There is much to understand about infertility – whether you are interested in knowing the factors that increase the risk of infertility, or you have been trying to conceive for months without success.
An individual’s risk of infertility is often dependent on multiple factors, such as lifestyle choices and inherited genetic abnormalities. There are also plenty of misconceptions about the causes of infertility to be aware of.
Continue reading to learn about some of the causes and risk factors of infertility, and what options are available to support you no matter where you are in your fertility journey.
1. Infertility Causes and Symptoms for Men and Women
Infertility is a common problem for both men and women: 10% to 15% of couples in the U.S. experience infertility. There are multiple causes of infertility that can be specified through advanced medical testing, such as the at-home Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) test. However for some people, there are no identified causes of infertility at all.
Common Causes of Infertility in Females
The main sign of infertility is not getting pregnant. Some women may not have any other obvious presenting symptoms, while other women could experience irregular or absent menstrual periods.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormone imbalance that can interfere with regular ovulation, is the most common cause of female infertility. Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is another cause of ovulation problems which occur when a woman's ovaries stop working, typically before 40 years of age.
Male Infertility Causes and Symptoms
Men who have a low sperm count or no sperm at all face infertility problems, particularly if the movement or shape of the sperm is abnormal. Symptoms of male infertility can include hormonal problems, such as changes in hair growth or sexual function, pain or swelling in the testical area, and recurring respiratory infections.
Men with a family history of infertility should consider taking a fertility test to determine what kind of treatment plan may be necessary to conceive.
2. What Risk Factors Can Impact the Chance of Infertility?
Fertility naturally declines with age in both men and women, but the effects of age are much greater in women. Women in their 30s are about 50% less fertile than they are in their early 20s. A woman's chance of conception significantly declines after the age of 35. Male fertility also declines with age, but more gradually.
For women in the U.S., an inactive lifestyle and/or being overweight may increase the risk of infertility. For men, sperm count can be affected by being overweight.
Women at risk of fertility problems include those with eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, as well as those who follow a very low-calorie or restrictive diet.
3. What is the Best Diet for Fertility?
Doctors and fertility specialists recommend a well-balanced diet whether you are family planning or not, but there are foods with specific vitamins, minerals and acids that can help boost fertility for men and women.
Some of these foods include:
Eggs, which provide a good source of protein, Vitamins B12 and E, and are often enriched with monounsaturated fat like DHA which promotes fertility. Eggs with DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids can provide the most nutrients to boost fertility.
Salmon is filled with omega-3 fatty acids to help balance the reproductive system. A great alternative to red meat, salmon is rich in protein and boosts selenium, which contributes to the formation of healthy sperm and vitamin D.
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits provide plenty of Vitamin C to stabilize ovulation and encourage the release of an egg. Citrus fruits also contain folate, the natural form of folic acid that is known to help women get pregnant.
Broccoli has one of the highest amounts of calcium content of any vegetable and includes folate, Vitamin C and other vitamins to support reproductive health. Broccoli is rich in iron and folic acid which are needed for prenatal health.
4. How Exercise Plays a Role in Fertility
A lack of exercise contributes to obesity, which increases the risk of infertility. Alternatively but less often, ovulation problems may be associated with frequent strenuous, intense exercise in women. The best path to take to safely promote fertility is to practice regular, moderate exercise.
5. Fertility Misconceptions
There are a plethora of misconceptions about fertility. It is important for men and women to focus on the actual risks and causes of infertility versus spending time and energy on the myths.
For example, some believe that taking birth control pills increases your risk of infertility - which is a myth! Taking an oral contraceptive does not increase your risk of infertility, but it can take around three months for fertility hormones to regulate back to normal after you stop taking the pill.
How to Tell You are Fertile
There are multiple ways for women to detect if they are ovulating - or are at the most fertile point in their cycle. Many women purchase at-home ovulation tests or digital ovulation monitors, while others track menstrual charting manually. There are also natural ways to determine if you are ovulating.
Natural symptoms of ovulation include breast tenderness, heightened senses (particularly smell), mild pelvic and/or abdominal pain, light spotting or discharge and an increased basal body temperature (BBT).
When to Seek Help for Fertility
If you have been trying to get pregnant for over a year, it is best to meet with your healthcare provider or a fertility specialist.
Women should talk with a healthcare provider earlier if they:
Are 35 years or older and have been trying to conceive for at least six months
Are over 40 years old
Have painful, irregular or absent periods
Have history of known fertility problems
Have been diagnosed with endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease
Have had multiple miscarriages
Have undergone treatment for cancer
Men should talk to a healthcare provider earlier if they have:
A low sperm count or abnormal sperm issues
A history of testicular, prostate or sexual problems
Undergone treatment for cancer
Small testicles or swelling in the scrotum
Other family members with infertility problems
Tools and Technologies that Aid Fertility
There are plenty of resources that support infertility issues, starting with IVF and fertility testing, which serve as a guide for your journey to reach your fertility goals.
Types of Fertility Testing from IHD
Innovative Health Diagnostics (IHD) offers a suite of tests needed to progress a fertility journey. From the at-home Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) test, women’s health and thyroid tests to the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and testosterone tests, IHD’s expansive line of tests serves men and women at any stage of their journey.
Learning what stage of fertility and hormone levels your body is experiencing provides valuable information to make your fertility journey a smoother one.
Contact IHD today to explore fertility testing options and get the answers you need.