Fertility is often something people do not consider until they are actively trying to start a family, or in many cases after they have started having trouble conceiving. What many don’t realize is that couples ages 29-33 with normal functioning reproductive systems only have a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month. Add in any number of infertility factors from either gender and those chances can decrease significantly.
If you think you may want to have children in the future, here are 9 warning signs of infertility that you shouldn’t ignore:
1. Changes to Your Menstrual Cycle: This may be an absence of your period, heavier than normal flow or irregular menstrual cycles may be signs of infertility. Consider tracking your menstrual cycle to help you identify patterns or changes early on. This will also be helpful in case you ever seek guidance from a physician, as he or she will inquire about your medical history.
2. Sudden, Severe Acne: Sudden skin changes, like severe acne breakouts as an adult, can be a major sign that something is going on with your hormones. It is also an early warning sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can lead to difficulty getting pregnant.
3. Painful Periods: We’re not talking about normal cramping here. But, severe pain that stops you in your tracks and even causes nausea or vomiting. Alone this may not be a sign of infertility, but combined with other symptoms like pain during intercourse, blood in the urine or during bowel movements, or irregular periods, can be signs of endometriosis–a condition that accounts for 20-40% of female infertility cases.
4. Significant Hair Growth (or Hair Loss): Polycystic ovarian syndrome causes small cysts to form on the outside of the ovaries, and it also causes the body to produce an excess of male hormones. If you notice hair growing in unusual places like your face, arms, chest or back, this could be a warning sign. On the flip side, hair loss or thinning could be a sign of other infertility related conditions like thyroid issues, anemia or autoimmune disorders.
5. Sudden Unexplained Weight Gain: Another sign of PCOS is sudden unexplained weight gain when there have otherwise been no changes to your diet or level of activity. Keep in mind that plays a significant role in fertility, even when a condition like PCOS is not present. Being overweight or underweight can both lead to difficulty conceiving.
6. Pain or Swelling the Testicles: Common causes of testicular swelling may include testicular torsion, an infection or even a hernia. While pain or swelling in this region does not always mean infertility, it is always cause to seek medical attention from a physician.
7. Changes in Sex Drive: Extreme changes to sexual desire are a key indicator of hormonal problems. Improper function of a man’s hypothalamus or pituitary glands are a common cause of male factor infertility. Abuse of anabolic steroids or other supplements are also known to disrupt hormones, alter a sex drive and affect fertility.
8. Erectile Dysfunction: Also linked to hormonal imbalances, erectile dysfunction is present in nearly a quarter of couples who are struggling with infertility. This may be a result of an injury, a medical condition, use of prescription medications or recreational drugs, or even psychological factors such as depression, anxiety or stress.
Other warning signs that can affect both genders include past cancers or chronic illnesses, history of a sexually transmitted disease or illness, poor lifestyle habits such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption, and exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace.
Contact Carolinas Fertility Institute
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have concerns about your reproductive health, contact Carolinas Fertility Institute to learn more.