Top Reasons for Infertility in Women
Last updated on August 8th, 2016
When you’re struggling to get pregnant, it can feel as if the whole world has gone baby mad and you’re not invited to the party.
You have to force your smile when your best friend falls pregnant overnight when you’ve been trying for months. You lust after those cute diaper bags and onesies and strollers and you fight hard against feelings of failure and inadequacy when you still can’t fall pregnant. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?
However, don’t fall into the trap of believing that you are alone with these problems. A staggering 6.7 million women in the US suffer from infertility of trouble conceiving at some point in their lives.
So what is going on? Why can’t you fall pregnant the moment you decide to have kids? And is there any way you can overcome them? Here are the seven main reasons for infertility in women just like you.
#1. Health Problems
Many fertility issues come about because of a pre-existing health condition. This could be anything PCOS, hormonal dysfunctions, abnormal ovulatory patterns, physical abnormalities, autoimmune disorders, blockages, chronic infection or genetic defects which all directly impact upon your fertility.
Additionally, other endocrine disorders such as thyroid disease and adrenal disease will affect the overall production and balance of your hormones, and hinder your chances of falling pregnant.
Autoimmune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis could also prevent proper implantation from taking place because your immune system is primed to destroy the developing embryo.
Also many sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia can result in infertility. This is why it’s so important to take care of your sexual health and visit your doctor if you notice anything unusual.
Stress doesn’t just make you feel terrible; it also significantly reduces your chances of falling pregnant.
Stress triggers your fight-or-flight response which causes your hypothalamus to release higher levels of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These disrupt your sex hormone production, affect your body’s ability to use progesterone (the essential pregnancy hormone) and also release more prolactin which further worsens your fertility. The consistency of your cervical mucus will also change, making it harder for your partner’s sperm to meet your egg. Interestingly, stress also signals to your body that it isn’t the optimal time for conception and so your body will delay or even prevent ovulation from occurring.
And let’s not forget that trying to fall pregnant is a stress in itself, especially if you desperately want a child or are undergoing invasive medical treatment. When you are under stress, you are much more unlikely to even feel like ‘making babies’ and you’ re more likely to engage in negative lifestyle habits such as drinking or smoking in order to cope.
#3. Obesity & Weight Issues
According to Jungheim (2013), obese women are more likely to struggle to conceive, and also more likely to encounter problems along the way, such as heart-breaking miscarriages and other weight-related pregnancy side-effects. This fact probably doesn’t surprise you- we all know just what obesity does to your body.
But it might come as a shock to hear that women who are underweight have similar issues. These women tend to have lower levels of estrogen in their bodies, often suffer with irregular periods and are more likely to skip ovulation completely. Obviously, this makes pregnancy much more unlikely to happen.
Nutrition is also likely to play a role with both extremes of the body weight spectrum as both the obese and the underweight often suffer malnourishment which impacts massively upon reproductive health.
#4. Your Age
It’s sad but it’s true- your fertility decreases significantly with each year that passes.
When you are in your twenties, you’re at the peak of your fertility, yet you’re probably more concerned with enjoying single life, growing your career and getting onto the housing ladder than having kids.
Then once you hit your thirties you can expect for your natural fertility to start to decline. At thirty-five, you have just a 20% chance of falling pregnant in any cycle, and this falls to just 5% by the time you hit forty.
This is your body’s way of allowing your child to enjoy the best possible start in life and ensuring that you are strong enough to give birth. But don’t despair if you are older than this- your time might not be up just yet.
Smoking isn’t only harmful for your unborn child, it also decreases your fertility by an estimated 13% and also significantly raises the chances of lower birth weight, infant mortality, and also miscarriage.
The effects of smoking seem particularly high for those seeking IVF treatment and could be partly to blame for high failure rates in some groups. This is the same whether you actively or passively smoke. Just do yourself a favor and quit!
#6. Alcohol Consumption
Numerous studies over the years have demonstrated that women who drink up to five alcoholic beverages per week have lower fertility rates and also run the same risk of complications such as low birth rate, miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects as those who smoke.
Whilst you might be keen on achieving the strongest and fittest body to conceive a child, you could actually be harming your fertility by exercising so much. Over-exercise stresses your body significantly and has exactly the same impact upon your hormones and ability to conceive as any other kind of stress.
If you can’t fall pregnant don’t lose heart. Many cases of infertility are only temporary and can easily be tackled with just a little effort. Clean up your diet and lifestyle, develop healthier habits to combat stress and pay a visit to your gynecologist and you too might become the proud owner of a baby bump!