What are Potential Signs of Infertility?
You’ve tried tracking your ovulation and made lifestyle changes to boost your fertility, but you’re still not pregnant. This scenario is, unfortunately, all too common with 1 in 8 couples experiencing fertility problems. Below we’ll explore six common signs of infertility. If you have concerns, schedule an appointment to be seen by a fertility specialist.
Around the age of 35, fertility starts to decline in women. Not only do eggs steadily decrease in quantity with age, but the remaining eggs decline in quality, too. This means the chance of achieving pregnancy decreases as women grow older, and the chance of experiencing a miscarriage increases. The probability of having a baby with a chromosomal disorder such as Down Syndrome also increases with advancing maternal age.
While most women can still conceive after the age of 35, some may need extra help with either intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). During IUI, sperm are placed inside the uterus at the time of ovulation. Medications are often used to help time the IUI process. With IVF, eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilized outside the body with sperm. A resulting embryo is then transferred back inside the uterus, and any additional embryos can be frozen for future attempts at pregnancy. Some women may also decide to freeze their eggs for future use. For the best chance of success, egg freezing should be performed before age 35.
Absent or Irregular periods
Many women don’t have a perfect 28-day cycle, and mild fluctuations in cycle length don’t necessarily mean anything is wrong. In fact, a 2019 study showed that the average cycle is more like 29 days.
However, if you’re experiencing heavy menstrual cycles, bleeding between periods, or if you have a cycle length that lasts less than 21 days or more than 35 days, you should speak with your doctor. In some cases, stress, certain medications such as birth control, and thyroid conditions can affect menstrual cycles.
If you aren’t ovulating, conception is unlikely, so if you notice that you’re skipping periods or stopped having menstrual cycles altogether, talk with your doctor. Medical conditions such as thyroid disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and premature menopause can cause you to have irregular periods.
Endometriosis is a condition where uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. This can lead to painful periods (dysmenorrhea), pain with intercourse, ovarian cysts (endometriomas), scarring, and infertility.
Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that can grow in or around the uterus, and fibroids can cause heavy, painful periods and pain with intercourse. Some fibroids can affect a women’s ability to get pregnant. Talk with your doctor if you notice heavy menstrual bleeding and pain during your period.
History of STIs
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some people may not develop symptoms and therefore will not realize they have an STI. So, if you’re sexually active, it’s important to undergo routine screening. Untreated infections can lead to a serious condition called pelvic inflammatory disease.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea infections and PID can cause painful periods, pain with intercourse, scarring, inflammation, and scarring of your fallopian tubes. This scarring can prevent eggs from traveling down the fallopian tubes and prevent sperm from reaching an egg. In some cases, the sperm and egg unite, but the fertilized egg grows in the scarred fallopian tube. When a pregnancy develops outside the uterus, it is called an ectopic pregnancy, and ectopic pregnancies can be life-threatening.
Male Factor Infertility
Whenever couples are struggling to conceive, it’s important to obtain a semen analysis on the male partner. Male factor infertility is a contributing factor for 40% of couples who are experiencing infertility. Many people believe that if a man has children, he doesn’t need to undergo testing. However, that is simply not true. Men can develop medical problems that affect sperm production or start new medications that decrease sperm counts. For example, testosterone creams, gels, shots, and pills will decrease sperm counts and can even eliminate sperm production entirely. For the most accurate result, a semen analysis should be obtained after 2-4 days of abstinence.
If you are struggling to get pregnant, don’t hesitate to get help. Make an appointment with a CCRM Fertility specialist today.
Written by: Dr. Stephanie Dahl, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist at CCRM Fertility