There's a lot involved when you're trying to have a baby, and if you're having issues, a visit to the doctor's office can often help shed some light. However, if a visit to the fertility clinic isn't in your near future, you can also pay attention to some subtle signs of infertility that you might not realize. Understanding what's going in your body can help you determine your chances of getting pregnant, even if you're not looking to have a baby right this moment.
"Fertility can be difficult to diagnose because the signs aren’t usually obvious," says Joseph Garza, M.D., the chief fertility officer with the Advanced Fertility Center, San Antonio over email. "There are also such loose parameters surrounding when you should see a doctor. Many women are told to try and conceive for a year if they’re younger than 35 or six months if they’re 35 or older. However, waiting that long can waste both precious time and insurance benefits if you’re being treated for infertility without actually diagnosing the root cause of it."
Just because you have one of these symptoms doesn't mean it's time to panic – sometimes, they have nothing at all to do with infertility. But if you are having trouble getting pregnant or have many of these symptoms, your best bet is to see a doctor. Here are seven subtle signs of infertility that you might not realize.
1. Painful Periods
No one's period feels particularly good, but if you experience intensely painful periods, you may have endometriosis, a condition where uterine tissue grows outside the uterus. "If left untreated, endometriosis can grow and block the fallopian tubes, create scar tissue and inflammation in the uterus, and prevent an embryo from implanting correctly," says Garza.
2. Irregular Periods
"There’s a reason why your gynecologist will typically ask if your periods are regular: They’re making sure your body is functioning properly," says Garza. "Periods that vary in length, come at different points in your cycle or don’t come at all could indicate that you aren’t ovulating, also known as anovulation."
3. Heavy Periods
Unusually heavy periods might indicate a problem with uterine fibroids. "Fibroids are benign muscle tumors of the uterus which affect roughly 20-50 percent of reproductive-aged women," says Thomas A. Molinaro, MD, MSCE, FACOG over email. "These fibroids run in families. If fibroids are large or located in the wrong location, they can reduce a woman’s chances for pregnancy."
4. Hot Flashes
Hot flashes can be a sign of hormonal imbalance, and your hormones play an important role in your fertility. High amounts of the Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) can indicate low ovarian reserve, according to reproductive reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Carolyn Alexander, MD. If you are experiencing any symptoms of hormonal imbalances, you can go in to your doctor to get tested for your FSH levels.
5. Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness alone does not indicate infertility, but because it is a side effect of a hormonal imbalance, with other symptoms, it could be an indicator of potential issues getting pregnant, says Alexander. In addition to hot flashes and vaginal dryness, other symptoms of hormonal imbalance can include mood swings, hair loss, and memory issues.
6. Excessive Hair Growth
Excessive hair growth is one of the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. "Women with PCOS aren’t able to produce as many fully-formed eggs as they otherwise would due to hormonal imbalances," says Garza. "These hormonal imbalances can contribute to the extra hair growth."
7. Fluctuations In Weight
"Large fluctuations in weight can indicate or result in hormonal imbalances," says Molinaro. "Sometimes women who are at the extremes of weight can have irregular menses. There are also conditions linked to weight, such as thyroid disease or diabetes, which can affect fertility."