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Female Fertility Risk Factors

Your chance for pregnancy may be lower if you have these female fertility risk factors

Infertility is the inability to get pregnant. It’s more common than most people think: Estimates from recent studies suggest that more than 7 million people in the United States struggle with infertility. Many people don’t know the infertility risk factors that could be playing a role. If you’re trying to conceive, it’s good to know about female fertility risk factors, as well as lifestyle changes that you can make to improve current fertility or protect future fertility.

Factors that affect your chance of getting pregnant

Age: Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Unfortunately, with time, the number of eggs goes down. The quality of those that remain goes down as well, due to DNA changes and aging. These factors both contribute to an increase in both infertility and miscarriage risk.

Pelvic inflammation and infection: Prior infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or inflammation from endometriosis, can damage the delicate fallopian tubes that pick up the egg and allow sperm to travel for fertilization. Chronic injury to these structures can cause tubal damage, preventing fertilization and increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Smoking: In addition to causing many other health problems, toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause decreased egg counts in women and earlier menopause. Smoking is also associated with low sperm counts and poor sperm functioning in men. It also increases the risk of problems during pregnancy, such as preterm delivery; babies being born severely underweight; and the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, in which the pregnancy implants in the fallopian tube and can rupture. In addition, there are many health issues for children who grow up in a household with a smoker, so the best time to quit is now.

Alcohol: Excessive alcohol use can cause fertility problems for both men and women, making drinking an important fertility risk factor to consider. Alcohol dependence and abuse can be associated with lower testosterone and sperm counts, as well as sexual dysfunction. Alcohol in small quantities probably does not greatly affect fertility, but when you are trying to conceive, you should work to limit or avoid alcohol consumption. Of course, once you become pregnant, alcohol should be avoided completely because there are known detrimental effects on fetal development. There is no “safe” level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Caffeine: Studies have shown us that fertility declines by 50% in women who consume more than 500 mg of caffeine per day. More than 200 mg to 300 mg can be associated with higher miscarriage rates. We recommend that you minimize your caffeine intake while trying to conceive and during pregnancy, and check the labels of your favorite beverages to ensure you’re staying under the ranges listed above.

Weight: Being underweight or overweight can have negative effects on fertility. Having a weight that is outside the normal body mass index (BMI) range can result in hormonal abnormalities affecting reproduction in both men and women. In women, this can lead to ovulation problems, egg quality issues, failed embryo implantation in the uterus, and a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. For men, obesity can affect hormone levels that cause sperm and testosterone to decline. A healthy diet and exercise are good ways to mitigate these important fertility risk factors.

Environmental factors: Exposure to some chemicals, radiation or heat may reduce fertility in both women and men by affecting hormone production. People trying to become pregnant should do their best to avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals in daily topical products, food and drink, and air quality.

Changing lifestyle to decrease female fertility risk factors

Working on being the “best” you can be is hard, especially if you’re trying to do it alone. The doctors at Texas Fertility Center San Antonio are expert specialists trained to help you on the path to parenthood. If you are concerned about female fertility risk factors affecting your ability to get pregnant, contact us to schedule an appointment.