If you’re trying to conceive, few things prove more frustrating than seeing the cardinal fly in for her monthly visit. Sometimes, you may stop menstruating and start celebrating, only to discover having a baby on board isn’t the cause of your amenorrhea after all. Can hormonal imbalance cause infertility?
Why do some women become pregnant soon after stopping birth control use while others struggle for years to have a child? Hormonal imbalances may play a role. Your hormones dictate everything from how readily you put on weight to whether or not your menstrual cycles remain normal. Can hormonal imbalance cause infertility? Absolutely, but fortunately treatments exist.
Can Hormonal Imbalance Cause Infertility?
If you’re struggling to conceive, you’ve probably asked yourself, “can hormonal imbalance cause infertility? If so, which of my hormones are to blame?” The answer depends on the specific symptoms you’re experiencing. Some types of hormonal imbalances, such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, occur in both men and women — others are exclusive to females.
Which hormones can potentially cause infertility? Quite a few.
- Your thyroid governs your metabolism. If you constantly feel cold and exhausted and have thinning hair and dry skin, you may suffer from hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function. Your doctor will perform a TSH test to see if your body releases adequate thyroid-stimulating hormone to keep your body functioning normally.
- This hormone helps the uterine lining grow to support a healthy pregnancy. Inadequate levels of this hormone lead to miscarriage, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant.
- Without adequate levels of estrogen, your body will not release eggs from the ovary. Women with too little estrogen often experience depression, so if you’re feeling unusually blue, book an appointment with your physician even if you’re not trying to get with child.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). If you’re experiencing ovarian failure, you may lack adequate levels of follicle-stimulating hormone. In other cases, your body produces an excess of this hormone to try to regulate your menstrual cycle. Lack of menstruation can indicate an imbalance in this hormone.
- This hormone helps generate breast milk, but imbalances in this substance makes your menstrual cycle irregular. This makes conception more difficult.
How Do Doctors Diagnose and Treat Hormonal Imbalances?
What signs indicate a call to your doctor is in order? And if you do make the call, how will your doctor diagnose a hormonal disorder and treat it if one exists?
Often, inability to conceive is the first sign something is amiss. However, you may experience other symptoms such as unexpected weight gain or loss, irregular menstrual cycles, brittle hair and nails, excess hair growth, acne and/or mood disorders. These symptoms prove troublesome on their own, so even if you don’t want to get pregnant, getting tested helps stave off future health problems. Hormonal imbalances can cause other issues besides infertility — for example, women run a higher risk of heart disease when their estrogen levels fall too low.
The path to proper treatment starts with diagnosis. Your doctor will order a blood test to determine if a hormonal imbalance exists. If your doctor suspects a particular gland or organ such as your ovary, they may order an ultrasound of the area as well.
Multiple treatments exist for remedying hormonal imbalance. Hormone-replacement therapy can rev up a sluggish thyroid or stimulate a non-functioning ovary to release eggs. Certain medications can calm an overproduction of particular hormones, such as those suspected in polycyctic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), making conception easier.
Can Other Factors Impact Fertility?
Hormonal imbalances do not represent the only cause of infertility. Sometimes, structural changes in the reproductive organs, such as a blocked fallopian tube, cause infertility. This can result from endometriosis, where the uterine lining grows on other organs, or from surgery or certain birth control methods like Essure.
Uterine fibroids cause the lining of the uterus to produce growths and become inflamed. This can prevent the fertilized egg from implanting, leading to miscarriage.
Although rare, some women develop an allergy to their partners’ sperm. While this doesn’t always impact fertility, it can make conceiving more difficult. Intrauterine fertilization can result in pregnancy in many cases.
Options for Women Who Cannot Conceive
If you cannot conceive due to hormonal imbalance, you have several options. One option, of course, remains adoption. Some women choose domestic adoption while others opt to adopt a child from overseas.
Women with adequate financial means can pursue in-vitro fertilization. In this procedure, the sperm fertilizes the egg outside the body and is implanted in the uterus. While insurance may not cover the procedure, if a woman has a healthy enough uterus to carry to term, this provides a way for her to pass on her and her partners’ genetic legacy.
Finally, women can conceive using a surrogate mother, using donor eggs and her partners’ or a donors’ sperm. This option helps women who cannot carry to term for various reasons. While this option proves costly, rigorous screening procedures allow women to select donor eggs or sperm containing similar genetic profiles to their own.
Keeping Your Hormones in Better Balance
The answer to the question of, “Can hormonal imbalance cause infertility,” is a resounding yes. But with adequate hormone replacement therapy, you can regain your fertility as well as your quality of life. Talk to your OB/GYN to discuss your treatment options today.