There are many different factors that influence fertility in women. The ovaries are the female reproductive glands responsible for secreting sex hormones and producing eggs. Two common causes of reduced fertility in women are primary ovarian failure and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In this article, we discuss conceiving with PCOs and other issues relating to the ovaries.
The Relationship Between the Menstrual Cycle, Ovaries and Fertility
The menstrual cycle is how the female reproductive system prepares for pregnancy. On average, the full menstrual cycle lasts approximately 28 days. Around day 14, your ovaries will release an egg. However, these timescales are only estimates. Research suggests that only 15% of women have 28 day long cycles.Cycles anywhere between 21 and 35 days in length are considered normal. For most women, the window of fertility occurs somewhere between day 7 to day 20 of the cycle, which are the optimal days to conceive. However, while sperm can survive 3 to 5 days, the ovum only lives from 4 to 12 hours once released.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
At birth, women have 1 or 2 million ovarian follicles. At the arrival of puberty,approximately 500,000 follicles remain. This reserve decreases throughout a woman’s life. Out of the millions that she started with, only about 400 or 500 will mature at all. There comes a time when the follicular reserve is exhausted and women stop being fertile. By around age 40 for most women, fertility is significantly diminished and continues to decline until menopause.
Primary ovarian insufficiency occurs when the ovaries stop functioning normally before the age of 40. It manifests as irregular menstrual cycles and a significant reduction in fertility. There are known risk factors such as heredity, autoimmune diseases, viral infections, specific genetic syndromes,, and treatments with radiotherapy and chemotherapy. However, in about 90% of cases, the exact cause is unknown.
Primary ovarian insufficiency (also called premature ovarian insufficiency), is responsible for symptoms very similar to those of menopause. Symptoms can include, hot flashes, irritability, decreased libido, pain during intercourse, vaginal dryness, etc. Some women still have occasional periods and may become pregnant even with POI.Fertility doctors can diagnose POI with an initial fertility evaluation and have multiple option for treatment for women who receive a diagnosis of POI.
Conceiving with PCOs
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is another leading cause of female infertility. Signs and symptoms can vary amongst individuals with PCOS. The most common signs include irregular or infrequent periods, excess androgen, and polycystic ovaries. Excess levels of male hormones often result in physical signs like excess facial and body hair (hisutism), sometimes male-patern baldness, and acne. Women often have enlarged ovaries and/or an increased follicle number. As a result the ovaries may not function typically. Despite the symptoms of PCOS, conceiving with PCOS is not impossible. If you have PCOS and are trying for a baby, consult with your doctor to discuss your options. There are many different treatment options available to women with a diagnosis of PCOS.