Factors That Affect Fertility
Heredity, environment, and lifestyle can all play a part when it comes to infertility.
Having a baby is a happy occasion that many couples look forward to. Yet more than five million Americans, both men and women, have problems with infertility. If you're trying to get pregnant now, or planning to in the future, it's wise to identify any potential risk factors you or your partner may have, and to tell your doctor right away. The sooner you detect, address, and treat problems that may affect fertility, the better your chances of achieving a successful pregnancy.
General health factors
Here a few of the more common health factors that can affect a woman's ability to ovulate, conceive, or carry a pregnancy to term.
Being overweight: Body fat levels that are 10 to 15 percent above normal can overload the body with estrogen, throwing off the reproductive cycle.
Being underweight: Body fat levels 10 to 15 percent below normal can completely shut down the reproductive process.
Having a hormonal imbalance: Irregularities in the hormone system (characterized by irregular menstrual cycles or short, long, or heavy periods) can affect ovulation.
Having an autoimmune disorder: Diseases such as lupus, diabetes, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis can interfere with fertility.
Taking medication: Antidepressants, antibiotics, painkillers, and other drugs used to treat chronic disorders may cause temporary infertility.
Using tobacco or alcohol: Smoking may increase the risk of infertility in women; and even moderate alcohol consumption (as few as five drinks a week) can impair conception.
Being exposed to occupational or environmental hazards: Prolonged exposure to high mental stress, high temperatures, chemicals, radiation, or heavy electromagnetic or microwave emissions may reduce a woman's fertility.
You should also tell your doctor if you've had a history of multiple miscarriages, painful menstrual cycles that require medication for pain relief, or abnormal Pap smears that have resulted in surgical treatment, as these factors can also affect fertility.
Fallopian tube disease
Fallopian tube disease accounts for about 20 percent of infertility cases treated, according to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. Since tubal scarring or blockage is often caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), pelvic inflammatory disease, or certain surgeries, alert your doctor if you've had:
An STD, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, or chlamydia
Pelvic pain, unusual vaginal discharge, and/or bleeding, with or without a fever
Pelvic surgery for a ruptured appendix, ovarian cysts, or an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that takes place outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes)
If a doctor suspects a problem, he or she can perform a hysterosalpingogram -- an X-ray that can evaluate the condition of the uterus and determine if the fallopian tubes are obstructed.
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