What Increases Your Risk for Infertility?

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on July 22, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD on July 22, 2014

What Increases Your Risk for Infertility?

A couple is diagnosed as infertile if it takes them more than a year of trying to become pregnant. For couples where the woman is over 35, this timeframe may be reduced to six months. That’s because age is a major risk factor for infertility.

There are also a number of other risk factors for male and female infertility. Some of them can be modified through simple changes in lifestyle. Others may need more intensive treatment while still others cannot be changed.  

What Increases a Man’s Risk of Infertility?

A man’s overall health and lifestyle can affect his sperm quality and quantity. Factors that may reduce the number or quality of sperm a man produces include:

  • old age
  • tobacco use
  • heavy drinking
  • use of certain illicit drugs
  • extended periods of bicycling
  • being underweight or overweight
  • a history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • exposure to toxins, particularly in the workplace
  • regular warming of the testicles
  • prior vasectomy (male sterilization) or reversal
  • inherited fertility disorders
  • certain inherited medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis
  • certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation

Certain chronic health problems may also increase the risk of male infertility. These include:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • kidney disease
  • hormone problems

What Increases a Woman’s Risk of Infertility?

According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 25 percent of female infertility is caused by ovulation problems. Other causes of infertility include tubal blockages and problems with the uterus. Risk factors for female infertility include:

  • older age
  • heavy or frequent alcohol use
  • heavy caffeine use
  • cigarette smoking
  • stress and fatigue
  • being overweight or underweight
  • intense athletic training (such as preparing for a marathon)
  • STIs
  • chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
  • reproductive health problems, such as endometriosis and fibroids
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • primary ovarian insufficiency
  • other hormonal problems
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