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Before you plan a baby...
The uterus is the intended home of a developing baby and it is essential to avoid certain factors that can affect its health leading to infertility, difficulty in natural conception and pregnancy. The factors include:
Sedentary lifestyle: Such a lifestyle will lead to obesity, which in turn will lead to alteration of hormonal and uterine environment.
Uterine fibroids: They are common, benign growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus.They distort the uterine cavity and alter the blood supply, making the uterus more irritable.
Scar tissues: Adhesions inside the uterus or the cervix could be because of a past abortion, tuberculosis of the genital tract, dilation and curettage (D&C), pelvic infections, intra-uterine contraceptive device or caesarean. This can affect the implantation or pregnancy.
Adenomyosis: This is a condition where the inner lining of the uterus grows into the muscle layer. It causes the uterus to get enlarged and inflamed, and alters blood supply. This can affect implantation and pregnancy.
Hormonal imbalance: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis or fibroids can cause uterine dysfunction due to hormonal imbalance, which in turn leads to a short or long and heavy menstrual cycles.
Abnormal position: This could be a result of endometriosis or pelvic infection. Fixation of the uterus by adhesions can lead to infertility.
Stress: Stress is one of the major reasons for one’s reproductive hormones to malfunction. Whenever a person is stressed, there is a lot of chemical imbalance in the mind and body, which causes uterine contraction, and thus does not form a good environment for implantation.
Improving uterine health
The menstrual cycle is the mirror of uterine health. If it is regular with normal blood loss and not much pain, it is the sign of a good and healthy uterine environment. Abnormal menstrual cycle invariably indicates abnormality in uterine health. Here are a few signs to look out for:
Irregular menstrual cycle: They should not be taken lightly since they are a direct result of hormonal imbalance.
Heavy bleeding: This is also a sign of hormonal imbalance, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, pelvic infection or endometriosis.
Excessive pain: The most common cause is fibroid, adenomyosis, endometriosis, or lesions inside the uterus.
Scanty menses: Whenever there is scanty flow, it is either because the lining inside the uterus is not very good or there is a severe hormonal imbalance that thins down the lining of the uterus or adhesions inside the uterus.
Any of these above problems should be identified, evaluated and corrected by the doctor before planning for conception. Menstrual problems should further be evaluated through clinical examinations with the help of an ultrasound scan. By correcting these issues, uterine health can be considerably improved.
Stress, another major factor in maintaining uterine health, is not measureable and cannot be explained. Nevertheless, it affects ovulation and implantation. Exercise, yoga and meditation can help one get rid of stress and acquire a healthy uterus.
(The author is senior consultant, Reproductive Medicine, Milann - The Fertility Centre)