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Here are 14 signs you could be infertile

Infertility is determined by the period of time that you’ve been unsuccessful in getting pregnant. If you have been trying unsuccessfully for six months to a year, your doctor may declare you infertile.

If you are trying to start a family quickly, surely no one wants to try conceiving for that long before reality sinks in. Here is a list of indicators that may suggest infertility.

If any of these apply to you, then waste no time in speaking to your doctor about what you can do. Whether you want to have children or not, signs of infertility should not be ignored as they always tend to affect your overall health.

1. Irregular periods

As a teenager, irregular periods are normal as the body is still adjusting to these cycles. If your period doesn’t stabilise by the time you are an adult, it could be a sign of ovulation issues.

There are various reasons for irregular periods. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of irregular cycles and ovulation-related infertility. Other possibilities include low ovarian reserves, thyroid dysfunction, being over or underweight, overexercising, and others.

2. Unusually painful periods

Painful periods are common, but if you’re frequently having to take time off to stay in bed in agony, it may be a sign of endometriosis.

This condition occurs when the lining of your uterus grows outside of it. It affects up to half of infertile women, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Hormonal birth control pills are one very common treatment. It is not normal for period pain to interfere with your ability to live comfortably.

3. Weight problems

Being overweight can lead to trouble conceiving. In fact, obesity may be one of the most common causes of preventable infertility.

If your BMI (body mass index) is in the range of 30 to 40, you are considered obese. As reproductive hormones can be stored in body fat, it confuses the area of your brain that regulates your ovaries.

If you’re worried that your weight could lower the odds of conceiving, studies have found that this problem can be reversed by losing 5-10% of your weight, which will jump-start ovulation.

4. Frequent miscarriages

Even when you do have the ability to get pregnant, there is still a risk of miscarriage. Women who experience frequent miscarriages need help with their pregnancies.

Miscarriage occurs in nearly 20% of pregnancies; however, recurrent miscarriage is not a common condition. If you’ve had two successive miscarriages, it’s time to talk to a doctor.

Working with a laptop on the lap for long periods of time might affect a man’s sperm count negatively. — Filepic

5. Chronic Illnesses

Chronic diseases, including the treatments involved, are linked to fertility problems. For example, diabetes, untreated coeliac disease and hypothyroidism can increase your risk of infertility.

Some treatments for chronic illnesses can lead to irregular cycles. And men can be affected as well. For example, cimetidine, a medication for treating peptic ulcers, and some hypertension medications, can cause male infertility.

6. Your hands and feet are cold all the time

If you have to wear socks and gloves at home to keep warm in our hot weather, that’s not a good sign. Get your thyroid hormone levels checked because cold feet and hands are an indicator of hypothyroidism.

That can cause irregular ovulation and affect your menstrual cycle. A blood test will tell you if your thyroid hormone levels are normal or not.

7. Your nipples are leaking fluid

Nothing should come out of your nipples if you aren’t breastfeeding. Leaking nipples are a possible sign of a condition known as hyperprolactinaemia, where your body is overproducing the breastfeeding hormone prolactin.

Causes can range from thyroid problems to medications, or even a benign tumour on your pituitary gland. High levels of prolactin affect your hormonal balance and mess up ovulation. A simple blood test can determine whether you are overproducing prolactin.

8. You’re growing hair on your face

Excess hair growth in places like your face, arms and legs, are common symptoms of PCOS, which can impair your ovaries’ ability to make or release an egg.

Luckily, it is a treatable cause of infertility in women. Using medication like birth control pills can help manage the condition.

9. History of STDs

Sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) like chlamydia and gonorrhoea, can cause infertility.

The infection and inflammation can create blockage in the fallopian tubes, making pregnancy impossible or increasing the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea don’t often cause noticeable symptoms in women, so it’s important to get screened for STDs and not allow the disease to silently destroy your reproductive organs.

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It takes two people to create a child, so if you are healthy, it might be your partner who has fertility issues. — AFP

10. Smoking and alcohol habits

Heavy smoking and alcohol speed up the process of ovarian ageing, causing menopause to happen earlier. Quitting and taking up healthier habits can reverse some of that damage.

11. Heavy exposure to toxic chemicals at work

Occupations that have high exposure to toxic chemicals like farmers, painters, varnishers, metal workers and welders, have all been found to be at risk for reduced fertility and lower sperm count.

If your job involves toxic chemical contact or high heat conditions, you may need to change jobs if you trying to start a family.

12. High temperatures

High temperatures are not good for sperm count, nor is restrictive clothing. Other sources of sperm-troubling heat include prolonged sitting periods with your legs together, having a laptop on your lap and hot tubs.

The negative effects of heat are reversible in most cases. Removing heat exposure can improve sperm motility.

13. Older than 35 years

Female and male fertility declines with age. The chances of infertility increases once women hit 35 and continues to grow over time.

A 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of conceiving in any one month, but a 40-year-old woman only has a 5% chance. Women over 35 are also more likely to experience a miscarriage and to have babies with a congenital disease.

14. Partner fertility

It takes two to tango and you might not be the only one, or even the one, with fertility issues. Infertility isn’t as obvious in men and there are not many symptoms, except perhaps for erectile dysfunction and weight issues.

Men with a BMI below 20 may be at risk for lower sperm concentration and sperm counts, while obese men have been found to have lower levels of testosterone and lower sperm counts. The only way to know for sure is to take a fertility test.

By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar
Published in Star Newspaper, 29 Jun 2020

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