There are several factors that can affect fertility, including both medical and lifestyle factors. Here are the most common factors that can impact fertility.
Fertility gradually begins to decline with age. By the age of 35 fertility begins to decline significantly, in females. By the age of 40, a female’s chance of getting pregnant, after trying for three months, is just seven percent.
Additionally, having a baby later in life increases the risk of complications1. That is because the quality of eggs begins to decline with age. There is a greater chance of miscarriage, as well as birth defects for women who conceive after the age of 40.
2. Previous Failed Pregnancy
A previous pregnancy is another fertility factor that must not be ignored. If you have been pregnant before, you are more likely to be able to conceive again, even if you did not carry the baby to term. If you have trouble conceiving again after a previous pregnancy, it is called secondary infertility. This is not very common, but it does occur. In women, secondary infertility is often related to advanced age, sexually transmitted diseases, or increased weight.
3. Sexual Dysfunction
Sexual dysfunction is one of the most important factors affecting fertilization in humans. Sexual dysfunction occurs often in men2. A lack of sexual desire is a common type of sexual dysfunction. Other types include erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and psychological factors that affect sexual performance.
Being either significantly underweight or overweight can both influence fertility. Overweight and obese women find it difficult to get pregnant because they are not regularly ovulating. The reason for this is that being overweight causes the body to produce excess estrogen. This impacts levels of other fertility hormones and thereby suppresses ovulation.
Also, being overweight or obese is more likely to lead to pregnancy complications and raise the risk for gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and other issues.
Being overweight or obese is a common infertility risk factor among men too. This is because overweight men are more likely to have issues with sperm quality and production. Overweight men are 39 percent more likely to have no sperm when they ejaculate compared to men who are in a healthy weight range3.
So, how much weight should you lose? That varies and depends on each individual. You should talk with your doctor to determine what is the healthiest weight for you to conceive.
Being underweight can also affect fertility in women as they are less likely to release an egg every month during the ovulation cycle. Women who are significantly underweight are likely to take a year or more to get pregnant4.
5. Dietary Habits
The famous adage “eat everything in moderation” rings true for all, especially couples planning a baby. Couples trying to conceive must understand that diet and fertility are intricately connected.
Junk food habits or living on ready-to-eat food items can be harmful to sperm formation and quality in men while interfering with a woman’s ovulation cycle5. With the body being deprived of essential antioxidants and key nutrients derived from fresh fruits and vegetables, couples face unwanted problems when trying for a child. Additionally, vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with infertility6.
What kind of changes in your diet should you consider if you want to conceive? Well, diets that are high in vegetables, whole grains, and fish are associated with improved fertility in both men and women7.
Smoking cigarettes can make it much harder to conceive for men. That is because smoking impacts sperm production8 Exposure to more than 10 cigarettes a day reduces sperm concentration by as much as 17 percent9. Smoking may also impact tubal function in women and therefore reduce female fertility too. In women, however, smoking has a more detrimental effect on pregnancy and babies. Exposure to second-hand smoke can also negatively impact fertility for both men and women10.
7. Alcohol Use
Alcohol consumption can affect fertility levels. Women who drink large amounts of alcohol (more than six drinks per week) are more likely to have problems conceiving. Non-drinkers or those consuming alcohol in moderate quantities have higher chances of pregnancies than heavy drinkers11.
For men, excessive alcohol is correlated to the inability to perform. Men who drink more often complain of incomplete erection, impaired ejaculation, and low sperm quality12. These factors can all affect fertility.
Be it over-the-counter drugs or recreational ones, the use of drugs is one of the major factors affecting the birth rate. Recreational drugs like marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine all negatively impact fertility13.
Even over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can impact your chances to conceive. For example, popular OTC anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can interfere with the ovulation cycle14.
Many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts who use anabolic steroids to enhance performance, struggle with infertility as steroids decrease sperm production15.
9. Medical Conditions
There are a variety of medical conditions that can impact fertility. Medical infertility risk factors include:
● Endometriosis - This occurs when endometrial tissue (from the lining of the uterus) grows outside the uterus. The tissue can damage the ovaries or block the fallopian tubes by causing adhesions, preventing the sperm and egg from uniting.
● Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) - There are a variety of STDs that can impact fertility.
● Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOS) - This causes an imbalance in hormones that impacts and deters ovulation.
● Pelvic inflammatory disease – Pelvic inflammation often damages the fallopian tubes. When the fallopian tubes are damaged, the egg and sperm can’t unite. The most common cause of pelvic inflammation is Sexually transmitted infections. A similar condition can also be caused by endometriosis, inflammatory bowel disease, appendicitis, or abdominal/pelvic surgery.
Infertility is a common problem that causes disproportionate frustration and suffering to individuals and couples, due to the high psychosocial burden associated with childlessness. 1 in 6 couples are known to seek help for infertility globally. The good news is that there is help for couples who want to conceive. Most factors' chances of fertility are treatable. At ART Fertility Clinics, we can help. We examine your infertility risk factors and help you understand the issues better so that you can take steps to improve the chances of pregnancy. Reach out today for your consultation.