I was 26 years old when I was first diagnosed with infertility. In my case, the inability to conceive was the result of a condition called stage 4 endometriosis.
Like many people facing infertility, I was heartbroken by the news. I’d always believed I’d have a large family. The choices I found myself having to make in the years that followed, and the mounting agony of repeat in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles, left me devastated.
It’s common for couples to experience issues with infertility. Many of these couples have no symptoms. They don’t have any reason to suspect they may have infertility until they start trying to conceive.
For this reason, it’s recommended that couples who’ve been trying to get pregnant for over a year without success seek the advice of a doctor. For women over age 35, that timeline is reduced to six months. Infertility issues increase with age.
Signs and Symptoms of Infertility
Signs and symptoms of infertility are often related to other underlying conditions. For example, 10 to 15 percent of untreated chlamydia cases will lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID leads to a blockage of the fallopian tubes, which prevents fertilization.
There are numerous conditions that can contribute to infertility in men and women. The signs and symptoms of each can vary greatly. If you’re concerned, it’s important to consult with your doctor.
Common symptoms of infertility include the following.
Common Signs of Infertility in Women
1. Irregular periods
The average woman’s cycle is 28 days long. But anything within a few days of that can be considered normal, as long as those cycles are consistent. For example, a woman who has a 33-day cycle one month, a 31-day cycle the next, and a 35-day cycle after that, is probably having “normal” periods.
But a woman whose cycles vary so greatly that she can’t even begin to estimate when her period might arrive is experiencing irregular periods. This can be related to hormone issues, or to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Both of these can contribute to infertility.
2. Painful or heavy periods
Most women experience cramps with their periods. But painful periods that interfere with your daily life may be a symptom of endometriosis.
3. No periods
It’s not uncommon for women to have an off month here and there. Factors like stress or heavy workouts can cause your period to temporarily disappear. But if you haven’t had a period in months, it’s time to get your fertility checked.
4. Symptoms of hormone fluctuations
Signs of hormone fluctuations in women could indicate potential issues with fertility. Talk to your doctor if you experience the following:
- skin issues
- reduced sex drive
- facial hair growth
- thinning hair
- weight gain
5. Pain during sex
Some women have experienced painful sex their entire lives, so they’ve convinced themselves it’s normal. But it’s not. It could be related to hormone issues, to endometriosis, or to other underlying conditions that could also be contributing to infertility.
Common Signs of Infertility in Men
1. Changes in sexual desire
A man’s fertility is also linked with his hormone health. Changes in virility, often governed by hormones, could indicate issues with fertility.
2. Testicle pain or swelling
There are several different conditions that could lead to pain or swelling in the testicles, many of which could contribute to infertility.
3. Problems maintaining erection
A man’s ability to maintain an erection is often linked to his hormone levels. Reduced hormones may result, which could potentially translate into trouble conceiving.
4. Issues with ejaculation
Similarly, an inability to ejaculate is a sign that it might be time to visit a doctor.
5. Small, firm testicles
The testes house a man’s sperm, so testicle health is paramount to male fertility. Small or firm testicles could indicate potential issues that should be explored by a medical practitioner.
Around 15 to 20 percent of couples trying to conceive will have trouble with infertility. Female factor infertility is typically to blame 40 percent of the time, while male factor infertility is the cause of issues 30 to 40 percent of the time. A combination of these factors leads to infertility 20 to 30 percent of the time.
If you’ve been diagnosed with infertility, or fear you may have trouble conceiving in the future, you’re not alone. The medical industry is forever making advances in this field. Make an appointment with your doctor and go over your concerns. Even if you are diagnosed with infertility, you may still be able to conceive.