Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Female Infertility Can Be Frustrating

A woman may be infertile if she has not become pregnant within a year despite having regular unprotected intercourse during her most fertile times of the month (before and during ovulation).

Because fertility declines with age, experts recommend that a woman over the age of 35 wait only six months before seeking help. Infertility affects millions of couples.

In one-fifth of those cases, both the man and woman have problems which make it difficult for them to conceive. In the remaining cases, the problem is equally likely to affect either partner.

Symptoms of infertility in a woman: you have been trying to conceive for six months to a year and have not been successful, you have been diagnosed with endometriosis (a condition in which fragments of the endometrial - lining of the uterus are located in other parts of the body, usually in the pelvic cavity).

Endometriosis is most prevalent in women aged 25 to 40 and may cause infertility. How endometriosis causes infertility is unknown, but about 10 to 15 per cent of infertility patients have endometriosis and about 30 to 40 per cent of women suffering from endometriosis are infertile, Chlamydia or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) may cause infertility. You do not menstruate, or menstruate infrequently or irregularly.

What causes infertility? Normally, an egg is released from a woman's ovary midway through her menstrual cycle (ovulation). The egg then travels from the ovary through the fallopian tubes where it can be fertilized by sperm if the woman has sex.

Infertility occurs in some women because they ovulate irregularly or don't ovulate at all. In others, the fallopian tubes may be scarred and/or obstructed. Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea (kisonono) Chlamydia and many other infections like syphilis (kaswende) may cause blockage of fallopian tubes and lead to infertility.

Though a medical evaluation is necessary to pinpoint the cause of infertility, women whose periods are irregular or absent probably are not ovulating normally. In some cases, despite extensive testing, no cause can be found.

Irregular ovulation becomes more frequent as a woman enters her late 30s. Hormonal imbalances caused by a variety of factors-weight problems (under weight, obesity) or excess exercise (women athletes and sports women may not bleed due to exercises, although are not pregnant) can also inhibit or halt ovulation.

As I wrote previously in the text, certain medical conditions, such as endometriosis, Chlamydia and pelvic inflammatory disease, can result in scarring and physical obstructions. In some cases patients are advised to have thorough medical checkups and see a doctor for an evaluation for every woman who suspects she is infertile.

If a woman has a medical condition, should talk to her doctor before taking supplements on top of the conventional treatments. The B complex family of vitamins, along with extra vitamin B-6, is important for a healthy reproductive system. In addition, should you become pregnant; the supplements will play an essential role in early foetal development.

Folic acid, in particular, helps to prevent birth defects (commonly known as NTDs -neuro tube defects like spina bifida and hydrocephalus -the big swollen heads seen in neonates (vitoto vichanga chini ya mwezi mmoja). Zinc is necessary for proper cell division and copper is needed to prevent copper deficiency when taking zinc over the long term.

Different supplements on top of conventional treatments may be used to regulate ovulation. It is advisable to consult your doctor who stands to guide you on those issues of infertility. Chaste berry has been showed to enhance woman's production of the hormone progesterone and to suppress the production of the hormone prolactin. Either low progesterone or high prolactin levels may inhibit the ovulation process.

Be warned that there are traditional quacks who claim to treat infertility by abusing their clients, that some medications have to be inserted by using their male organ (the private part) a process and procedure which is non existent in the conventional treatments.

Anecdotally some of the quacks though may not be many, have contracted HIV through that abnormal and unaccepted procedure. I cannot elaborate further on that, such incidences should be reported as sexual offences punishable by law existing in the country.

Not being able to conceive can be frustrating and stressful. The sisters-in-law and the aunts on the husband's side always would want to push the blame to the wife rather to the husband. The communities need to know where the problem is.

What else can a woman do if she is infertile: avoid alcohol and don't smoke. Cigarette smoke can reduce fertility and it can seriously affect your baby's health and development if you do get pregnant. Lose weight if you are overweight and obese, gain weight if you are underweight. Exercise moderately.

Strenuous exercise can interfere with ovulation. The most important point to note: it takes two to make a baby. It is advisable for the men and or husband to accompany his spouse for infertility checkup and/or investigation rather than the woman going it alone.

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