One of the leading causes of female infertility, ovualtory disorders affect between 20% and 40% of women experiencing fertility problems. However, with proper treatment, a woman’s ability to conceive improves significantly and the majority are able to become pregnant.
What Are Ovulatory Disorders?
Put very simply, this fertility problem occurs when a woman stops ovulating. The main symptoms of the disorder include amenorrhea (cessation of period) and irregular or infrequent periods. However, in some cases, a woman will continue to have regular periods even though she is not ovulating. For these women, having troubles conceiving is their only sign of a problem.
Polycystic Ovarian Disorder (PCOS) is also classified as an ovulatory disorder. For women with PCOS, cysts on the ovaries are the cause of their ovulation problems. Signs of PCOS include amenorrhea or irregular periods, chronic pelvic pain, excess weight, and facial and body hair growth.
Reasons Behind It
There are a variety of factors that can cause a woman to stop ovulating. Severe stress, eating disorders, excess exercise, or extreme weight loss can interfere with regular menstruation since the body needs to have at least 22% body fat in order to produce a normal menstrual cycle. Other possible causes include abnormal hormone levels, thyroid and insulin problems, pituitary gland disorders and other endocrine disorders. However, in some cases, no reason will be found for the ovulatory problem.
Diagnosing Ovulatory Disorders
Because there are many different things that can cause problems with your ovulation, a thorough medical exam is necessary. This will include a discussion on your complete medical and menstrual history, a physical examination as well as blood tests to measure your levels of insulin, hormones and thyroid. A pelvic exam may also be necessary.
Treatment for Ovulatory Disorders
The type of treatment you receive depends on the reason for the ovulation problem. If you have stopped ovulating because of an eating disorder, excess exercise or stress, psychological and/or nutritional counseling will likely be recommended. When the source of the problem involves balancing out hormones, thyroid or insulin levels, or some other endocrine problem, medications will be prescribed.
For women who have an unexplained ovulatory disorder, fertility medications that promote ovulation are usually prescribed.
A woman’s chances of conceiving after receiving treatment for an ovulation disorder are usually pretty good. In fact, at least 75% of women who receive proper treatment for their ovulation problems will be able to get pregnant.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD