A diagnosis of infertility means you haven’t been able to get pregnant after a year of trying. If you’re a woman over 35, it means you haven’t been able to get pregnant after 6 months of trying. Women who are able to conceive but not carry a pregnancy to term may also be diagnosed with infertility. A woman who’s never been able to get pregnant will be diagnosed with primary infertility. A woman who’s had at least one successful pregnancy in the past will be diagnosed with secondary infertility. Infertility isn’t just a woman’s problem. It can happened in men too. In fact, men and women are equally likely to have fertility problems. According to the research, about one-third of infertility cases can be attributed to female infertility while men’s problems account for another third of infertility cases. The remaining third of cases may be caused by a combination of male and female infertility, or they may have no known cause. Healthcare providers consider a couple infertile if they try but fail to get pregnant within one year. When the woman is older than 35, the amount of time trying to conceive drops to six months for an infertility diagnosis. Infertility does not include miscarrying or being unable to carry a baby to childbirth. There are a variety of risk factors, medical conditions, and medications that can also affect fertility.
Risk factors associated with infertility in men include, but aren’t limited to:
- older age
- smoking cigarettes
- heavy use of alcohol
- being overweight or obese
- exposure to toxins, such as pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals
What are risk factors for infertility in all genders?
These factors increase the risk of infertility in all genders:
- Age (over age 35 for women or over 40 for men)
- Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia
- Excessive alcohol use
- Exposure to environmental toxins, such as lead and pesticides
- Over exercising
- Radiation therapy or other cancer treatments
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Substance abuse
- Weight problems (obesity or underweight)
Common Signs of Infertility in Women
- Irregular periods
The average woman’s cycle is 28 days long. But anything within a few days of that can be considered normal, as long as those cycles are consistent. For example, a woman who has a 33-day cycle one month, a 31-day cycle the next, and a 35-day cycle after that, is probably having “normal” periods. But a woman whose cycles vary so greatly that she can’t even begin to estimate when her period might arrive is experiencing irregular periods.
- Painful or heavy periods
Most women experience cramps with their periods. But painful periods that interfere with your daily life may be a symptom of endometriosis.
- No periods
It’s not uncommon for women to have an off month here and there. Factors like stress or heavy workouts can cause your period to temporarily disappear. But if you haven’t had a period in months, it’s time to get your fertility checked.
- Symptoms of hormone fluctuations
Signs of hormone fluctuations in women could indicate potential issues with fertility. Talk to your doctor if you experience the following:
- skin issues
- reduced sex drive
- facial hair growth
- thinning hair
- weight gain
- Pain during sex
Some women have experienced painful sex their entire lives, so they’ve convinced themselves it’s normal. But it’s not. It could be related to hormone issues, to endometriosis, or to other underlying conditions that could also be contributing to infertility.
Common Signs of Infertility in Men
- Changes in sexual desire
A man’s fertility is also linked with his hormone health. Changes in virility, often governed by hormones, could indicate issues with fertility.
- Testicle pain or swelling
There are several different conditions that could lead to pain or swelling in the testicles, many of which could contribute to infertility.
- Problems maintaining erection
A man’s ability to maintain an erection is often linked to his hormone levels. Reduced hormones may result, which could potentially translate into trouble conceiving.
- Issues with ejaculation
Similarly, an inability to ejaculate is a sign that it might be time to visit a doctor.
- Small, firm testicles
The testes house a man’s sperm, so testicle health is paramount to male fertility. Small or firm testicles could indicate potential issues that should be explored by a medical practitioner.