Women’s top reproductive health concerns preventing pregnancy
Reproductive health in women should be a top concern. In facts, sexual and reproductive health problems are responsible for one third of health issues for women between the ages of 15 and 44 years. Yet many women may not always take notice or be taking care of themselves which could be harming their reproductive health.
Here are some of the top reproductive health concerns facing women and what all women need to do to guard their health to help improve their chances of becoming pregnant:
Endometriosis is a painful condition in which there is an abnormal growth of endometrial cells that normally line the inside of the uterus but instead are found on areas outside of the uterus. Endometriosis is usually found on other organs of the pelvis including:
· Outer surface of the uterus
· Fallopian tubes
· Ligaments that support the uterus
The condition is often painful and can affect a woman’s fertility. In fact, women who have trouble with conception are 6 to 8 times more likely to have endometriosis than fertile women. Surgery or in vitro fertilization can improve the odds of getting and staying pregnant.
· Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer may not be on a young woman’s radar, but the type of cervical cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), is a serious threat. Each year, more than 11,000 women are diagnosed with the disease. When women have a yearly pap smear, this is the best tool for finding cervical cancer at an early stage and treating it successfully. The only downside of treatments for cervical cancer is it may cause infertility. Any woman of childbearing age who is diagnosed with this disease and wants to have future children, should ask for options that will help her get pregnant later.
· Female Sexual Dysfunction
Women who are experiencing pain during sex, low libido, or a general dissatisfaction with their sex life, may have a condition called female sexual dysfunction. For women who are trying to conceive, it can be both a cause of infertility and a result of it. If a woman is not interested in sex, it will be harder to conceive. Talking to a gynecologist about this problem can help find solutions to it and improve chances of getting pregnant.
· Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
A common cause of infertility in women is PCOS. Many women may not even know they have it until they are trying to conceive and are having difficulty doing so. PCOS is related to a hormone imbalance that affects ovulation and can lead to fluid-filled sacs called cysts on one or both ovaries, irregular periods, and high levels of hormones causing excess body or facial hair. Women with PCOS or think they may have it, should discuss with their doctor on how to improve chances of becoming pregnant with PCOS.
· Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)
Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is when the ovaries stop working normally in women younger than age 40. With POI, the ovary does not release an egg each month as it should. POI has been called premature ovarian failure and premature menopause. But these terms are not as accurate. A woman with POI may still have some function of her ovaries.
A woman with POI may have fewer eggs, or the ovaries might not mature or release eggs correctly. The ovaries then do not produce the normal amounts of hormones. This leads to the symptoms of POI.
Besides monthly problems, women with POI may also have hot flashes, cranky mood, trouble concentrating, and painful sex.
POI can be treated in different ways. Treatment may be done by a gynecologist who specializes in reproductive endocrinology. Most women with POI need hormone treatment with estrogen. For other women, they may need treatment for an underlying medical problem that may help POI. For example, treatment of thyroid disease or an eating disorder may help reduce symptoms of POI.
· Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths on the uterus. They are common in women and often cause no symptoms and usually do not affect the ability to get pregnant. But they could increase infertility, miscarriage, or other pregnancy problems for some women. Any woman who has concerns or suspects she may have uterine fibroids, should discuss this with her doctor.
· Interstitial Cystitis
Interstitial cystitis is often associated with urinary frequency (needing to go often) and urgency (feeling a strong need to go) along with frequent nighttime voiding, painful intercourse and premenstrual and perimenopause hormonal pain. This condition should not affect a woman’s fertility but it doesn’t help with her sex drive. To help improve chances of when a woman is most fertile, an ovulation kit can help.
· Excess body weight
As the numbers on a scale go up, the chances of a woman being able to conceive go down. Those extra pounds raise the odds of infertility, miscarriage, and other reproductive problems. The good news is a woman who can lose just 10% of their body weight improves their ability to become pregnant. Working with a registered dietitian to reach a healthier body weight can be beneficial.
· Being too thin
On the other end of the weight spectrum, women who are very thin or underweight (defined as a body mass index of 18.5 or less), can also have problems conceiving. In order for a woman to conceive, she has to have normal amounts of body fat. Research shows it is harder for a woman to become pregnant and can increase the chance of miscarriage, if they are too thin. Again, visiting with a registered dietitian to come up with a healthy eating plan can improve fertility odds.
· Gonorrhea and Chlamydia
Any woman with a sexually transmitted disease should be treated promptly. Signs of gonorrhea and chlamydia should be ignored. If left untreated, they can cause pelvic inflammatory disease which is an infection of the reproductive organs. This can lead to problems such as infertility, blocked fallopian tubes, and ectopic pregnancy.