5 min read
by Aliyah Moore | 03/23/2023
Even if having kids is the last thing on your mind right now, it’s still important to keep an eye on your reproductive health. Infertility is a lot more common than you might think — in fact, 15% of couples are affected by it.
The term ‘infertility’ can be a little confusing. It’s difficult for many people to conceive a child, but medical infertility is when you have unprotected sex regularly for a year without pregnancy.
The sooner you know if you’re infertile, the sooner you can seek treatment. For instance, you and your doctor can identify if there’s an underlying cause — such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) — that’s affecting your health in other ways.
If one or more of the following situations applies to you, it could be a sign that your fertility is at risk:
Thinning hair is often a sign of infertility, and so is excessive hair growth in other parts of your body such as the chin or chest. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects about 1 in 10 women and is a common cause of these symptoms. If untreated, it can lead to infertility.
While rough periods aren’t all that uncommon, a sudden heavy and painful one might indicate that something is wrong. Likewise, if your period schedule becomes unpredictable or stops completely, this can also point to fertility problems.
Sudden adult acne is a clear sign that something is wrong with your hormones, and is another symptom of PCOS. While acne is the biggest indicator, PCOS can also cause skin tags or darkening of the skin around the neck, breasts, or groin.
When your weight changes regardless of your diet and exercise, it’s often caused by a hormone imbalance. Being underweight or overweight will affect your ability to conceive, and it could also be a symptom of PCOS.
It’s no secret that it’s more difficult to have kids when you get older, but the timeline is actually pretty specific. Each woman is different, but your chances of infertility jump from 14% to 31% after the age of 35.
Any vaginal itching, discharge, soreness, or general discomfort typically means you have an infection. Infections are easy to cure, but if they’re left untreated for too long they can wreak havoc on your reproductive system and make it difficult or impossible to have kids.
If you’re dealing with some of these problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to have kids. Each one is a great reason to visit your doctor anyway, but they may not be related to your fertility.
If you are infertile, there are several effective options for treatment that you should discuss with your doctor. Treatments such as In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) are often successful, especially when started early. Many couples also choose to adopt or use a surrogate mother.
The important thing to remember is that infertility is not your fault. It’s an incredibly common medical problem. Many couples who can’t have children deal with guilt, anxiety, depression, or a host of other negative mental health effects. If you or your partner are experiencing any of those issues, consider seeking couples therapy or individual therapy to work through it.
Conceiving a child isn’t easy for anyone, and infertility is just one of many challenges on the path to parenthood. It may feel difficult at first, but there are dedicated resources and medical professionals who are ready and willing to help you on your journey.
Aliyah Moore (she/her) is a certified sex therapist with a Ph.D. in Gender & Sexuality Studies. One of her missions is to educate and empower people, especially women, to embrace their sexuality and identity.
by Aliyah Moore