8 Factors That Affect a Woman’s Fertility
Some people are lucky enough to not have any fertility problems – they try a few times and there comes the baby! But what happens when you try over and over again, and have no results?
More than 5 million Americans, both men and women, have problems with infertility. Is there anything you can do about it? Something you can change about your lifestyle that will improve your odds?
There are indeed some factors that affect fertility in women and, while some are beyond your control, many of them can be influenced. To find out what you can change in your behaviour and what it is that’s keeping you from getting pregnant, read on…
Like we said, there are some things you can’t change. This is one of them, so maybe thinking ahead is a good way to go. When you reach menopause, in your 40s or 50s, your ovaries stop working and you can’t get pregnant anymore, but it usually gets more difficult earlier than that. There is no official age limit, but most experience some fertility issues after 35. Still, this is different for every woman, so some may experience problems much sooner while others can conceive and give birth to a normal, healthy baby in their 40s. If you are over 35 and having problems, it is recommended to see a specialist and check whether the problem is your age or something else.
Being overweight can influence your ability to conceive, as well as being too thin. Extra pounds can affect hormone production, which can lead to infertility. When body fat levels are over 10-15% above normal, the body can become overloaded with estrogen, decrease ovarian functions and throw off the reproductive cycle.
But being underweight is no better. When you have less fat than your body needs (10-15% below normal) you also lack the hormone controlling hunger and setting the pace of your metabolism, called leptin. This can lead to absence of menstrual periods. So, try staying within the normal BMI and avoid complications.
This goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway.
Smoking is dangerous for your health in so many ways, and one of them is this. First of all, it can drastically lower your chances of getting pregnant – it is the cause of up to 13% of all infertility cases, according to studies by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Smoking disrupts hormones and damages DNA in both men and women, so if your partner is a smoker, make him quit as well. Also, if you do get pregnant and continue smoking, it can damage the developing fetus. Moreover, research has shown that even women who are exposed to secondhand smoking experience serious fertility issues. So, smokers, if you have decided to start a family, it is time to let this bad habit go.
Another one that is pretty obvious.
There is no reason you can’t have a few glasses of wine a week, but doctors strongly advise against heavy drinking (which is more than one drink a day) while trying to conceive. A Swedish study in 2004 tracked 7,000 women for 18 years and found that those who drank the most also had the biggest fertility issues. Alcohol can also be very dangerous in the early stages of pregnancy – it can cause premature births and other problems.
So, if you suspect you might be carrying a baby, our advice is to stop drinking (heavily) immediately. There is no proof that alcohol harms the baby in the later months of pregnancy, but there is also no proof that it doesn’t… so why risk it?
Although it is a myth that you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding (so don’t use it as your only birth control method!), it has shown to lower the chances, because it can impact ovulation. Some are lucky enough to not have to worry about it, but if you are close to the “age limit” and fear of not having time for another one, talk to your doctor about it. Usually it is recommended to wait at least a year and a half after one pregnancy. Some studies have shown that waiting less can cause preterm birth, so be cautious about this rule.
Some studies suggest that coffee can interfere with your chances of conceiving.
Apparently, caffeine interferes with the muscle contractions that help eggs travel from the ovaries and through the fallopian tubes to the womb, and it could cut your chances by half. On the other hand, there are other studies saying that drinking coffee has no role whatsoever in getting pregnant. But, if you are having trouble conceiving, think about cutting your caffeine intake to 1 or 2 cups a day – you never know what could be the one thing to change the odds in your favor.
7. Various medical conditions
Some diseases like polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids can lower your chances, and even make it harder to carry out the pregnancy if you do conceive. Also, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, diabetes, and thyroid disorder can cause fertility issues. Your body might reject the fertilized egg or your partner’s sperm and prevent you from getting pregnant. Still, having one of these disorders doesn’t mean you can never get pregnant or have a healthy baby. You just need to be more careful and talk to a specialist about improving your chances and fighting the symptoms.
8. Sexual health history
In the modern world, safe sex is a must. If you don’t use protection, not only can you endanger your own health, but you can diminish your chances of having a baby one day. Sexually transmitted infections like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea can cause fertility problems for years after you contracted them. It is important to say, though, that vaginal infections (such as yeast infection) have no effect on fertility.
But knowing all the dangerous of unprotected sexual relations, this is not something you should play with, so once again, use protection.