If you’ve always dreamed of starting a family, it’s difficult when that dream doesn’t immediately come true. You keep trying to get pregnant, only to be disappointed over and over. But how do you know if what you’re experiencing is normal, and at what point should you become concerned? Here’s how to know if you have fertility issues.
Inability to Conceive for a Long Time
The biggest marker of fertility issues is trying to conceive for a long time without success. The length of time you should wait before consulting a fertility specialist depends on your age. If you’re under the age of 35, you should visit a fertility specialist after trying unsuccessfully to become pregnant for a year; if you’re over 35, you should consult a specialist after six months.
Importantly, it’s much more difficult to become pregnant after age 40, and you may wish to consult a doctor sooner if you’re over and trying to conceive. Fertility treatments may be required to help you get pregnant. Alternatively, you may need to use donor eggs or sperm, or work with a surrogate in order to have a baby.
Abnormal Periods or Changes in Your Periods
For women, abnormal periods or changes in your periods are the biggest causes of fertility issues. Your period is tied into how often you ovulate, and problems with ovulation are some of the most common causes of infertility.
If your periods have become difficult to predict, are painful, or have stopped, you may have fertility issues. Changes in the amount you bleed or the color of the blood (lighter or darker than usual) can also be a sign of fertility issues. And if your cycles have become much shorter or longer, that could mean you’re not ovulating regularly. Be sure to discuss any of these changes with your doctor.
Troublesome Physical or Sexual Symptoms
A variety of troublesome physical and sexual symptoms can be signs of fertility issues. Anytime you experience a symptom that is out of the ordinary for you, especially if it’s painful, you should bring it up with your doctor, including those listed belowr:
- Painful sex
- Changes in sex drive
- Significant weight gain or loss
- Hair loss
- Discharge from your nipples when you aren’t breastfeeding
- For women, growing hair on your face or chest
- For men, trouble maintaining an erection, problems ejaculating and small, firm testicles
Certain Health Conditions
Certain health conditions, including those listed below, are also known to impact fertility and should be discussed with your doctor.
- Prior exposure to radiation or chemotherapy
- Thyroid disease
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Autoimmune diseases
- Uterine fibroids
- Cystic fibrosis
- Undescended testicles
- Chromosomal disorders
- Eating disorders
- Kidney disease
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Sickle cell anemia
- Pituitary gland disorders
- Uterine polyps
- Primary ovarian insufficiency
- Structural abnormalities of reproductive organs
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Lifestyle Risk Factors
Many past or present lifestyle factors also have the potential to impact your fertility. These factors can be things that are in your control, like what you eat, or out of your control, such as things you were exposed to as a child.
For instance, if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs, you may have fertility issues associated with your substance use. Similarly, exposure to toxic environmental substances, like lead, pesticides and harsh chemicals, may have caused you to develop fertility issues.
Although exercise is typically good for you, intense exercise can also impact fertility. Indeed, athletes often experience changes in their menstrual cycles and develop fertility issues as a result. Because everyone’s body is different, there are no set guidelines to predict how much exercise might lead to fertility issues. However, research suggests that women who run more than 50 miles each week are more likely to experience amenorrhea (a lack of menstrual periods).
For men, exposing your testicles to heat can lead to fertility issues. That’s because your testicles need to remain a few degrees cooler than the rest of your body for your sperm to be healthy. For instance, spending a lot of time in hot tubs, hot springs, or saunas can impact fertility. Similarly, wearing tight clothing, holding your laptop on your thighs, resting hot plates on your lap, and using heating pads near your groin can impact fertility.
What to Remember
As you can see, many things have the potential to impact your fertility. Ultimately, the most clear sign is trying to get pregnant for more than a year (or six months if you are over 35) without success. However, if you notice any of the other signs, symptoms, or risk factors listed above, discuss them with your doctor. And if you have a known condition that is likely to impact your fertility, it’s wise to seek the care of a fertility specialist as soon as possible.
At RISE, we are happy to meet you at any stage of your journey. Whether you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than a year, have a condition that may impact your fertility, or just want peace of mind of knowing what treatment options are available, RISE can help. Call us at (877) 747-3483 or use our convenient online form to schedule a consult.
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