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Women: Know Your Fertility Risks

Learn about some risks for infertility and what you might do to preserve your own ability to conceive a child.

Infertility is a condition that affects about 6 million American couples, approximately 10 percent of the reproductive age population. It is not just a female problem – men and women contribute about equally to the cause. Being aware of some risks for infertility may help you avoid a struggle when it comes time to try to get pregnant.

If you have any risk factors for infertility or have tried to conceive for one year without success, talk to your doctor.

Risk The facts What you can do

Age A woman’s

fertility starts to decline in her late 20s.

 Contemplate your desire for a family and try to factor it in with other life plans, such as career and education.

Endometriosis Cells from the lining of the uterus migrate elsewhere in the pelvis and implant and grow, causing infertility. Consider using hormonal contraceptives, such as the Pill or a vaginal ring or patch. They minimize the growth of the uterine lining during each monthly cycle.

Heredity Women whose mother or sisters have endometriosis are more likely to develop the disease. (see Endometriosis risk factor) Talk to your doctor regarding being examined for early detection and treatment

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Women with PCOS have irregular periods or no periods at all, and thus experience months when they do not ovulate and therefore cannot get pregnant. See a reproductive endocrinologist for a complete hormonal workup. Drug therapies can help women with PCOS ovulate more consistently.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases If left untreated, STDs can infect the upper genital tract, causing scar tissue and damage to the fallopian tubes. Consider using a condom, which offers the most protection against STDs. Be cautious about using an IUD, which may increase risk of pelvic infection and incidence of infertility.

Cancer Treatment Radiation and chemotherapy treatments frequently damage ovaries. Discuss alternatives with your doctor such as emerging technology in freezing eggs and ovarian tissue or surgically moving ovaries away from areas to be irradiated.

Smoking Smoking is harmful to ovaries and causes rapid depletion of eggs. It also increases the risk of miscarriage. Talk to your doctor regarding a plan to quit smoking.

Premature Menopause If a woman’s mother experienced menopause earlier than age 40, she has a higher chance of premature menopause as well. Ask your mother when she experienced menopause so you know what to expect. Discuss with your doctor, too.


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