If you’re having problems getting pregnant, you may unknowingly be dealing with the most common causes of fertility problems. Here’s a list of the most common reasons women don’t get pregnant, plus a solution for each problem.
The Combo of Ovulation and Pregnancy Test Strips (pictured) is a must-have for women who want to get pregnant. The ovulation test predicts when there is a LH (luteinizing hormone) surge in your body, which tells you when you’re likely to ovulate. You need to have intercourse when you’re ovulating, or you’re less likely to conceive. And the pregnancy test strips – of course – tell you that you got pregnant!
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for over a year, it’s time to book an appointment with a fertility doctor, a gynecologist, and a urologist. If you’re a woman, don’t assume the causes of fertility problems are yours! Men are responsible for problems getting pregnant at least 35% of the time.
6 Common Causes of Fertility Problems for Women
We’ll start with six common causes of problems getting pregnant for women, then describe eight causes of fertility problems for men. If you have a medical condition, you might want to read about the most common health or medical problems that prevent pregnancy.
Poor diet – too many refined carbohydrates. Women whose diets are high in “glycemic load” caused by foods high in refined carbohydrates such as white flour, sugar, white pasta, etc. were almost twice as likely to experience ovulatory infertility in one research study on the causes of fertility problems. Soft drinks also affects fertility in women, because insulin produces hormones and hormone receptors. Drinking too many cans of Coke or 7Up can lead to hyperinsulinemia because of the excessive refined carbohydrate intake. This causes problems getting pregnant because it interferes with normal ovulation. Read the 5 Best Foods to Increase Fertility to learn how to eat a healthier diet and prevent fertility problems.
Not enough protein and iron. A high animal protein intake (eg, beef, chicken, etc) can affect hormone levels, which affect your ability to get pregnant. Researchers have found that women with high animal protein intakes were 39% more likely to have problems getting pregnant than women with lower animal protein intake. In contrast, women with high plant protein intake were 22% less likely to experience problems with fertility than women with lower plant protein intake. Iron found in plant foods and supplements is associated with a reduced risk of problems getting pregnant, whereas heme iron (found in animal foods) intake showed no association or cause of fertility problems.
Not enough micronutrients.Vitamins are important in maintaining healthy fertility, and micronutrients are crucial for optimal fertility and healthy development of the baby during pregnancy. B vitamins are important for development of sperm and egg cells. Folate, a B vitamin, is crucial for preventing neural tube defects, and may also help to maintain regular ovulation. You might consider buying vitamin and mineral supplements such as New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Multivitamins to increase your micronutrients and vitamins, but only as an addition to a healthy diet. The synthetic folic acid in supplements is not the same as natural folate from green vegetables and other plant foods. Vitamin and mineral supplements should never be your sole method of getting micronutrients. It’s better to eat a variety of colorful, natural plant foods in addition to ensuring you’re getting enough Vitamin D, iodine, zinc and B12 in your diet.
Not enough exercise. A sedentary lifestyle is likely a risk factor for infertility. This is a common cause of fertility problems for both men and women. For women, research shows that every hour per week of vigorous exercise is associated with a 5% decrease in risk of ovulatory infertility. For men, research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that 20 hours of TV a week almost halves sperm count, but 15 or more hours a week of moderate to vigorous exercise improves sperm count. Conversely, men who do 15 or more hours of moderate to vigorous exercise every week have sperm counts that are 73% higher than those who exercise little. To learn how to create healthy sperm, read 5 Foods to Increase Sperm Count, Production, and Motility.
Weight issues – you’re overweight or underweight. Being overweight or underweight or not having a healthy eating pattern are common causes of fertility problems. A healthy diet not only helps stop problems getting pregnant, it also increases your baby’s development and health and reduces the risk of complications during pregnancy. Thirty percent of fertility problems are caused by either being overweight or underweight, according to the National Infertility Association. Both of these extremes in weight cause shifts in hormones, which can affect ovulation. Reducing weight by even 5 percent can enhance fertility.
No Mediterranean foods in your diet. Dietitians at Loyola University Health System (LUHS) found that women who watch their weight and closely follow a Mediterranean-style diet high in vegetables, vegetable oils, fish and beans may increase their chance of becoming pregnant. If you want to avoid fertility problems, reduce your intake of foods with trans and saturated fats and increase your intake of monounsaturated fats, such as avocados and olive oil. Eat less animal protein and add more vegetable protein to your diet. Add more fiber by eating whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Incorporate more vegetarian sources of iron such as legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds and whole grains. And, another common cause of fertility problems I haven’t mentioned is low-fat dairy products. Consume high-fat dairy instead of low-fat dairy. To learn why, read How Dairy Affects Fertility and Getting Pregnant.
6 Common Causes of Fertility Problems for Men
Not enough sex during ovulation. Many fertility experts recommend intercourse every one or two days around time of ovulation. Ovulation typically occurs 11-21 days after the first day of the menstrual period, but can this can change every month! Get an ovulation kit such as the Clearblue Digital Ovulation Test to learn when the best time for intercourse is. Ovulation predictor kits measure urine levels of the hormone LH or Luteinizing hormone. This hormone rises about 12-36 hours before ovulation.
Fat. Overweight men can have fertility problems. Sperm production is at its best when you are a normal, healthy weight. Studies show that men who are overweight or obese have decreased sperm production. Carrying extra weight increases fat cells, which produce estrogen. This causes a hormonal imbalance that can disrupt normal sperm production. Being too heavy or too skinny is a cause of problems getting pregnant for both men and women.
Smoking, drinking alcohol, and consuming too much caffeine. Tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine have been associated with decreased sperm health, because the toxins in those substances damage sperm. If you’re trying to get your female partner pregnant, quit smoking. Drink no more than two alcoholic drinks per day and no more than six alcoholic beverages per week. Finally, drink less than 300 mg of caffeine per day. A typical cup of coffee has approximately 100mg of coffee, and a can of soda typically has 50 mg. To learn more about how drinking booze can cause fertility problems, read how alcohol affects getting pregnant.
Heat. If you want to get your partner pregnant, avoid baths or saunas with very hot temperatures. Immersion in hot water increases the temperature in the scrotum, which leads to damaged sperm production. It’s also best to avoid laptop computers and cell phones in the front pocket. Overexposure to hot temperatures can take approximately three months to recover healthy sperm production.
Lubricants – unless it’s Pre-seed.Even though lubes can make intercourse more enjoyable, most of them – including saliva, KY jelly, and olive oil – are toxic to sperm. If you need help when you’re trying to get pregnant, consider the less toxic lubricants such as Preseed Personal Lubricant (pictured). Mineral oil and canola oil can also be used because they’re non-toxic, but they should be used sparingly.
Exposure to toxins. Dr. Allison K. Rodgers of Fertility Centers of Illinois says, “I have a lot of patients who worked at the mill or railroad who were exposed to toxins and had abnormal sperm as a result. Sometimes this exposure is unavoidable depending on your work environment, but try to avoid toxins and chemicals where possible. Use BPA free plastics for food and water bottles, avoid paint fumes, and stay away from chemicals. Sperm are sensitive little guys!” A common cause of fertility problem for men is environmental toxins, especially if the men work in mines, mills, or railroads.
If you have any thoughts on these common causes of fertility problems, please comment below. I can’t offer medical advice. If you’re disappointed about not getting pregnant, you might be interested in reading Why Can’t I Get Pregnant? Fertility Problems.