Understanding Female Fertility: Anovulation
Some of the most common conditions that may be a cause of infertility in women are those affecting menstruation and ovulation. Disruptions in the menstrual cycle and a woman’s ovulation can significantly affect the reproductive system, in turn leading to difficulties getting pregnant.
Anovulation is one type of menstrual cycle disorder that may significantly affect female fertility. Between 6% and 15% of women of childbearing age are believed to be affected by anovulation.
What is Anovulation?
Anovulation is a condition in which a woman does not release an egg for fertilization each month during her menstrual period. In other words, no ovulation takes place.
Typically, the ovaries release a matured egg into the fallopian tubes every month where it can be fertilized. When a woman is anovulatory, a mature egg is not released regularly every month. Instead, this cycle is either erratic or else no eggs are released at all. In either case, conception is very difficult and couples often struggle when trying to conceive.
Anovulation is sometimes associated with underlying fertility complications and reproductive system disorders. These include:
- polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- hormonal disorders
- thyroid problems
- pituitary problems
- weight loss
Anovulation is caused by an imbalance of the hormones within the body, which affects the regulation of menstruation as well as ovulation. When these hormones are imbalanced, the entire reproductive system may be affected, leading to infertility.
Factors that may cause anovulation include breastfeeding, over exercise, stress, frequent travel, eating disorders and drug use. Minimizing these factors may help with the prevention of anovulation.
Symptoms of Anovulation
Since women with anovulation can also continue menstruating, it can be difficult to detect the symptoms of anovulation. However, when no ovulation takes place, the following symptoms may appear:
- irregular basal body temperature (BBT)
- heavy or excessive bleeding during menstruation
- no menstrual period (amenorrhea)
- irregular menstruation (oligomenorrhea)
- decreased symptoms of PMS
- no PMS symptoms
Consult a health care professional if you experience the symptoms of anovulation for information about your particular case.
Diagnosing and Treating Anovulation
A health care provider may ask you to record your basal body temperatures if anovulation is suspected. Blood tests may be performed to assess the levels of certain hormones including luteinizing hormones (LH), follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) and thyroid-stimulating hormones.
Treating anovulation my include the following treatment options:
- Lifestyle Changes: eating a balanced diet, reducing exercise, relaxation and stress relief
- Medications: clomiphene or gonadotropin therapy may be recommended to induce ovulation
- Surgical: removal of parts of the ovaries (ovarian wedge resection) may help balance hormones
Depo Provera is another medication that may be prescribed for the purpose of regulating menstruation.
Speak to your health care provider for more information about treatment options for improving fertility.