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Understanding Infertility -- Symptoms

Infertility is when you cannot get pregnant after having unprotected, regular sex for six months to one year, depending on your age.

The main symptom of infertility is not getting pregnant. You may not have or notice any other symptoms.

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Symptoms can also depend on what is causing the infertility. Many health conditions can make it hard to get pregnant. Sometimes no cause is found.

Infertility Symptoms in Women

In women, changes in the menstrual cycle and ovulation may be a symptom of a disease related to infertility. Symptoms include:

  • Abnormal periods. Bleeding is heavier or lighter than usual.
  • Irregular periods. The number of days in between each period varies each month.
  • No periods. You have never had a period, or periods suddenly stop.
  • Painful periods. Back pain, pelvic pain, and cramping may happen.

Sometimes, female infertility is related to a hormone problem. In this case, symptoms can also include:

  • Skin changes, including more acne
  • Changes in sex drive and desire
  • Dark hair growth on the lips, chest, and chin
  • Loss of hair or thinning hair
  • Weight gain

Other symptoms include:

  • Milky white discharge from nipples unrelated to breastfeeding
  • Pain during sex

Many other things can lead to infertility in women, and their symptoms vary.

Infertility Symptoms in Men

Infertility symptoms in men can be vague. They may go unnoticed until a man tries to have a baby.

Symptoms depend on what is causing the infertility. They can include:

  • Changes in hair growth
  • Changes in sexual desire
  • Pain, lump, or swelling in the testicles
  • Problems with erections and ejaculation
  • Small, firm testicles

 

When to See the Doctor

If you are under 35 and have been trying to get pregnant without success for a year, see your doctor. Women 35 and older should see their doctor after six months of trying.

Blood, urine, and imaging tests can be done to discover why you are having trouble getting pregnant. A sperm analysis can be done to check a man's sperm count and the overall health of the sperm.

Your doctor may refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist. That's a doctor who specializes in infertility. You will be asked questions about your infertility symptoms and medical history.

Before you go to the doctor, write down the following information and take it to your next doctor's appointment:

  1. All the medications you take, including prescriptions, vitamins, minerals, supplements, and any other drugs bought without a prescription
  2. How often you have unprotected sex, how long you have been trying, and the date of the last time you tried to get pregnant
  3. Body changes or other symptoms you have noticed
  4. Dates of any surgeries or treatments in the past, especially those involving the reproductive tract.
  5. Any radiation or chemotherapy you have had
  6. How much you smoke, how much alcohol you drink, and any illegal drug use
  7. Any history of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  8. Any genetic disorder or chronic illness, such as diabetes or thyroid disease, in you or your family

Listen to your body. Tell your doctor any time you notice a symptom. Early diagnosis of an infertility problem may improve your odds of getting pregnant.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD, FACOG on March 11, 2014
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