11 Physical Signs It May Be Difficult For You To Get Pregnant, According To Science
Whether you're sure you'd like to have a baby, or are simply pondering the thought, it's helpful to know signs of infertility before trying to conceive. From missed periods to pelvic pain, the sooner you can identify any potential signs getting pregnant will be difficult, or other issues that might affect your chances of conceiving, the sooner you can talk to your doctor about the best course of action. "If you have any of the symptoms [and you want to get pregnant], you'll want to see a fertility specialist soon," Gloria Richard Davis, OB/GYN and director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, tells Bustle. "I highly recommend seeking evaluation and care early."
There are things your doctor can start doing right away in order to treat any underlying issues, and hopefully make conception easier. Plus, knowing your options is always comforting — especially if the possibility of infertility is something on your mind. "Obtaining the right information at the right time from the right expert provides empowerment and confidence," Theresa Pittman, NP, MSN, Chief Clinical Officer at fertility advice service Opionato, tells Bustle.
It is important to note though that these physical signs aren't the only ones that may indicate difficulty getting pregnant, and that these factors do not always spell out infertility. However, if you are experiencing these symptoms, and are trying to get pregnant, you may want to see your doctor to figure out the best course of action for you. Here are a few physical signs experts say might mean you need to chat with your doctor, in order to make the process of becoming pregnant just a little bit easier.
1. Pain And Heavy Menstruation Due To Endometriosis
If your period is super painful, or your flow is extremely heavy, it may be an indication that you might have trouble getting pregnant. "Severe menses pain ... could indicate the possibility of endometriosis," says Pittman, which is an issue that affects up to 10 percent of women of reproductive age. Endometriosis is a condition in which the lining of your uterus — what you typically shed during your period — grows outside of your uterus, leading to extreme menstrual cramps. And studies show it can affect fertility.
"[A] pelvic exam can detect nodules (endometrial implants) behind the uterus and along the ligaments that attach to the pelvic wall, but the only definitive method for diagnosing endometriosis is surgical," Pittman says. "Often the first approach is to treat it with medication and/or hormonal therapy." An endometriosis diagnosis doesn't mean you can't get pregnant, though. Speaking with a doctor on ways to potentially make getting pregnant easier when you're ready to conceive could be the best option to receive the support you need.
2. Pain And Heavy Menstruation Due To Uterine Fibroids
Severe and painful periods might also be due to uterine fibroids, or noncancerous growths within the uterus, which can affect between 20 to 80 percent of women by the time they reach 50. "Although not all types of fibroids affect conception, the ones that do can impede the embryo implantation in the uterus, or the growth of the embryo once inside the implanted uterus," says Pittman. "A simple gynecological ultrasound can detect uterine fibroids." And if your OB/GYN does find fibroids, this doesn't mean you won't be able to get pregnant. Discussing further treatments can help increase the likelihood that you will conceive.
3. Pain During Sex
If you have the painful periods mentioned above, "as well as painful intercourse, and urinary and/or rectal pain right before and during your period," Pittman says it could be yet another sign of endometriosis or uterine fibroids, which may possibly translate to difficulties getting pregnant.
While there are other issues that can cause pain during sex, such as dryness or a genital infection, it may be something worth looking into if you think it might affect your fertility.
4. Scarce Periods
If may also be time to make a doctor's appointment if you would like to get pregnant, but can't remember the last time you had your period. "The absence of a period can indicate there is no ovulation," says Pittman. "A lack of ovulation means there is no egg growing or maturing to be fertilized by a sperm," says Pittman. There are many reasons why this could be, Pittman says. "Evaluation would include a detailed medical history, hormonal testing, and an ultrasound." And once you know what may be causing infrequent periods, you and your doctor can develop a strategy to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
5. Irregular Periods + Acne
Do you have an irregular period and excessive acne? "These physical symptoms often indicate polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)," says Pittman. "It is caused by a hormonal imbalance often resulting in immature eggs that are not released during ovulation."
And studies show PCOS can affect fertility. "PCOS is estimated to affect up to 10 percent of women of reproductive age," Pittman says. If you suspect you might have this syndrome, talk with your doctor. Not everyone with PCOS will have infertility issues, but if you are having difficulties getting pregnant, your doctor can help figure out strategies to increase your chances.
6. Ongoing Tiredness
Tiredness has about a million causes, so if you've been feeling a bit run down, don't assume you won't get be able to get pregnant. It could be that you're not sleeping well, or that you have an underlying condition that's slowing you down, like an infection.
But if you're trying to conceive and aren't having any luck, your ongoing tiredness may point to a thyroid gland hormonal imbalance. As Pittman says, "Low levels of its hormones called hypothyroidism directly affect conception and increases chances of miscarriage. Up to 4 percent of women of reproductive age can be affected by it. A simple blood test can rule this option out." Treating hypothyroidism may increase your chances of becoming pregnant, so consult your doctor if you receive this diagnosis and would like to conceive.
7. Chronic Pelvic Pain
You shouldn't ignore chronic pelvic pain, either, since it may be a sign of one of several issues that can affect fertility. "Endometriosis, abdominal surgeries, and a history of pelvic inflammatory diseases, such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, can cause scarring of or around the Fallopian tubes," says Richard Davis. "Symptoms may be severe menstrual cramps or chronic pelvis pain." Chronic pelvic pain does not always indicate that you will have difficulties getting pregnant, so be sure to speak with your doctor if this is a concern.
8. Vaginal Discharge
If you have one of the aforementioned infections, or another type of infection, Pittman says you might notice vaginal discharge. Any type of pelvic inflammatory disease "can impede the fertilization of the egg with the sperm in the Fallopian tubes, where it normally occurs," Pittman says. "It also can cause ectopic pregnancies." It is important to note that certain types of vaginal discharge are common, and doesn't necessarily mean fertility issues. But if you have been diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease, it may be treated with antibiotics. If you are having further difficulties after medication, contact your doctor about next steps.
9. Milky Discharge From Your Nipples
This one may sound strange, but pay attention to any sort of discharge coming from your nipples. "Milky nipple discharge may reflect elevated pituitary hormone called prolactin and can result in infertility and/or miscarriage," Mark P. Trolice, MD, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist tells Bustle. Trolice says the relationship between prolactin and reproduction is very well established, so this symptom is not something you should ignore.
10. Spotting Before Your Period
Light spotting a day or two before your period is no cause for concern, but if you're noticing spotting occurring many days before your period, you might want to take note. "Several days of precycle spotting before menses [...] can be related to ovulatory dysfunction, ovarian aging, or other uterine/endometrial dysfunction," Dr. Amber Cooper, a Celmatix Board Advisory member, tells Bustle.
Keep in mind, though, that it's important not to self-diagnose. If you're on a hormonal birth control pill, that can affect the symptoms listed above. And you have to take other factors, such as your family history, into account when determining your fertility. If you feel like you might have symptoms that point to fertility issues, it's best to talk with your doctor about your options. Though you may be experiencing difficulties getting pregnant, it may not mean it's impossible.