A medical risk factor may increase or decrease your chances of getting a disease or condition. Although a person with specific risk factors may be at an increased risk, anyone can develop infertility. Having one or more of the risk factors listed below does not necessarily mean that you will develop infertility. If you do have specific risk factors, talk with your doctor about what you can do to lower your risk.
Woman over 35 are more likely to have fertility problems. The ovaries become less effective in producing eggs that can be successfully fertilized.
Disorders of the reproductive tract and/or infection and trauma are more likely with advancing age.
Many medical conditions influence the risk of infertility.
- Endometriosis—Uterine tissue implanted on other pelvic structures can interfere with normal functioning.
- Sexually transmitted diseases—Infections, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, often produce no symptoms in women. If left untreated, these infections can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which may cause scarring and adhesions that block the fallopian tubes.
- History of ectopic pregnancy—When a fertilized egg begins to develop within the fallopian tube, it can cause the tube to rupture. As the injury heals, scar tissue may block the tube, thereby reducing fertility.
- Congenital anatomical abnormalities in the reproductive tract
- History of abnormal Pap smears or infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) that have resulted in cervical treatments such as cryosurgery or cone biopsy
- History of two or more spontaneous miscarriages or elective abortions
- Pelvic surgery (including uterine surgery)
- Uterine fibroids
Personal or family history of autoimmune disorders such as:
- Kidney disease, including kidney failure
- Cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver
- Sickle cell anemia
- HIV infection
- Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Appendicitis with complications (such as ruptured appendix)
Any chronic medical condition may reduce the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Many of the drugs listed below are extremely important for treating serious and chronic conditions. Do not cut back or stop your medicines on your own. Discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. In some cases, the following drugs may increase your risk of infertility:
- Chemotherapeutic agents used to treat cancer
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)—if taken chronically
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Aleve, Motrin)—if taken chronically
- Pain medicines
These medicines have received lay-press coverage as possible causes of infertility. There is very limited evidence of a causal effect in humans. You should notify your doctor if you are taking these medicines on a daily basis, and discuss possible withdrawal from these drugs.
Very high or very low levels of body fat often affect hormone levels, which can alter ovarian function. A certain amount of body fat cells in women are needed to produce sufficient estrogen along with the ovaries.
Excessive exercise is often associated with low levels of body fat but may influence fertility through other means as well.
Smoking cigarettes and passive exposure to cigarette smoke may reduce fertility.
Caffeine consumption, in the form of coffee, tea, or soft drinks, has been linked to infertility in some studies.
Alcohol consumption, even in moderation, appears to reduce fertility.
Many work activities, such as standing for long periods of time or being chronically exposed to dust or loud noises, increase the risk of infertility. Other evidence suggests that the risk of infertility may be higher in women who frequently switch from working day shifts to night shifts. Job-related exposure to high temperatures, chemicals, radiation, pesticides, and other toxic substances have also been linked to infertility in women.
- Reviewer: Andrea Chisholm, MD
- Review Date: 12/2013 -
- Update Date: 00/11/2014 -