10 Potentional Signs or Risk Factors for Infertility

Signs You May Have a Fertility Problem

Couple with doctor talking about possible infertility signs
If you're experiencing worrisome symptoms, or you're at risk for infertility, see your doctor sooner rather than later. vm / Getty Images

Do you have possible risk factors or symptoms of a fertility problem? For most couples, the first sign of infertility is when they can't get pregnant after a year of unprotected sex. Some couples never notice any early signs.

It is possible to have regular cycles, a healthy sex life, no obvious risk factors, be generally healthy, and still suffer from infertility. But for some, there are early warning signs.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and your partner. If you answer yes to any of these, you may want to speak to your doctor before you spend a year trying on your own.

Do You Have Irregular Cycles?

An irregular cycle can be a red flag for infertility problems. An irregular cycle may be a sign of possible ovulation problems.

If your cycles are unusually short or long (less than 24 days or more than 35 days), or they come unpredictably, speak with your doctor. If you don't get your periods at all, you absolutely must speak to your doctor.

Do You Bleed Extremely Heavily or Lightly? Do You Have Excessive Cramps?

Bleeding for anything between 3 to 7 days can be considered normal.

However, if the bleeding is very light or extremely heavy and intense, you should see your doctor.

Other period-related symptoms that may indicate a fertility problem include:

  • Significant changes in bleeding heaviness
  • Significant changes in the length of bleeding days

Are You Older Than 35?

If you're older than age 35, your chances of dealing with infertility are higher.

For example, at age 30, the average woman's chance of conceiving during any one cycle is 20 percent.

By age 40, that chance drops to a low 5 percent.

If you're over age 35, you should seek help if six months of unprotected sex doesn't lead to pregnancy.

[Note: while women over age 35 are more likely to experience infertility, young men and women can also be infertile.]

Does Your Partner Experience Impotence or Ejaculatory Problems?

Male factor infertility isn't always so obvious, and there are rarely symptoms. Usually, low sperm counts or inhibited sperm mobility is determined by a sperm analysis. (In other words, you'll need to go through fertility testing to discover the problem.)

But if your partner experiences sexual dysfunction, this could be an infertility red flag.

Are You Either Underweight or Overweight?

Being excessively thin or overweight can lead to infertility problems.

Also, poor dieting practices or too much exercise can lead to problems with fertility.

Have You Had Three Successive Miscarriages?

While infertility is usually associated with the inability to get pregnant, a woman who experiences recurrent miscarriages may also need help getting pregnant.

Miscarriage is not that uncommon. It occurs in 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies.

However, repeated miscarriage is not common. Only 1 percent of women will miscarry three pregnancies in a row.

Some doctors do not usually consider a diagnosis of recurrent miscarriages until after the third successive miscarriage. However, many doctors will look into things after having just two miscarriages in a row.

Do You or Your Partner Have Any Chronic Illnesses? 

Chronic illnesses, as well as their treatments, can lead to fertility problems.

According to The American Fertility Association, illnesses like diabetes and hypothyroidism can cause fertility problems.

Insulin, antidepressants, and thyroid hormones may lead to irregular cycles.

Tagamet (cimetidine), a medication used in treating peptic ulcers, and some hypertension medications can cause male factor infertility.

These medications may cause problems with sperm production or their ability to fertilize the egg.

If you are dealing with chronic illness or taking a medication that impacts your fertility, talk to your doctor about possible options.

Have You or Your Partner Been Treated for Cancer in the Past?

Some cancer treatments can lead to fertility problems.

If you or your partner has gone through cancer treatments, especially radiation therapy that was near the reproductive organs, seeking feedback from your doctor is recommended.

Do You or Your Partner Have a History of STDs?

Sexually transmitted illnesses (or STDs/STIs) can be the cause of infertility.

Infection and inflammation from chlamydia or gonorrhea can cause blockage of the fallopian tubes. This can make pregnancy either impossible or put a woman at risk for an ectopic pregnancy.

Because chlamydia and gonorrhea do not usually cause noticeable symptoms in women, it's important that you've been screened for these STDs.

Do You or Your Partner Smoke or Drink Alcohol?

Just about everyone knows drinking and smoking while pregnant is a big no-no. But smoking and drinking while trying to get pregnant is also a problem.

Smoking has been linked to problems with conception in women, and heavy drinking has been linked with female and male infertility.


Who's Infertile? Us?. American Fertility Association. http://www.theafa.org/conceive/whosinfertile.html

Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility. American Society of Reproductive Medicine.

Infertility and STDs. Center for Disease Control.

Rai, Raj; Regan, Lesley. "Recurrent miscarriage." The Lancet. Volume 368, No. 9535, p601–611, 12 August 2006.

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