10 Questions to Ask If You Think You're Infertile

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. 

More on ovulation:

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:

More on causes of infertility:

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%.

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

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

More on fertility and age:

Does Your Partner Experience Impotence or Ejaculatory Problems?

Male factor infertility isn't always so obvious - usually, low sperm counts or inhibited sperm mobility is determined by a sperm analysis. (In other words, you won't be able to "notice" this yourself.)

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

More on male fertility:

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.

More on weight and 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% of pregnancies. 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.

More on infertility symptoms and getting help:


Who's Infertile? Us?. American Fertility Association. Accessed January 21, 2008. http://www.theafa.org/conceive/whosinfertile.html

Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility. American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Accessed January 21, 2008. https://www.asrm.org/awards/index.aspx?id=3012

Age and Fertility: A Guide to Patients. American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Accessed January 28, 2oo8. https://www.asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/agefertility.pdf

Infertility and STDs. Center for Disease Control. Accessed January 28, 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/std/infertility/default.htm

Changes to Diet and Lifestyle May Help Prevent Infertility from Ovulatory Disorders. Harvard School of Public Health, Press Release. Accessed January 21, 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/sgr_2004/highlights/5.htm

Miscarriage. American Pregnancy Association. Accessed January 28, 2008. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/miscarriage.html

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