Infertility refers to an inability to conceive. If you have been trying to get pregnant for a year without success, or six months if you are 35 or older, you are likely to be diagnosed with infertility. Here are five factors that could affect your fertility.
- You’re older than 35
Female fertility declines with age. You are born with a certain number of eggs and the number and quality reduces as you get older. In young women, the decline is gradual but as you reach your mid to late 30s, it speeds up. You may not realize how much your chances of falling pregnant decrease over the age of 35. Older women are also more likely to have miscarriages, even if they do manage to fall pregnant.
IVF success rates also decline after the age of 35. According to IVF authority using donor eggs offers a much better chance of success if you’re over 35.
- Your menstrual cycle is irregular
Irregular periods are often normal when a woman first begins menstruating. However, the menstrual cycle usually becomes regular after the teenage years. If you have irregular periods at this point, it could indicate ovulation problems.
Possible causes for irregular periods include polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), excessive exercise, being overweight or underweight or thyroid dysfunction. PCOS is often marked by the presence of elevated male sex hormones which can prevent proper ovulation. If your cycle is very short or long, unpredictable or you don’t get a period at all, you need to discuss this with your doctor.
- You have light or heavy bleeding and cramps
Bleeding between three to seven days is considered normal. If you bleed very lightly or very heavily, it could indicate a problem that needs to be addressed.
If you have severe menstrual cramps, this could be a sign that you have endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition that can get worse over time and causes infertility. Cramps could also be caused by pelvic inflammatory disease which can also worsen and cause infertility. These conditions need to be treated as early as possible to prevent damage.
- You weigh too much or too little
Weight plays a major role in fertility and being overweight or underweight can lead to difficulty with falling pregnant. Overweight women with irregular periods are less likely to ovulate each month than women with regular periods. If women who are obese lose about 5 to 10 percent of their body weight, this can help to stimulate ovulation.
Being underweight is also associated with infertility, as it may mean that an egg is not released every month. Gaining weight can help to improve fertility.
Some hormonal causes of infertility can lead to weight gain. For example, polycystic ovarian syndrome increases the risk of obesity and is also a cause of infertility.
- You smoke cigarettes
Smoking while trying to get pregnant can cause problems due to the chemicals cigarettes contain, such as nicotine. Women who smoke are about three times more likely to have a delay in trying to get pregnant than non-smokers and even passive smoking can be harmful.
Smoking speeds up the process of ovarian aging, reducing the reserve of eggs and can bring about early menopause. It also causes damage to the cilia found in the fallopian tube. The cilia help the egg to move along the tube into the uterus.
Your infertility risks increase with the number of cigarettes you smoke every day. If you give up smoking, you can’t get your eggs back but you will gradually decrease the risk of pregnancy and birth complications.