How Reproductive Health Impacts Fertility

Most people know that a woman’s menstrual health can have an impact on the ability to conceive. Not having a period, or experiencing an irregular period can make tracking ovulation, a critical component to getting pregnant, difficult. But in particular, two reproductive conditions that directly impact fertility are endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

MY texas health care obstetrics and genecology Endometriosis & PCOS: Medical Conditions That Affect Female Fertility

PCOS and irregular periods

For many women, one of the first indicators of a reproductive problem is an irregular period. For most women, the average period can last anywhere from 3-7 days and usually occurs every 21-45 days. But for a woman with PCOS, periods can be far less frequent. Some women have reported having less than eight periods in a year. Likewise, periods may last longer than seven days. In other scenarios, periods may occur more often than every 21 days. Because the period is sporadic or irregular, tracking ovulation becomes significantly harder. And as a result, timing intercourse to coincide with ovulation becomes equally difficult.

Endometriosis severity by stages

Endometriosis is when the tissue that’s normally found lining the uterus appears outside of the organ. According to research, roughly 30-50% of infertile women suffer from endometriosis. The severity of the excess tissue growth can directly impact a woman’s fertility. Endometriosis is scored in four stages, with stage one being minimal and stage four being the most severe. Stage four endometriosis can cause serious scarring and blockage in the fallopian tubes as well as physical damage to the ovaries. Consequently, women with stage four endometriosis have the most trouble conceiving and most often require fertility treatments.

PCOS and increased pregnancy risks

While PCOS is usually associated with difficulty conceiving, the condition can also impact a woman’s pregnancy. Specifically, a woman with PCOS may be more likely to experience miscarriages. Additionally, pregnancy-related complications such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia are also more likely. And for women who not only successfully conceive but carry to term, the child may be born heavier or require time in neonatal intensive care.

How endometriosis can impact pregnancy

Endometriosis can make conception harder, but not impossible. Still, much like with PCOS, a pregnant woman diagnosed with endometriosis may be at a higher risk of complications. The condition increases a woman’s risk of miscarriage, with studies finding that the risk increased to 35.8% for women with the diagnosis. Going into early labor before 37 weeks is also a larger risk for this group. And another concerning risk is the potential for placenta previa when the placenta attaches at the opening to the cervix, which makes labor and delivery potentially life-threatening.

Be proactive about gestational health

While both PCOS and endometriosis can make conception harder, successfully getting pregnant isn’t impossible. However, both conditions can increase the risk of health scares during pregnancy and the delivery and labor experience. In both scenarios, a woman with a PCOS or endometriosis diagnosis should work closely with a medical professional to ensure that the pregnancy is being safely monitored.

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