Infertility affects millions of couples in North America alone. There are many uterine infertility factors that can cause infertility however one of the most common is abnormalities and problems with the uterus.
Any abnormality in the uterus can have a serious impact on a woman’s ability to get pregnant and carry a pregnancy to full term. Some women may have a uterus that is deformed from birth.
This is also known as a congenital birth defect. Other women may develop a uterine disorder throughout the years. Uterine factors can affect the reproductive cycle and contribute to the fertility issue that a woman is experiencing.
Many women don’t even know that there is something wrong with their uterus until they try to become pregnant. A proper diagnosis is necessary before any fertility treatments can be recommended.
Diagnosing Uterine Disorders
Both an abnormal uterus and a uterine cavity that has distortions due to fibroids, scar tissue, or polyps can cause infertility. It’s important that any uterine factors that might lead to infertility are diagnosed before any treatment is advised.
Diagnosis can be done using an x-ray known as an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) as well as SHG (sonohysterogram), an ultrasound that uses saline.
Both of these tests can determine if there are any abnormalities within the uterus that may be preventing a woman from conceiving.
If further diagnosis is required, a hysteroscopy can be used. In this procedure, a lighted camera tube is inserted into the cavity of the uterus.
If there are any abnormalities detected that can be corrected, a surgeon may choose to make these surgical corrections at the time of diagnosis to avoid possible further invasive surgery.
Finding Fibroid Tumors in the Uterus
Fibroid tumors, otherwise known as uterine fibroids, are a huge factor when it comes to infertility in women. Fibroid tumors can be as small as a few millimeters or as large as a foot or so in diameter.
Fertility can become a problem when the fibroids grow within the muscles of the uterus (intramural) or when they grow right within the cavity of the uterus (submucosal).
Fibroids are more common in older women which can be a huge problem for women over the age of 35 who are trying to get pregnant.
Some women will have no symptoms of having a fibroid while others may experience pain in the pelvic area, painful periods, and heavy periods.
If a woman is able to conceive when she has a fibroid, there still remains the risk of a miscarriage as the cavity of the womb may be distorted, and interfere with the implantation of the embryo.
Fibroids can be treated either surgically or using medication. Removal of uterine fibroids can increase fertility by up to 25 percent.
Uterine Adhesions can Affect Fertility
Scar tissue or adhesions inside the cavity of the uterus can affect menstruation and are a factor in infertility as well as early miscarriage. These uterine adhesions are also known as Asherman’s syndrome.
Scarring can happen if a D&C (dilation and curettage) is performed after an abortion or miscarriage. The treatment of uterine adhesions is usually done at the same time that they are diagnosed.
A surgeon will perform a hysteroscopy to determine if there is any scar tissue present. If any scar tissue or adhesions are found they can be cut through and removed by inserting tiny surgical tools in through the hysteroscopy tube.
Diagnosing and treating uterine adhesions at the same time prevents a woman from having to go through this invasive surgery more than once.
Congenital Uterus Abnormalities can Cause Infertility
Women who are born with an abnormality with their uterus have what is called a congenital uterine defect. Most times she won’t even know that there is a problem with her uterus until she is having difficulty getting pregnant.
Some congenital defects can be treated while others can’t be. The most common type of congenital uterine defect is a septate uterus.
All of the reproductive organs will function normally and conception is possible however one in four pregnancies will result in miscarriage.
This is because a partial or full wall divides the uterus, making it difficult if not impossible for the fetus to develop. A septate uterus can be treated successfully using laparoscopy or hysteroscopy by removal of the septum wall.
Facing Uterine Infertility Factors
While there are many factors of infertility that can’t be diagnosed, uterine abnormalities are usually detected through accurate testing.
Since a normal uterus is needed for the successful implantation and growth of the embryo, it’s imperative that uterine abnormalities are treated.
Even if pregnancy is achieved with uterine abnormalities, there is still a great risk of miscarriage. In those cases where the uterus is too severely damaged to be treated, a woman won’t be able to carry her own baby.
In these cases, a surrogate mother can be used along with her partner’s sperm or use donor sperm.