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Risk Factors for Infertility in Women

The content below is part of the “Health Library” and is not indicative of services available at the facility.

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.

Age

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 increased age.

Medical Conditions

Many medical conditions influence the risk of infertility.

Fallopian Tube, Ovary, and Uterus
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Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Conditions That Influence Ovarian Function
Conditions That May Damage or Block Fallopian Tubes
  • 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 and reduce fertility.
Other Medical Conditions or Diseases

Any chronic medical condition may reduce the chances of a successful pregnancy.

Medications

Many of the drugs listed below are extremely important for treating serious and chronic conditions. Do not cut back or stop your medications 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
  • Hormone therapy, such as estrogen therapy
  • Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen
  • Prior use of contraceptive methods, such as an intrauterine device

You should notify your doctor if you are taking these medications on a daily basis and discuss changes in your prescriptions if necessary.

Body Fat

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

Excessive exercise is often associated with low levels of body fat but may influence fertility through other means as well.

Smoking

Smoking cigarettes and passive exposure to cigarette smoke may reduce fertility.

Caffeine

Caffeine consumption, in the form of coffee, tea, or soft drinks, has been linked to infertility in some studies.

Alcohol

Heavy alcohol consumption appears to reduce fertility.

Occupational Exposures

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.

Revision Information

  • Cronin M, Schellschmidt I, Dinger J. Rate of pregnancy after using drospirenone and other progestin-containing oral contraceptives. Obstet Gynecol. 2009;114(3):616-622.

  • Evaluating infertility. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Evaluating-Infertility. Updated June 2012. Accessed May 18, 2017.

  • Infertility fact sheet. Office on Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/infertility.html. Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed May 18, 2017.

  • Infertility in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116334/Infertility-in-women. Updated July 12, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2017.

  • Overview of infertility. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/infertility/overview-of-infertility. Updated March 2017. Accessed May 18, 2017.

  • Treating infertility. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Treating-Infertility. Updated March 2015. Accessed May 18, 2017.

  • 6/5/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116334/Infertility-in-women: Luttjeboer FY, Verhoeve HR, van Dessel HJ, et al. The value of medical history taking as risk indicator for tuboperitoneal pathology: a systematic review. BJOG. 2009;116(5):612-625.