Am I infertile? This is a question many women have asked when trying to conceive. That’s because one in four couples struggle with infertility, or the inability to get pregnant despite having regular unprotected sex.
Are you trying to conceive? It would be beneficial to you that you know the bottom line on baby-making because what you don’t understand can affect the outcome of your conception efforts and even your baby-to-be’s health. On the other hand, what you know can boost it.
Infertility is often silent, but sometimes, your body gives signs you can’t get pregnant. If you notice certain symptoms, check with your doctor to determine whether you have a condition that affects your fertility, and get the right advice to treat the underlying problem.
It’s important to note that 85 to 90 per cent of infertile couples are able to conceive with conventional treatment, so even if you have signs of infertility there’s always a chance you’ll get pregnant one day.
Fertility experts usually diagnose infertility if a couple unsuccessfully tries to conceive for one year (or 6 months if the woman is over 35 years old).
When you are trying to conceive, the first thing is usually to stop the birth control (if you have been on it) and get busy. That’s all it takes to make a baby, right? Not always: There are many lifestyle factors that can impede on your journey to motherhood. So do not be ill-informed when it comes to your fertility.
Now, you are probably wondering how to know if you’re infertile? Whether you’re actively trying to conceive or thinking about having a baby in the future, it’s important to recognise common infertility symptoms.
For instance, if you’re not having a period, it’s a strong signal that you can’t conceive without assistance. After you stop taking birth control, your body needs a couple of months to regulate. But if you don’t get a period after three months, consult a specialist.
No periods suggests that you’re not ovulating and have little chance to conceive without assistance. The solution might be as simple as popping a daily pill called Clomid to stimulate ovulation; if that doesn’t work, the next steps are injectable medications, intrauterine insemination, or in vitro fertilisation.
If you don’t get your period regularly, you may never tell when or if you’re going to ovulate. Cycles that come sporadically are indicative of an underlying disorder related to ovulating, which can make conception challenging.
The reasons are similar to a complete lack of periods: polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid disorders, and hypothalamic amenorrhea, in which the brain’s hormone-sending signals are off. Irregular cycles may also be a sign of diminished ovarian reserve caused by endometriosis or early ovarian failure.
Bleeding between periods is not a good sign.
Generally, you should only bleed when you have your period. Bleeding in between your cycles or after intercourse can indicate a uterine polyp or fibroid, or a cervical lesion, or even worse. Besides the issue of getting pregnant, your doctor should make sure these symptoms don’t indicate something more serious like cancer.
If you’re having heavy periods you also need investigation. If you go through more than one pad or tampon an hour for several hours, pass blood clots larger than the size of a quarter, or bleed for more than seven days, your period is unusually heavy. This can be a sign of uterine fibroids.
Heavy periods are also associated with certain bleeding disorders or endocrine abnormalities. Fibroids can be shrunken or removed if they inhibit pregnancy, and blood disorders can be managed with medications.
If you have bad period cramps, pain throughout your cycle, or discomfort after sex, you could be diagnosed with endometriosis. With endometriosis, the tissue that’s supposed to line the uterine cavity is found outside the uterus in the pelvis. It can lead to scarring of pelvic structures, reducing fertility and increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy. In addition, endometriosis may diminish egg supply, so you need fast-paced evaluation and treatment.
That said, if you have pelvic pain with fever and an abnormal discharge, it could be a sign of infection, which may also lead to scarring. Pelvic infection puts you at significant risk of tubal blockage. A test to see if your tubes are open should be done soon after you as a couple start to attempt conception.
The bottom line is that what you don’t know about your health, can make or break your baby-making odds while what you know can enhance it. For instance, do you know that folic acid is important to you when trying to conceive? Half of women don’t know they should be taking folic acid supplements before pregnancy.
Many women of reproductive age are also unaware that they should be taking multivitamins with folic acid to prevent neural-tube defects, such as spina bifida. Folic acid is a B-vitamin that helps build healthy cells, like those involved in helping the spinal column close; it may even improve your egg quality.
When trying to conceive, take a daily prenatal vitamin—most contain 800 to 1,000 mcg—which covers your folic acid needs during pregnancy. All women of child-bearing age should take a daily supplement of 400 mcg, in case of an unplanned pregnancy. The vitamin doesn’t stay in your body very long, so remember to take it every day.
Obesity can affect ovulation but at least 25 per cent of women don’t know that obesity can impact their ability to conceive. Excess weight may be associated with other health issues, such as thyroid disease, prediabetes, diabetes, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, which can affect your ovulation.
If you’re having abnormal or irregular periods, like cycles that last more than 35 days, you may not be ovulating every month, making you less likely to become pregnant. But there is good news: If you’re overweight, losing 5 to 10 per cent of your body weight can improve your chances of conception. If you haven’t conceived after 12 months of trying, make an appointment to see your OB-GYN.
Smoking is a no-go for you when trying to conceive. Smoking increases the risk of blockages in your fallopian tubes, and damages your eggs. It also boosts your risk of miscarriage, birth defects, and a baby with low-birth weight. Don’t wait until you get pregnant to give up the habit, since the process of quitting can be stressful on your body and, potentially, your developing baby.
One fertility fact is that it’s harder to become pregnant as you get older so it’s harder to conceive with each passing year. At 30-years-old, you have a 20 per cent chance of becoming pregnant each cycle, and the likelihood shrinks to 5 per cent per cycle by the time you’re 40.
You also have a greater risk of miscarriage and birth defects as you age. If you’re over age 35, see your doctor if you’re not pregnant after six months of trying. Your doctor can identify and treat issues such as blocked tubes or infections.