help that can be provided.
Here are some common causes of Female Factor Infertility:
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Affecting about 1 in every 10 Women, this condition can develop very early on and usually becomes symptomatic by menarche, presenting as irregular periods. The biggest challenge with PCOS is chronic anovulation. This means that during your cycle, even if you have a menstrual bleed, Women with PCOS usually are not ovulating. Without Ovulation there is no Egg to travel down the fallopian tube and meet with the sperm to create an embryo. This condition also increases the risk of developing Cardiovascular conditions, Diabetes resulting from decreased insulin sensitivity, excessive hair growth (hirsutism) due to hyperandrogenism. Naturopathic Medicine can be used to help balance the hormonal irregularities that occur in PCOS and help establish a more regular and consistent ovulatory phases in the menstrual cycle.
It has not been very clear as to the exact reason why this condition develops, however, there are hypotheses. In some conditions it is evident that endoemtrial tissue has travelled to extra-uterine sites in the body through lymphatic tissue, backflow of menstrual blood due to irregular bleeding patterns, or through blood vessels. Depending on the case, there is usually an imbalance in the immune system as well where it does not recognize and dissolve the extra-uterine endometrial tissue. This condition causes a lot of difficulty when it comes to fertility because of the Immune system-byproducts/toxic waste produced in the uterus that damages sperm and disables them from fertilizing an egg. Naturopathic Medicine offers a variety of treatments to address some of the underlying imbalances that perpetuate the growth of the endometrial tissue and help balance the immune system to try and reduce the toxic immune system byproducts that damage the sperm.
Uterine fibroids can develop for a multitude of reasons, however, the reason they can lead to infertility is usually anatomical obstruction of the reproductive tract, where the sperm cannot get passed the fibroid to reach the egg during the ovulatory period. Although Uterine Fibroids can be difficult to treat, Naturopathic Medicine offers treatment options that can work in conjunction with standard medical treatment to help support reduction in the size of the fibroids and reduce the excessive blood loss during menstruation.
Poor Luteal Phase
If the Luteal Phase is deficient in length or there is insufficient Progesterone production there can be signs in the menstrual cycle, such as, early spotting or short periods, that signal a weak luteal phase and a deficiency in Progesterone production. This can occur for a variety of reasons, but Naturopathic Herbal and Acupuncture therapies can support the adrenal glands, the pituitary gland function, and the corpus luteum health to increase progesterone production and help support a healthy conception and pregnancy.
Usually seen in Women who have very high Follicular Stimulating (FSH) levels, the early ovulation results in lower quality and poor health of the egg that was released. It is a result of an accelerated maturation process of the egg that can lead to higher fragmentation rates and leads to problems with conception. Naturopathic therapies may help to slow down this maturation process and improve the quality of the egg.
This is a symptom resulting from various diseases, however, the elevated prolactin levels essentially suppress the regular function of Pituitary Gland in producing the FSH and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) which shuts down the cyclic and sensitive signals that guide the function of the Ovary and Uterus. Naturopathic therapies can help address the root cause and help lower prolactin levels to help restore the normal function of the Ovary and Uterus.
Immune System Hyperactivity/Anti-phospholipid Syndrome
A more rare condition that leads to an overactive Immune System and hypercoagulability of the blood leading to an inability to maintain pregnancy. This syndrome helps provide answers in a small portion of the Unexplain Infertility cases and can be a cause of Recurrent Pregnancy Loss. Naturopathic therapies can help balance the immune system and support conventional treatment in trying to reduce the risk of pregnancy loss or the rate of Missed Abortions (loss of a pregnancy so early on that the Woman didn’t even know she was pregnant).
Diseases like Factor V Leiden Deficiency can increase the risk of developing blood clots and can lead to infertility as well.
A main cause of this is PCOS, but can be caused by different diseases as well. An example is Congential Adrenal Hyperplasia that leads to increased Androgen (male sex hormone) production.
Anatomical Abnormality of the Uterus
Usually leading to early spontaneous aboritons, more specific diagnostic tools are required to diagnose these types of conditions.
These are just some Examples of Common Causes for Female Factor Infertility, there are many more causes of Female Factor Infertility which require careful medical investigation.
Common conditions that affect the whole body can also have an impact on male hormone levels and the quality of sperm. Example of specific systemic conditions include, but are not limited to: diabetes mellitus, infection, & obesity
A history of hidden or undescended testicles can lead to subfertility and difficulty producing healthy sperm that are able fertilize an egg.
Specific medications can lead to decreased sperm quality by affecting Testosterone levels
Certain practices can decrease male fertility. Smoking, alcohol, and other recreational drug abuse, such as cocaine, marijuana, and anabolic drug abuse can also lead to infertility. Poor nutrition can also decrease the nutrients available for healthy sperm production.
Exposure to certain toxic chemicals and heavy metals can lead to subfertility in males. Naturopathic therapies are available to help detoxify the body in certain cases.
History of Physical Trauma
A history of physical trauma to the testes can lead to subfertility in males.
Conditions such as Klinefelter syndrome and Cystic Fibrosis can lead to decreased sperm production and/or transport. These conditions cause decreased Testosterone production (as well as poor development of the Testes) and no development of the Vas Deferens (preventing the transport of the sperm to the Urethra from the Testes), respectively.
This can be defined as an inability to have or maintain an erection or inability to ejaculate. This can be the result of psychological stress, poor cardiovascular health, hormone imbalances, or other causes. Naturopathic therapies can offer significant support to help Men overcome Sexual Dysfunction.
These are just some example of common causes of Male Factor Infertility. There are many other conditions that can result in subfertility in Men and it requires careful investigation and diagnosis.