Infertility affects an estimated one in eight couples. There are many causes of infertility, and various factors that increase your infertility risk. Some risk factors are modifiable, meaning you can take steps to lower the risk. Other risk factors are outside of your control.
If you’re struggling to conceive, it’s best to meet with a health care provider who specializes in infertility for a comprehensive evaluation. Board-certified OB/GYN physicians Kiran Patel, MD, and Leela Patel, MD, specialize in women’s health and fertility evaluation.
Our highly skilled team has extensive experience evaluating issues with fertility and believe that it’s vital for patients to take initiative in their reproductive health. Understanding infertility risk factors for women and men is a proactive step.
What is infertility?
In general, we define infertility as the inability to conceive after at least 1 year of trying. Most people have a strong desire to have children at some point in their lives, and we understand the frustration and distress of trying to get pregnant without success. If you’ve been trying to conceive, you may wonder whether it’s time to seek help from a healthcare professional.
Defining normal fertility
When you have trouble getting pregnant, it’s normal to wonder if there’s a problem or if what you’re experiencing is normal. Most couples trying to conceive will achieve pregnancy within the first few months of trying. Roughly 85% of couples will conceive within 1 year of trying. About 7% of couples get pregnant in the second year of trying. If you’ve been trying for a year, it’s wise to discuss having a fertility evaluation. It’s not always necessary to wait. For example, if you’re a woman over 40, it’s better to have a fertility evaluation right away.
Infertility risk factors in women
Fertility decreases as women age and this makes age a major risk factor for infertility. Women in their late 30s are less fertile than women in their early 20s, for example. Aging isn’t within your control, but certain other risk factors are. Modifiable infertility risk factors include:
- Cigarette smoking
- Drinking excess alcohol
- Carrying too much body fat
- Very low body fat
- Poor diet
Other infertility risk factors for women are:
- Hormone imbalance
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Chronic diseases (diabetes, lupus)
- Uterine abnormalities
During your fertility evaluation, your provider will discuss your medical history.
Infertility risk factors in men
Low sperm production, chronic health problems, and lifestyle choices increase the risk of infertility in men. Common risk factors include:
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Marijuana smoking
- Cigarette smoking
- Certain medications that affect the nervous system
- Congenital problems
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Radiation exposure
- Undescended testicals
The main sign of male infertility is the inability to conceive a child. If you’re having regular unprotected sex and are unable to conceive after a year, it’s best to speak with a doctor about a fertility evaluation.
Fertility for both women and men is a complex process. A number of issues can interfere with fertility, and sometimes the cause is unknown. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help couples and individuals achieve their dream of starting or expanding their family. A comprehensive fertility evaluation is the first step.
With continuing advancements in reproductive medicine, many couples are able to conceive. To learn more and to discuss fertility evaluation, contact our office. Call our team at our South Charleston, West Virginia office to schedule a visit or send your request online today.