Are you worried that you may be experiencing infertility? Infertility is a condition that affects around 1 in 8 people in the United States. In about 15% of cases, the cause is unknown despite thorough testing, which is referred to as unexplained infertility. When should you start to consider the possibility of infertility? What exactly is infertility, and how can you tell if you have it?

At the Advanced Reproductive Specialist Jacksonville Center for Reproductive Medicine, we have helped many infertile individuals overcome the obstacles of infertility. We aim to educate our patients about infertility by assisting them to understand its signs, causes, and risk factors, shedding light on this intricate issue.

What is Infertility?

Infertility, the difficulty in conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy, is a widespread issue affecting individuals of all genders and ages. It’s diagnosed after a year of unsuccessful attempts at conception or in cases of recurrent miscarriages.

Notably, infertility isn’t solely a “woman’s problem” or linked solely to age. Both partners are equally likely to contribute to fertility challenges, necessitating comprehensive testing for an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosing female infertility can be intricate due to the multitude of potential causes. Nonetheless, advancements in medical technology have led to tailored treatment options addressing specific infertility factors. Notably, many couples facing infertility eventually conceive without intervention, highlighting the potential for positive outcomes.

How to Know If You’re Infertile

The best way to know if you’re experiencing infertility is to talk with a doctor and ask about a fertility evaluation. There are some signs to look for, but there are also cases where signs and symptoms are absent. 

Signs of Potential Infertility in Women

Changes in the menstrual cycle and ovulation may indicate underlying issues related to female infertility. Common symptoms include:

  • Abnormal periods: Menstrual bleeding may be heavier or lighter than usual.
  • Irregular periods: The length of the menstrual cycle varies each month.
  • Amenorrhea: Absence of menstruation, either lifelong or sudden cessation.
  • Dysmenorrhea: Painful periods accompanied by back pain, pelvic discomfort, and cramping.

Additionally, hormone imbalances can contribute to female infertility, manifesting in symptoms such as:

  • Skin changes: Increased acne or other dermatological alterations.
  • Altered sex drive: Changes in libido and sexual desire.
  • Hirsutism: Excessive dark hair growth on the lips, chest, or chin.
  • Alopecia: Thinning hair or significant hair loss.
  • Weight fluctuations: Unexplained weight gain.

Furthermore, disorders associated with infertility may present with additional symptoms like:

Galactorrhea: Milky white discharge from the nipples unrelated to breastfeeding.
Dyspareunia: Pain experienced during sexual intercourse.

The symptoms of female infertility can vary widely, necessitating careful evaluation and diagnosis.

Signs of Potential Infertility in Men

Infertility symptoms in men can often be subtle and may remain unnoticed until attempts to conceive are made. Common indicators include:

  • Changes in hair growth patterns.
  • Altered sexual desire, or libido.
  • Testicular discomfort: Pain, lumps, or swelling in the testicles.
  • Erectile dysfunction or difficulties with ejaculation.
  • Small, firm testicles

Understanding these signs can aid in the early detection and management of male infertility issues.

What Causes Infertility?

There are numerous potential causes of infertility, and consulting with a specialist in reproductive medicine can assist in identifying the underlying factors and determining the most suitable treatments. Occasionally, infertility may arise without a clear explanation, a condition referred to as unexplained infertility. Despite the frustration it may cause, treatment avenues often exist to explore.

Common causes of infertility in women include:

  • Untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea infections.
  • Anovulation is characterized by the failure to release eggs from the ovaries.
  • Blockage of the fallopian tubes hinders sperm from reaching the egg.
  • Poor egg quality impacts the fertilization process.
  • Uterine abnormalities, such as shape, complicate embryo implantation.
  • Endometriosis is a condition where uterine tissue grows outside the uterus.
  • Uterine fibroids are benign growths within the uterus.

Similarly, infertility in men can stem from various factors, such as:

  • Untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea infections.
  • Low sperm count, resulting in insufficient sperm in the semen.
  • Poor sperm motility hampers their ability to reach the egg.
  • Abnormal sperm morphology affects their structure and function.
  • Thick semen consistency impedes sperm mobility.
  • Azoospermia is the absence of sperm in the semen.

Additionally, imbalances in hormones responsible for sperm production can contribute to male infertility. Problems with ejaculation, including blockages in the penile or testicular tubes, may also pose challenges, leading to difficulties in ejaculation or retrograde ejaculation.

What Might Increase the Risk of Infertility?

Several factors can heighten the risk of infertility, including:

  • Age: As women age, the quality and quantity of their eggs decline. By the mid-30s, the rate of follicle loss accelerates, resulting in fewer and lower-quality eggs. This diminishes the likelihood of conception and increases the risk of miscarriage.
  • Smoking: Smoking damages the cervix and fallopian tubes and increases miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy risks. It also accelerates ovarian aging, leading to premature egg depletion. Quit before fertility treatment.
  • Weight: Being overweight or significantly underweight can disrupt ovulation. Achieving a healthy body mass index (BMI) can enhance the frequency of ovulation and improve the chances of pregnancy.
  • Sexual history: Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause damage to the fallopian tubes, impairing fertility. Engaging in unprotected sex with multiple partners increases the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections, which may lead to fertility issues later on.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to reduced fertility. Minimizing alcohol intake can positively impact fertility outcomes.

How Can Infertility Be Prevented?

For those planning to conceive soon or in the future, the following tips can be beneficial:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Both overweight and underweight women face an elevated risk of ovulation disorders. If weight loss is necessary, engage in moderate exercise. However, avoid strenuous and intense workouts exceeding five hours per week, as they have been associated with reduced ovulation.
  • Quit smoking: Tobacco consumption adversely affects fertility, overall health, and fetal health. If you smoke and are contemplating pregnancy, quitting smoking is paramount for optimizing fertility outcomes and ensuring the well-being of both you and your future child.
  • Avoid alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to decreased fertility. Even moderate alcohol intake can impact fetal health. Therefore, if pregnancy is on the horizon, abstain from alcohol consumption and refrain from drinking while pregnant to safeguard the health of the developing fetus.
  • Reduce stress: Studies suggest that high levels of stress can negatively impact infertility treatment outcomes in couples. Prioritize stress reduction techniques to promote emotional well-being before attempting to conceive.

If you suspect you may be experiencing infertility, it’s essential to seek guidance from a specialist to explore potential causes and treatment options. Schedule an appointment today with the Jacksonville Center for Reproductive Medicine. Whether you seek answers or treatment, our fertility specialists are here to help you.