You and your partner may be thinking that you are ready to start trying for a baby, or maybe you have already been trying for some time without any luck. About 10-15% of couples are labeled as infertile; this can be due to female factors, male factors, or even a combination of the two. No matter where you are in the family planning process, it is essential to examine a few factors that may adversely affect your ability to conceive.
It is believed that many of the factors that negatively impact fertility do so for both women and men.
What are some infertility risk factors?
- Age. Beginning at age 30, with more drastic changes at the age of 35, a woman’s fertility potential gradually declines. Infertility in older women may be due to a higher rate of chromosomal abnormalities that occur in the eggs as they age. Older women are also more likely to have health problems that could potentially hinder fertility. As a woman ages, her risk of miscarriage also goes up. It is also suspected that men who are over age 40 may be less fertile than younger men.
- Alcohol. Alcohol use during conception or pregnancy for women is not safe at any level. Male fertility does not seem to be affected by moderate alcohol consumption.
- Being overweight. Inactivity can lead to being overweight, which in turn can alter a women’s ability to conceive. Being overweight can adversely affect the sperm count in males.
- Being underweight. A low body weight may also cause potential problems with female and male infertility. Underweight people may be deficient in the vitamins and minerals needed to aid with a healthy conception.
- Caffeine intake. It is still questionable on whether or not large amounts of caffeine negatively affect fertility. Some studies have shown ingestion of large amounts of caffeine can potentially increase a woman’s miscarriage risk.
- Chronic illness. Conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or thyroid disease can alter the reproductive process.
- Emotional factors. Hormones that control reproduction can be impacted directly by stress and depression. In males this can alter sperm production and in females in may interfere with ovulation.
- Occupational and environmental risks. Exposure (for men and women) to high mental and/or physical stress, high temperatures, chemicals, radiation, or heavy electromagnetic or microwave emissions could potentially decrease.
- Tobacco smoking. Women who smoke experience a higher miscarriage rate than those who do not. Also for men and women that smoke, fertility treatments may be less successful.
- Too much exercise. Ovulation problems may be apparent in women who over exercise more than 6-8 hours a week.
- Unprotected sex. Having multiple sex partners and not using condoms may increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases that can cause infertility in both men and women.
If you think that you or your partner may have an issue that is affecting your fertility talk to your primary care doctor or gynecologist. It is important to be open and honest regarding your concerns or fears. Your doctor will be able to answer your questions or, if necessary, refer you to a fertility specialist for a complete fertility workup.