A risk factor is something that raises your chances of getting a disease or health problem. Anyone can get infertility. You can have it with or without the factors below. The more you have, the greater your chances will be. Talk to your doctor about how you can lower your risk.
Woman over 35 are at greater risk. The ovaries aren't as good at producing eggs that can be fertilized.
Problems of the reproductive tract or infection and trauma are more likely with age.
Many health problems can raise the risk of infertility.
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Health Problems That Impact Ovarian Function
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Poor thyroid function
- Pituitary tumors
Health Problems That May Harm or Block Fallopian Tubes
- Endometriosis —Uterine tissue implanted on other pelvic structures can get in the way of functioning.
- Sexually transmitted diseases—Infections, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, often don't have symptoms in women. If left untreated, they can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. This may cause scarring that blocks the tubes.
- History of ectopic pregnancy —When a fertilized egg starts to grow in the tube, it can cause the tube to burst. As it heals, scar tissue may block the tube and lower fertility.
Other Health Problems
- Abnormalities in the reproductive tract
- Past abnormal Pap smears or infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) that needed cervical treatments such as cryosurgery or cone biopsy
- History of two or more spontaneous miscarriages or elective abortions
- Pelvic surgery
- Uterine fibroids
Personal or family history of autoimmune problems such as:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease, including kidney failure
- Cirrhosis—scarring of the liver
- Sickle cell anemia
- HIV infection
- Ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease
- Appendicitis with health problems, such as ruptured appendix
Any chronic health problem may lower the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Many of the drugs below are vital for treating serious and chronic health problems. Don't cut back or stop your medicines on your own. Talk with your healthcare provider. In some people, these medicines may raise your risk of infertility:
- Chemotherapeutic agents used to treat cancer
- Hormones, such as estrogen therapy
- Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen
- Prior use of contraceptive methods, such as an intrauterine device
Let your doctor know if you are taking any of these medicines. Talk about if you need to make changes.
Very high or very low levels of body fat can affect hormone levels. This can change the way the ovaries work. Some body fat is needed to make enough estrogen.
Too much Exercise
Too much exercise is often linked to low levels of body fat but may also influence fertility.
Smoking and being around cigarette smoke may lower fertility.
Caffeine has been linked to infertility.
Heavy alcohol use can lower fertility.
Exposures at Work
Some jobs, such those where you stand for long periods or are exposed to dust, raise your risk. Job-related exposure to high temperatures, chemicals, radiation, pesticides, and other toxic substances have also been linked to infertility.
Cronin M, Schellschmidt I, Dinger J. Rate of pregnancy after using drospirenone and other progestin-containing oral contraceptives. Obstet Gynecol. 2009;114(3):616-622.
Evaluating infertility. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Evaluating-Infertility. Updated October 2017. Accessed December 31, 2018.
Infertility fact sheet. Office on Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/infertility.html. Updated August 30, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2018.
Infertility in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116334/Infertility-in-women. Updated November 6, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2018.
Overview of infertility. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/infertility/overview-of-infertility. Updated March 2017. Accessed December 31, 2018.
Patient history taking: major systems of the body. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at:https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated March 30, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2018.
Treating infertility. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Treating-Infertility. Updated October 2017. Accessed December 31, 2018.
6/5/2009 EBSCO DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116334/Infertility-in-women: Luttjeboer FY, Verhoeve HR, van Dessel HJ, et al. The value of medical history taking as risk indicator for tuboperitoneal pathology: a systematic review. BJOG. 2009;116(5):612-625.
Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG Last Updated: 12/31/2018