Each year, millions of women in the United States dream of becoming pregnant. Unfortunately, many of these women will face issues with infertility. It is estimated that around 14 percent of women of childbearing age will experience difficulty becoming pregnant or carrying a baby full term.
The good news is that gaining knowledge about the different indicators of potential infertility can help you pinpoint issues early on. Even if pregnancy is not on your mind, these red flags are still crucial to be aware of as they may indicate potential health conditions.
Although there is a wide range of possible causes of infertility, there are some symptoms that may be surprising. Here are five symptoms of possible fertility issues that you may not have known about.
1. Cold Hands or Feet
If you are constantly experiencing cold hands and feet—a common sign of hypothyroidism— it is essential to get your thyroid checked immediately. If your thyroid gland is underactive or overactive, it can negatively affect your ovulation and menstrual cycle. If menstruation does not occur frequently or does not set in at all, fertility decreases and thus also reduces your pregnancy chances. In case conception occurs, there is a greater risk of miscarriage, especially in the first pregnancy months. Additional signs of hypothyroidism include dry skin, excessive fatigue, difficulty losing weight, constipation, memory issues, hair loss and brittle nails. Low blood pressure and depressive mood are also typical signs.
2. Painful or Irregular Periods
An unusually painful period that interrupts your regular lifestyle can be a sign of endometriosis, which is a condition where the uterus lining grows outside of it. Around half of infertile women have endometriosis. The causes are not yet fully understood. It is assumed, that in endometriosis the rhythmic movement of the uterine musculature is disturbed, so it´s more difficult for the sperm cell to find its way to the egg. This makes conception more difficult. Due to inflammation either conception is hindered or a fertilized egg is not properly implanted into the uterine lining. Adhesions in the region of the ovaries or fallopian tubes can interfere with the egg maturation, or prevent the egg from migrating into the uterus.
If your periods are irregular (longer than 35 days, completely absent, or 21 days or shorter) this could suggest an issue with your ovulation. If you do not ovulate, you will not release an egg to be fertilized in order to become pregnant. Irregular periods can also point to PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), a common but treatable cause of infertility. This is a hormone disorder affecting about 5 to 10 percent of all sex-mature women. For those who have PCOS, ovulation does not occur in view of hormonal imbalances, or the maturation of the egg requires much more time. The function of the ovaries is disturbed, resulting in the formation of numerous small cysts (polycystic ovaries). Also overweight, a key factor in PCOS, has a negative impact on fertility.
3. Severe Acne
Another possible sign of infertility is severe acne. Severe acne is often associated with PCOS syndrome and other hormonal issues that might affect your ability to get pregnant. Acne is often caused by overabundant hormones known as androgens—particularly testosterone. They stimulate the skin to an increased talc production, which can infect the pores and cause inflammation.
Excessive levels of these androgens have been linked to a variety of fertility issues. Too much testosterone in the ovaries inhibits the growing follicle from completing ovulation.
4. Changes in Sexual Desire
It is natural to experience a decline in your sexual drive as you age but a significant lack of desire may indicate a problem. A noticeable, sudden decrease in sexual desire is often linked to hormonal imbalances and conditions such as hypothyroidism and endometriosis. As mentioned above, both of these conditions can have a negative impact on fertility.
5. Leaking Nipples
The final issue on the list of signs of infertility you may not have known about is leaking or discharge from your nipples. Unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not experience leaking of any sort. Leaking may indicate hyperprolactinemia, a condition where your body overproduces the hormone prolactin. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates the growth of the mammary gland and mother’s milk production during pregnancy and lactation. Surplus production of prolactin can cause various symptoms. These include, in addition to menstrual and sexual disorders, strong hairiness, acne, and depression.
Hyperprolactinemia can be caused by thyroid imbalances, medications or pituitary gland tumors. High levels of prolactin signal your ovaries to stop functioning.
Although infertility is an unfortunate and fairly common condition, learning about its potential signs and symptoms will help you be more in control. If you notice any of the signs above consider contacting your doctor or an infertility specialist—whether you are planning to get pregnant or not—for an evaluation since these signs can indicate an underlying health issue.