15 Factors That Affect a Woman's Fertility
What causes infertility?
Most people know that a woman's fertility decreases as she gets older, but even during her most fertile (and otherwise healthy) years, lifestyle choices and external factors can affect a woman's chances of having a healthy baby.
"Women who want to increase their chances of getting pregnant often don't know the best things to do or what to watch out for," says Francisco Arredondo, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist in San Antonio, Texas. Here are some of factors that do (or don't) affect a woman's fertility, and what you can do about them if you are trying to conceive.
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Being too thin
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There's no official age when fertility begins to take a dive, but many doctors say that it often becomes increasingly difficult to get pregnant after age 35. This age is different for every woman, though; some may go through perimenopause earlier, while others remain fertile through their 40s. That's why, says Dr. Schlaff, it's important for women of any age who are having trouble conceiving to see a specialist sooner rather than later.
Cigarette smoke disrupts hormones and damages DNA in both men and women, says Dr. Arredondo. "And it doesn't have to be heavy smoking, either," he says. "Even women who smoke moderately or who are exposed to secondhand smoke have disrupted endocrine function and can experience significant fertility issues."
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You probably already know you should stop drinking if you think you could be pregnant. Drinking during the early stages of pregnancy (and possibly even before conception) has been linked to premature births. As for whether it's safe to drink later in pregnancy, the jury's still out. Many doctors say a small amount of alcohol is OK, but the CDC and Surgeon General say it's best not to indulge since there is no proof that it's not harmful to the baby.
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The most obvious sign of a potential problem is a change in menstrual cycle, says Dr. Schlaff. "It doesn't have to go away completely, either," he says. "If you notice that it becomes lighter or shorter, you should talk to your doctor about the implications for your fertility and your health."
Injectable birth control
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Sexual health history
It's important to note, though, that vaginal infections (like yeast infections) have no effect on fertility, says Dr. Schlaff.
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"Perceived stress can certainly alter hormone levels and ovulation," says Dr. Arredondo. "Stress itself is not bad, but when it is in excessand when we react to it in a negative wayit can have all kinds of impact on our health and our bodies."
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