The first time many couples may suspect fertility issues is when their efforts to get pregnant are not going as planned. Irregular periods and ejaculation problems may also spur them to visit their fertility clinic for further medical advice. But there can be other, more subtle indications that everything in the reproduction department may not be functioning as it should.
We look closer at eight not so common signs of infertility which could explain why you may be struggling to conceive.
- Painful periods
While most women experience some level of discomfort or cramping when menstruating, period pain that interferes with everyday life and doesn’t respond to over-the-counter pain relief should be checked out. Painful periods can be caused by other health issues that can impact on a woman’s fertility. These include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause scarring around the fallopian tubes, and endometriosis.
- Sudden and severe acne
Acne doesn’t just happen to teenagers, but if you do get a sudden and severe breakout of pimples as an adult woman, then this is a clear indication that something has gone awry with your hormones. Adult acne is also an early indicator of the hormonal condition, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which can make getting pregnant difficult if left untreated.
- Changes in sex drive
An uncharacteristic loss in sex drive can also be an indicator of hormonal issues, especially in men. A misfunctioning hypothalamus or pituitary glands (which both play a key part in releasing and inhibiting hormones) is a known cause of male infertility.
- Pain during sex
Sex should not be painful, but many women have experienced some pain on penetration at some point during their sexually active life and can think it is normal. But sudden and severe pain during sex, or pain that is persistent should always be checked out as it can be a symptom of an underlying condition such as endometriosis.
Men and women who have had experienced cancer at some point in their lives and have received treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy as a result may discover that their fertility has been affected and even impaired. Some cancer treatments can impair sperm production while a woman’s ovulation and overall fertility may also be reduced.
- History of STIs or surgery
Having had a sexually transmitted disease (STI) in your past can affect your efforts to get pregnant. STIs such as chlamydia can cause inflammation of the cervix as well as scar tissue and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, increasing your risk of infertility. A history of abdominal or pelvic surgery or infections can also make it harder to conceive.
- Pelvic pain
Unexplained pain your pelvic area, especially if it does unresolved or comes on suddenly and is acute, should be investigated further as it could be a sign of conditions such as endometriosis or fibroids. With endometriosis, the tissue which makes up your uterus also grow outside it, potentially causing ovarian cysts, inflammation or scar tissue build up which can prevent you from getting pregnant. Similarly, fibroids, which are non-cancerous tumours which grow inside the uterus, can also impact on fertility.
- Unhealthy lifestyle
And finally, certain lifestyle choices can also influence potential fertility issues. Smoking can reduce sperm quality, while excessive alcohol can reduce testosterone in men and disrupt a woman’s ovulation cycle. Poor diet, obesity, recreational drug use, stress and lack of exercise can all also negatively affect a woman’s ability to conceive.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle can help to support fertility in both men and women. Meanwhile, taking notice of any changes in your body, cycle or health and discussing with your doctor, especially if you experience pain or other symptoms, is always advised.