Female Infertility Issues: Anovulation

One of the causes of infertility for women trying to get pregnant is a menstrual cycle or ovulatory disorder known as anovulation. Affecting between 6% and 15% of all women of childbearing age, anovulation affects the production of eggs, resulting in a lack of viable eggs that are released during menstruation. This inevitably disrupts a woman's chances of getting pregnant, leading to difficulties trying to conceive. Nonetheless, various fertility treatments are available to help increase the odds of getting pregnant, and minimize the effects of anovulation on fertility.

Infertility and Anovulation
Anovulation refers to a condition affecting the female reproductive system in which an egg is not released from the ovaries and into the fallopian tubes on a regular, monthly basis.

Hormones are typically released in order to signal ovulation in a woman's body every month. The result is the release of a mature egg from the ovaries which may then be fertilized. However, women with anovulation experience irregular ovulation cycles. In other words, eggs are not released every month, and a woman will ovulate intermittingly throughout the year.

What Causes Anovulation?
Anovulation may signal an underlying fertility problem, or otherwise simply be caused by lifestyle factors. The most common cause of anovulation is a hormonal imbalance that disrupts reproductive health. Indeed, hormones trigger and regulate the body's reproductive cycles, including menstruation and ovulation. The following factors may contribute to hormonal imbalance:

  • breastfeeding
  • weight fluctuations including weight loss and weight gain
  • eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
  • over-exercising
  • high stress
  • travel

Underlying conditions may be a more serious cause of anovulation and result in infertility. These include PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), thyroid complications, and pituitary problems.

Symptoms of Anovulation
Monitoring your menstruation as well as ovulation cycle, which includes becoming aware of the signs of ovulation, can help you identify some of the symptoms of anovulation. The most common of these fertility symptoms include the following:

  • irregular basal body temperature (BBT)
  • irregular menstruation
  • reduced PMS symptoms
  • amennorhea (the absence of a menstrual period)
  • excessive menstrual bleeding
  • oligomenorrhea (light menstruation)

Experiencing chronic anovulation or avoiding treatment can lead to infertility.

Diagnosis of Anovulation
There are various fertility tests that may be performed in order to diagnose a hormonal imbalance that is causing anovulation. Your health care provider may assess your particular fertility issues and perform the following infertility tests:

  • blood tests to assess levels of luteinizing hormones (LH), follicle stimulating hormones (FSH), and thyroid-stimulating hormones
  • pelvic examination to check the size and shape of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes
  • ultrasound to analyze any changes in the reproductive system

In addition, your health care provider may also ask you to keep track of your reproductive cycles. This may be done at home using an ovulation calendar or recording your daily BBT for up to one month. Your health care provider will also ask you questions about your medical history and lifestyle.

Anovulation Treatment
Luckily, for women experiencing anovulation due to minor lifestyle factors, treatment of this fertility condition may be relatively easy. Eating a healthy diet, regulating exercise, and managing stress are among the lifestyle changes that may be required in order to increase the odds of getting pregnant.

In more serious cases of anovulation, fertility drug therapies such as clomiphene and gonadotropin may be recommended to induce ovulation. It is important that any underlying cause of infertility which may result in anovulation be treated. In some cases, an ovarian wedge resection may be performed. This procedure involves the removal of certain parts of the ovaries in order to balance hormone levels.

Speak to your doctor or a fertility specialist for information on what is best for you. Being aware of your options can help you make the appropriate decision for your future benefit.


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