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What is Fertility & What are Symptoms of Infertility?

Wednesday 18 August 2021
5 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. What is Fertility?

II. General Symptoms of Fertility Problems

a. Infertility Symptoms in Women

b. Infertility Symptoms in Men

III. Risk Factors for Infertility

IV. Testing for Infertility

V. Fertility Medications

What is Fertility?

Many of us do not give fertility much thought until we decide we want to have children. By the time you and your partner decide you want to try for a baby, you may find it’s not as easy as you expected. But what is fertility, and how is it measured?

By definition, fertility is the natural capacity to conceive a child. Around eleven percent of couples face infertility, which is the inability to conceive naturally after a year of unprotected sex. Experiencing infertility does not mean all hope is lost. Every couple’s fertility journey is different, and it can take months or sometimes years to conceive. 

If you experience fertility issues, there are many treatments available, including Femara (letrozole) and Clomid (clomiphene citrate) for women. Read on to learn more about symptoms and risk factors for infertility. [1] 

General Symptoms of Fertility Problems

Infertility is often a combination of factors from both partners. The Mayo Clinic cites that one-third of infertility cases stem from an issue with the man, and one-third originate with the woman. Symptoms vary greatly, but if you notice any odd symptoms, you should talk to your doctor.

a man and woman holding a sonogram of a baby

a. Infertility Symptoms in Women

Menstruation cycle irregularity: If you have irregular periods, it can be difficult to track your ovulation schedule. This can make it nearly impossible to pinpoint your fertile period of the month. Typically, a woman’s menstruation cycle is 28 days long, but you may have hormone issues or other reproductive disorders if your cycles vary from month to month.

Painful period symptoms: Every woman experiences unpleasant symptoms during their period, but some women may have more severe symptoms than normal. If your period symptoms consistently interfere with your everyday life, you may want to speak with your doctor. Missing a period every once in a while is not abnormal, but if you haven’t had a period in months and are not pregnant, you may want to get your fertility checked.

Hormone fluctuations: Hormones in women go up and down throughout their lives, but frequent fluctuations can lead to infertility. You may be experiencing hormone changes if you experience weight gain, facial hair growth, skin issues, reduced sex drive, and thinning hair.

Pain during sex: Many women experience painful sex their whole life and may convince themselves that it is normal. This is not the case. If sex is painful for you, you should consult your doctor for underlying conditions that may be affecting your fertility. [2]

b. Infertility Symptoms in Men

Erectile dysfunction: If you notice that you cannot maintain an erection, you may be experiencing hormone changes. Ejaculation issues and ED symptoms may signify a deeper problem with your fertility.

Testicle changes: Men should check their testicles frequently for abnormal lumps and bumps. This assists in the early detection of testicular cancer. You may also want to visit your doctor if you have testicle pain or swelling. Testicle health is paramount to fertility, so if you notice a problem, talk to your doctor right away. [2]

Risk Factors for Infertility

As mentioned earlier, infertility is often a multi-layered problem that is caused by several factors. Only your doctor can identify the exact cause of your infertility, but you should be mindful of potential factors that may inhibit your fertility.

a young woman sitting in between two other women

Age: Age is a huge factor for women trying to get pregnant. As a woman ages, the eggs she is born with reduce in number and quality, especially for women over 35. This does not mean women over 35 can’t have children; it may just take longer and require some medical intervention. The CDC found that one in six couples in which the woman is 35 or older has fertility problems. [3]

Smoking: Research has found that women who smoke do not conceive as easily as nonsmokers. Your rate of fertility decreases the more cigarettes you smoke on a daily basis. The chemicals in cigarettes can speed up the loss of eggs in women and decrease sperm quality in men. [4]

Alcohol use: Heavy drinking may disrupt a woman’s ovulation schedule, so avoiding alcohol is recommended for women trying to get pregnant. You may want to quit several weeks before you start trying to conceive to improve your chance. [5]

Stress: Stress is not uncommon for couples experiencing fertility issues. It is essential to keep stress levels down when trying to conceive. The body knows when you are stressed and does not want you to get pregnant under extreme stress. If you are experiencing stress, you may want to seek out a talk therapist or find some relaxing hobbies. [6]

Testing for Infertility

If you and your partner are experiencing fertility issues, your doctor will perform several tests. The integrity of the ovaries and female reproductive system will be examined through blood tests and hormone testing. These tests can determine the number of eggs a woman possesses and if hormone levels are abnormal.

a woman getting a blood test

Men will also undergo several blood tests to determine genetic abnormalities or abnormal hormone levels. A man’s semen may also be examined to see if there is an adequate level of sperm present. Once a male and female’s fertility is tested, your doctor can make a treatment plan. [7]

Fertility Medications

If a couple has fertility issues, they may want to reduce any infertility risk factors from their lifestyle. If problems persist, women may be prescribed Clomid or Femara (letrozole) to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple egg follicles. Your family doctor usually prescribes these drugs before you are referred to a fertility specialist. [8]

Clomid may also stimulate sperm production in men. This is an off-label use for the drug, and your doctor will determine if it is right for you. In men, Clomid blocks the action of estrogen on the pituitary gland. This increases testosterone production in men, which can improve sperm count. [9]

Overall, a treatment plan of fertility medications and lifestyle changes can significantly improve your fertility. Talk to your doctor to learn more about your fertility.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.