What is female infertility?
Female infertility is a condition that prevents women from becoming pregnant and affects about 15% of women. Female infertility is diagnosed when a woman that can potentially conceive is unable of getting pregnant. The loss of reproductive capacity is especially linked to age; in fact at 30 years of age the chances of conceiving are higher compared to the chances at 40 years of age. There are different causes that may determine infertility and many are related to psychosocial factors due to conditions like lifestyle, search for the first child at a late age, drug use, alcohol abuse, smoking, working conditions, pollution and hormonal problems.
What are the possible hormonal causes of female infertility?
Fertile age in women is characterised by periodical hormonal fluctuations that regulate the menstrual cycle and affect fertility. In the majority of cases, female infertility is due to the absence of ovulation, which normally occurs on the 14th day of the ovarian cycle. During normal ovulation, follicles mature because of FSH stimulation and oestrogens and the mature ovule is then expelled from the ovary. Sometimes and for different reasons, such as stress and eating disorders, FSH and oestrogens are not produced correctly. In fact, bulimia and anorexia can lead to amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) and therefore to the absence of ovulation with consequent reduction of fertility. Thyroid disorders can also compromise the chances of conceiving because thyroxine and triiodothyronine (thyroid hormones) control the normal development of the ovaries and the maturation of oocytes. In addition, some disorders of the hypothalamus or of the hypophysis can lead to insufficient gonadotropins or cause hyperprolactinemia, hormone that is crucial for breast-feeding but which, in levels higher than normal, leads to anovulation. Less frequent are instead disorders of the corpus luteum, whose main goal is to secrete progesterone, a hormone that is essential to allow the complete implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine cavity.