There are lots of medical conditions that affect fertility. Some are obvious, others silent. Here are a few you may not have thought about because symptoms can be hard to read or seem unconnected.
When women think about endometriosis, we think about severe period pain. However for a large number of women with milder forms of endometriosis called peritoneal endometriosis, their main symptom is infertility. Many women with this kind of endometriosis perceive their period pain level to be within the normal spectrum. Their disease affects them by adding inflammatory elements to their pelvic environment, which adversely affects their egg quality and their embryo’s ability to implant successfully.
If your partner has normal sperm on paper and you have been trying for 12 months without success, there is a high chance of finding endometriosis at laparoscopy. This kind of endometriosis doesn’t show up on ultrasound – it is too subtle, so having had a normal pelvic ultrasound in the past isn’t helpful in its diagnosis and also unfortunately can’t rule it out.
Chlamydia and other pelvic infections
Having these infections or having had them in the past may be off your radar. For one thing, chlamydia infection can often be silent at the time. You may have forgotten about an infection that happened a really long time ago with an ex-partner. Unfortunately, chlamydia can do life long damage causing obstruction and blockage of the fallopian tubes. Your fallopian tubes serve as the highway on which sperm and egg meet, the place where the egg is fertilize and the pathway the early embryo travels down to meet the uterus. Blockage of these tubes means you can’t get pregnant, in fact tubal ligation surgery or clipping is a very reliable form of permanent contraception. If you are worried your fallopian tubes may be blocked because of a past chlamydia infection – you should tell your doctor and get a referral to see a CREI fertility specialist.
Female and Male hormonal imbalances
Fertility is a partnership and both members of a couple can have medical problems affecting fertility. Hormonal imbalances in both men and women can cause problems with fertility, effecting egg release (ovulation), sperm production and function, erection, ejaculation and sexual function. Don’t forget to bring your partner to any fertility consultation or you may risk missing a crucial piece of the puzzle. Endocrine organs like the pituitary gland, thyroid, adrenal glands, ovaries and testes may need to be checked out.
Undiagnosed coeliac disease may be a contributing factor to your infertility. The good news is that if the is the case, a gluten free diet is a relatively easy fix. However, coeliac disease has other symptoms and lifelong consequences so if a diagnosis is suspected by your GP or fertility specialist you should also be referred to see a gastroenterologist (gut specialist) for advice.