A woman’s virginity can be one of the biggest barriers to having children.
A study conducted by the Australian Catholic University, has revealed that many women who experience an “irregularity” in their menstrual cycles are likely to have a “disease-causing” infection.
Dr Rebecca Fong and her colleagues analyzed data from 1,200 women who had undergone a pelvic examination at Sydney’s Royal Women’s Hospital.
Their results suggest that the presence of an “ovarian cyst”, a growth that may or may not be associated with pregnancy, is the “most common risk factor” of infertility.
While some women experience a decrease in menstrual cycles in their 30s and 40s, the researchers found that those who experienced “inconsistent cycles” during their reproductive years were more likely to develop infertility.
Dr Fong said the findings suggested “a complex process in the reproductive tract”, with a number of factors affecting fertility.
The Australian team conducted a series of studies over the course of several years, interviewing women aged between 15 and 60.
Dr. Fong told the ABC’s AM program that many of her studies involved women with a history of pelvic inflammatory disease, including pelvic inflammatory disorders, such as fibroids, and fibroid cancer.
The team found that among the women in her studies, those who were diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory diseases were also more likely than others to experience “disliking periods” during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The study’s results suggest the presence “of an ovary-ovarian cycle” is the most common risk for infertility.
The authors note that many “virginity myths” and misconceptions around the topic, such the idea that men who experience infertility are promiscuous, or “brave” to “experiment” with having children, were perpetuated.
Dr Frans de Waal said while he appreciated the study’s “great interest in this very serious area of infertility”, he was also concerned about the “potential for false notions about fertility”.
“The idea that the ‘risk’ of infertility is that you’re not having sex or that you are having irregular cycles is just not true,” he said.
“There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence from a variety of women that they have regular periods, and there’s a number that don’t.”
He said a lack of understanding about fertility “causes people to have false expectations”.
Dr de Wael said that in addition to fertility myths, the lack of knowledge about infertility can also affect a woman’s ability to be sexually active.
“If you have no idea what it’s like to have sex, it doesn’t take much for you to feel like you’re going crazy,” he told the AM program.
“The same goes for contraception.
There are so many myths that women have about contraception and I don’t think anyone wants to think they’re going to get pregnant.”
Dr deWaal said the study was “not intended to suggest that a lack or lack of regular menstrual cycles is a ‘bad thing’, or that men are promissed not to have them”.
But he said it does raise important questions about how women and couples should be dealing with infertility.
“We don’t want to make a blanket statement that infertility is not a problem,” he says.
“But we also don’t really want to say, ‘You have to stop having sex and stop being sexually active’.” The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Dr deWahls research is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.