Reproductive health and reproductive diseases are a problem for many women worldwide. Here are 10 major reproductive diseases that can significantly affect a woman’s ability to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy full term.
Female sexual dysfunction
A sexual problem or sexual dysfunction is any problem that occurs during any phase of the sexual response cycle. It will prevent the couple from enjoying the sexual activity and of course from conceiving. Sexual problems that mostly affect woman include the inability to become aroused, lack of sexual desire, inability to have an orgasm, painful sexual intercourse, etc.
Endometriosis is a painful and chronic disease which is characterised by the implantation of the endometrial tissue outside of the endometrium. Endometriosis never shows up before puberty and usually ends with menopause. If the tissue gets implanted inside the myometrium, it is called internal endometriosis and if the tissue gets implanted outside of the uterus it is called external endometriosis. The endometrial tissue located outside of its normal place will respond to the menstrual cycle in the same way as the endometrial tissue located inside the uterus. The infertility rate among woman with endometriosis is higher and estimates believe that it is up to 40%.
Another major factor that has a great impact in a woman’s ability to get pregnant is cancer, especially cancer of the genital area. It can either be vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, cervical cancer, uterine cancer, or ovarian cancer. Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancers in women, mostly related to an infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a very common endocrine condition that affects approximately 5-10% of young women and often leads to difficulty conceiving. PCOS negatively impacts fertility because the affected women will have problems with ovulation or releasing an egg each month due to the overproduction of estrogen by the ovaries. Because ovulation does not occur regularly, periods become irregular.
Primary ovarian insufficiency
Primary ovarian insufficiency or premature ovarian failure is one of the major causes of female infertility. It is defined as cessation of menstrual periods, increased levels of FSH and diminished levels of estrogens before the age of 40.
Uterine fibroids are usually non-cancerous tissue growths inside the uterine wall. They can vary in size and shape. Based on their location uterine fibroids are categorised as follows: intramural fibroids, submucosal fibroids, sub-serosal fibroids, and pedunculate fibroids. How uterine fibroids are developed is not known, but it is believed that family history, hormones, and pregnancy have a great impact on the development of uterine fibroids. Signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids include heavy menstrual bleeding, lower back pain, pelvic pain, menstrual cramping, painful sexual intercourse, a sensation of pressure and fullness in the lower abdomen, etc. There are various treatment available when it comes to uterine fibroids, and sometimes even hysterectomy is necessary when no other treatment works, and when you don’t want to have children in the future.
Interstitial cystitis is a chronic bladder problem when there is a constant feeling of pain and pressure in the bladder area. Symptoms range from mild to severe. For some patients, the symptoms may come and go, and for others, they don’t go away.
A prolapsed uterus is defined as a lack of support of the uterus due to a break or compromise of the supporting uterosacral ligaments. When these ligaments are compromised, the uterus descend the length of the vagina. Over time the uterus can descend so it is protruding from the vaginal opening outside the body. Those suffering from a prolapsed uterus will have difficulty getting pregnant because the prolapsed uterus and vagina are no longer a great environment for the sperm. If the uterus is prolapsing out of the vagina, the deposited sperm is pushed outside of the vagina and exposed to air. This means that the sperm will get destroyed.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)
Sexually transmitted diseases are known to have a major impact on the woman’s reproductive system and her ability to conceive. Diagnosing and treating any STD on time is very important. Gonorrhoeae and chlamydia are the most common STD’s that have an impact on the woman’s reproductive system.
Gonorrhoeae is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It usually affects the urethra and cervix, often both of them. However, the infection can be seen also in other parts like rectum, anus, throat and even pelvic organs. In very rare cases it can affect the eyes. The incubation period usually lasts couple of days (2-5 days). But, sometimes it may take up to 30 days for the signs and symptoms to start. Signs and symptoms of gonorrhoeae are painful and frequent urination, abnormal vaginal discharge, itching of the genital area, lower abdominal pain, painful sexual intercourse, etc. The infection can spread from the urethra and cervix to other pelvic organs like the uterus, the fallopian tubes and even ovaries, leading to an inflammation and scar tissue of the pelvis, also known as the pelvic inflammatory disease. When diagnosed with gonorrhoeae treatment is not only for the women but also for her partner. Treatment for gonorrhoeae includes antibiotics like Ceftriaxone, Gentamicin, Azithromycin, etc.
Chlamydia is another common STD which can cause infertility. n the case of the female reproductive organs the disease can cause tubal ligation, or scarring, on the fallopian tubes, preventing ovarian uptake or causing miscarriage, premature birth or still birth. Around one in five women with chlamydia develop pelvic inflammatory disease.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection has become a chronic and manageable disease since the availability of combination antiretroviral therapy. Biological changes caused by HIV, including systemic illnesses, stress, and weight loss, may affect the function of reproductive organs and result in infertility. Newly diagnosed HIV infection may cause psychological trauma and decrease in sexual drive and sexual activity. Several HIV/AIDS related diseases have been reported to be associated with infertility as well.