Are you and your partner having trouble getting pregnant? You are not alone. Approximately 1 out of 6 couples has difficulty conceiving a baby. When a couple tries without success to get pregnant with their first child for at least 12 months, that is called primary infertility. Secondary infertility is the term used when the couple has difficulty conceiving another child after having one or more children.
Primary and Secondary Infertility
Oftentimes, the only symptom of primary infertility is simply not getting pregnant. If couples keep trying, some may eventually conceive, whether or not they seek treatment. However, treatment can make the process of starting a family happen more quickly. It can also address issues that will benefit your gynecological and general health.
The causes of infertility are split between the male and the female. In other words, it isn’t always the woman’s physiology at the source of the problem, as some people think. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the female causes because our OBGYN team works with women every day to help diagnose infertility issues and other women’s reproductive issues, among other things. Keep in mind that male infertility can be involved.
The fact is that infertility symptoms do not always show up until you try to get pregnant. Early risk factors for future infertility include irregular and infrequent periods. A history of pelvic inflammatory disease can lead to infertility. Endometriosis can also make it difficult to conceive.
Irregular & Infrequent Periods
When you have irregular periods, hormonal imbalances may be to blame. A variety of hormones must work together to stimulate ovulation. Some hormonal disorders that affect ovulation include polycystic ovary syndrome, hyperthyroid or hypothyroid conditions, and extreme stress.
Endometriosis, a condition in which endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, often affects the function of multiple organs in the pelvis. This includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and even the bowels because the errant tissue can attach lots of places within the pelvic region. The adhesions can cause very painful periods and affect fertility.
Painful periods can be a sign of conditions like endometriosis. Sex may also be painful. If you want to have a baby, it is important to seek treatment for excessive pelvic pain, whether it is related to your menstrual cycle or sex. Your OBGYN can help you manage the pain and any conditions that could hinder your ability to get pregnant.
Physical abnormalities can pose a threat to fertility, as well. If the cervix or uterus has an abnormal shape or position, that may affect the ability of the sperm to fertilize the egg. Damage to fallopian tubes can also be a problem. If the fallopian tubes are blocked by inflammation or scarring from previous pelvic inflammatory disease, the egg can’t reach the uterus.
Other types of abdominal adhesions can also hinder the ability to get pregnant. For example, abdominal surgery such as appendectomy or bowel resection surgery can cause internal scarring that can affect the function of reproductive organs.
Other Risk Factors
There are several risk factors for primary infertility. Age of 35 or older, past cancer treatment and previous miscarriages should be discussed with your doctor. These preexisting conditions can impair your fertility.
Women’s fertility declines rapidly in the mid-30s. The quantity and quality of the eggs drop. The same applies to men over age 40, as their sperm count drops, as well.
Being underweight or overweight can also make it difficult to get pregnant. A regular, moderate program of exercise will help you enhance your health and fertility. The same goes for your partner.
Of course, tobacco, alcohol, and drug use should be stopped if you want to get pregnant. Women who smoke have higher risks of miscarriages and complications with pregnancy. Drinking alcohol is out of the question if you want to get pregnant and have a healthy baby. Studies also indicate that men should ease up on smoking and drinking while trying to conceive because heavy use of either can decrease sperm count and increase the risk of erectile dysfunction.
When you are ready to get pregnant, contact your OBGYN to address any issues you have with your periods, and stay in touch as you try to get pregnant. If you have difficulty getting pregnant, we are here for you. Our OBGYN doctors will find the source of your symptoms and treat them to enhance your chances of getting pregnant.