The intricate balance of hormones and the delicate function of the reproductive system hold the key to fertility. It starts from birth, gains importance at puberty, and continues until menopause. There are a myriad of factors that could disrupt the balance, leading to ovulation disorders. It has a significant impact on fertility, making natural conception difficult.
So, let us navigate the complexities of ovulation disorders that hinder your journey into parenthood.
What Are Ovulation Disorders?
An ovulation disorder refers to a condition in which a woman’s ovaries do not release eggs regularly or fail to release eggs at all. This irregularity disrupts the normal menstrual cycle, making it difficult for the woman to conceive naturally.
Ovulation disorders account for up to 25% of the known causes of female infertility. Unfortunately, most are unaware of this until they try to conceive.
Signs That You Have an Ovulation Disorder
You probably have ovulation disorders when you have
- Irregular menstrual cycle (irregular periods with cycles that are shorter or longer than the typical 28–35 day cycle)
- Absent or infrequent periods
- Abnormal bleeding or prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Symptoms like excessive facial or body hair growth, acne, and weight gain may be present due to hormonal disturbances.
- Pain or discomfort during ovulation and menstruation
- Difficulty getting pregnant
However, these symptoms will vary depending on the cause of the ovulation disorder, and sometimes infertility could be the only symptom.
Certain lifestyle factors can contribute to and fuel ovulation disorders. Diet, sleep, physical activity, stress, and habits like smoking and drinking can influence ovulation. So if you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s your cue to make lifestyle changes. Consult experts for personalized guidance and treatment.
Common Ovulation Disorders
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): A hormonal disorder characterized by enlarged ovaries with multiple small cysts, causing irregular periods, excessive hair growth, and fertility challenges.
- Hypothalamic dysfunction: It affects the production of LH and FSH hormones in the pituitary gland, which is essential for ovulation, causing a disruption in the brain’s signals to the ovaries, resulting in irregular or absent ovulation and menstrual cycles.
- Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI): Early depletion of the ovarian follicle reservoir, leading to reduced or absent ovulation, early menopause-like symptoms, and fertility decline.
- Hyperprolactinemia: High levels of the prolactin hormone inhibit ovulation and cause irregular periods and milk production outside of pregnancy or breastfeeding.
- Thyroid disorders: Abnormal thyroid function can disrupt ovulation, leading to menstrual irregularities and fertility issues.
- Menstrual cycle abnormalities: Shortened or inadequate luteal phase (post-ovulation) in the menstrual cycle, affecting embryo implantation and early pregnancy. Similarly, early maturation of the ovarian follicles causes a premature release of eggs and fertility challenges.
- Ovarian tumours: Ovarian tumours can disrupt ovulation by affecting the normal function of the ovaries, interfering with hormone production, and altering the release of eggs. This disruption can lead to irregular menstrual cycles and fertility challenges.
Treatment of Ovulation Disorders
Based on the ovulation disorder diagnosed and considering individual factors, the treatment plan varies with each individual. The main aim is to regulate hormonal imbalances and restore regular ovulation to improve fertility.
Some treatment options for ovulation disorders are:
- Medications: Hormonal medications, such as clomiphene citrate or letrozole, can stimulate ovulation and help regulate the menstrual cycle. Injectable hormones like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) can induce ovulation in some cases.
- Surgery: In certain situations, surgical procedures may be necessary to remove ovarian cysts or address structural issues causing ovulation disorders.
- Hormone replacement therapy: For disorders like premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) or thyroid imbalance, hormone replacement therapy can manage symptoms and improve fertility.
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART): Advanced fertility techniques like IUI (which involves placing prepared sperm directly into the uterus during ovulation to increase the chances of conception) and IVF (where eggs and sperm are fertilised outside the body and the resulting embryos are transferred into the uterus) are sometimes the only solution to infertility.
On the journey to parenthood, ovulation disorders become more than medical hurdles, testing your resilience and courage to fight. Although these challenges are daunting, with advances in treatments and personalized approaches, conception becomes more promising.