What is Unexplained Infertility in Women?

by | Apr 25, 2018

Doctors have lots of explanations for women’s infertility. Endometriosis, blocked or damaged fallopian tubes and premature ovarian aging (aka early menopause) are just a few, but what if your infertility doesn’t have a name?

Twelve percent of the world’s female population experiences infertility, and of these women, 30% are diagnosed with unexplained infertility. That means doctors don’t know why they and their partners can’t conceive. This diagnosis used to be treated with the “wait and see” methodology where doctors instructed their patients to go home and keep having sex and maybe at some point their bodies would figure it out.

But some doctors and researchers are now challenging that viewpoint. They say that unexplained infertility just means the explanation hasn’t been found yet not that an explanation is impossible.

If you’ve been diagnosed with unexplained infertility, here are some of the potential causes.

The Problem Could be Dietary

Folate, iron, and vitamins D, C and B12 are the building blocks to fertility. They maintain egg health, especially as you age, and ensure your ovaries are timing the release of your eggs so they’re more likely to be fertilized.

On top of that, studies have shown that women who are anemic (deficient in iron, b12 or both) are at risk for not ovulating at all, and almost 50% of women whose vitamin D levels measure below 20ng/mL are unable to get pregnant.

The good news is that a Harvard study showed that women who changed five lifestyle factors, one of which was shifting to a fertility diet, saw an 80% reduction in infertility due to ovulatory disorders.

The Problem Could be Genetic

Chromosomal polymorphism is when a portion of one chromosome has been transferred to another (translocation) or a piece of a chromosome has been flipped upside down (inversion). If you have either of these conditions, but your partner does not, the genetic material carried in your egg and his sperm won’t be able to combine.

Chromosomal polymorphism affects roughly 4% of the population but a study published in July 2017 found that chromosomal polymorphism was disproportionately present in couples diagnosed with unexplained infertility. The good news is that if you both have the same condition, researchers believe it won’t affect your fertility at all.

You Might not be the Problem

Researchers at the Queen’s University Belfast tested sperm from men in couples diagnosed with unexplained infertility and they found that 80% of them had DNA-damaged sperm. Most of the male population has at least some sperm with DNA damage. And as long as those damaged sperm make up less than 15% of the total sperm supply, there’s no effect on fertility.

The problem comes when damaged sperm counts reach 25% or more of the total sperm supply. Researchers found when at least 25% of a man’s sperm showed DNA damage, the couple’s chance of having a baby dropped even with fertility treatment.

Fertile couples only have a 20% chance of getting pregnant each cycle. That’s not that high. But if you have unexplained infertility, your chances of getting pregnant are between a 1% and 4%. Luckily more doctors and researchers seem focused on providing women and their partners with answers, and hopefully treatment in the near future.

The contents of this blog were independently prepared, and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the views of any other party. Individual results may vary.

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