In the United States alone, over 6 million women struggle with infertility, which is defined as the inability to get pregnant or stay pregnant. This can be not just frustrating, but also heartbreaking. Many women wonder if the infertility is due to something they’re doing or not doing.
In almost every case of female infertility, medical issues are the cause. These issues include:
- Hormonal disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hypo- or hyperthyroidism
- Uterine polyps or fibroids
- Pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause fallopian tube blockage
- Endometriosis or abnormal lining of the uterus
- Early menopause, when menstruation ends before age 40
- Pelvic scar tissue caused by pelvic infection or abdominal surgery, such as an appendectomy
- Certain medical conditions that can prevent menstruation, such as diabetes, celiac disease, and lupus
- A decline in the quantity and quality of eggs with age
It’s important to note that, although these medical issues contribute to infertility, they do not make pregnancy impossible. There are lifestyle choices you can make to help improve your chances of getting pregnant, despite medical issues you may have.
Don’t smoke. Yet another reason to quit smoking, tobacco use prematurely ages the ovaries and decreases egg production.
Maintain a healthy weight. This isn’t just about losing weight. Being significantly overweight or underweight can cause abnormal ovulation.
Reduce stress. Excessive stress can cause hormonal imbalance, even temporarily. If you’re trying to conceive, practice relaxation methods, such as yoga, meditation, or simply taking some time for yourself. Ironically, the stress of not being able to conceive can inhibit fertility even more.
Prevent STDs and STIs. Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea are a leading cause of infertility in women.
Get enough sleep. A significant lack of sleep can affect hormone production and decrease fertility.
Limit alcohol consumption. Heavy consumption of alcohol has been associated with ovulation disorders. If you’re trying to get pregnant, cutting out alcohol completely may be a smart choice.
Limit caffeine consumption. Caffeine intake of over 200 milligrams a day, or roughly three 8-oz cups of coffee, can negatively affect female fertility.
Don’t overexercise. Vigorous physical activity should be limited to less than five hours per week to avoid inhibiting ovulation. Too much or overly intense physical activity can reduce progesterone production.
Avoid toxin exposure. Pesticides, some strong cleaning agents, and other toxins can adversely affect fertility.
If you’re struggling with infertility, all hope is not lost. My team at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic in Houston can help identify what medical issues may be causing your infertility and work with you to create a lifestyle plan to better increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Dr. Salinas is a board-certified OB/GYN specialist and Managing Physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Woman’s Center. His clinical interests include obstetrics and preventive gynecologic health, as well as family planning and minimally invasive surgery including robotic surgery.