As a woman becomes older, her fertility decreases. However, even during her most fertile years there are external factors and lifestyle choices that can affect her chances of having a baby who’s healthy. Read on to learn some factors that affect a woman’s fertility and what you can do about them if you’re trying to get pregnant.
Hormone production can be affected by carrying around extra pounds, which can make it more difficult for a woman to conceive. “The more weight a woman gains over her healthy weight, the more she tends to experience decreased ovarian function,” says William Schlaff, MD.
Being Too Thin
Not having enough body weight can also affect fertility. This may be because women who have BMIs that are very low are deficient in leptin, which is the hormone that controls feelings of satiety and hunger. Low leptin levels can contribute to not having menstrual periods.
Smoking can drastically affect a woman’s chances of conceiving. It causes up to 13 percent of all infertility cases, says the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. According to Dr. Arredondo, cigarette smoke disrupts hormones and does damage to DNA in both women and men. “And it doesn’t have to be heavy smoking, either,” he says. “Even women who smoke moderately or who are exposed to secondhand smoke have disrupted endocrine function and can experience significant fertility issues.”
Doctors tend to caution against more than one drink a day for women (which has been connected to a higher risk for ovulation disorders). Also, a Swedish study that tracked over 7,000 women for 18 years found that those who drank the heaviest were more likely to have sought out fertility treatment. It’s important to remember that you should stop drinking if you think you could be pregnant.
Of course working out helps to keep you in shape, which is important when you’re trying to get pregnant. But you can overdo it: “If you’re exercising too much it can have a negative impact on ovulation,” says Dr. Schlaff. If there is potentially a problem, the most obvious sign is a change in menstrual cycle. “If you notice that it becomes lighter or shorter, you should talk to your doctor about the implications for your fertility and your health,” says Dr. Schlaff.
Certain Medical Conditions
Health issues such as thyroid disease, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can affect a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant or successfully carrying a pregnancy to term. Also, women with autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus may have issues conceiving since their bodies might reject a fertilized egg or attack her partner’s sperm. This doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant, but it’s important to work with a medical team to improve and manage symptoms.