Am I at Risk for Fertility Problems?

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on November 27, 2022

Some people with fertility problems never even know it until they try to have a baby. That’s because oftentimes infertility issues don’t have symptoms. So whether you’re actively trying to have children or just planning to in the future, it’s good to know if anything you or your partner are doing might reduce your chances of getting pregnant.

While you can’t control everything that might affect your fertility, there are some things you can.


Risk Factors for Infertility

Men and women are equally at risk for fertility problems. In about one-third of cases, both partners have issues, or doctors can’t find the cause.

Some of the factors that affect a couple’s ability to have a baby include:

Age. Women are born with a set number of eggs. That number drops as they age, making it harder for them to get pregnant after they reach their mid-30s. By 40, their chances of getting pregnant drop from 90% to 67%. By age 45, it’s just 15%. A man is less fertile after age 40.

Can you lower your risk? Sort of. When you’re ready to have children, don’t wait. The younger you are the better.

Smoking. If you smoke tobacco or marijuana, you’re less likely to get pregnant. Tobacco and marijuana can increase a woman’s chance of miscarriage, and decrease sperm count in men. Smokers also hit menopause about 2 years earlier than non-smokers. It can also cause erectile dysfunction (ED).

Can you lower your risk? Yes. Don’t smoke or use tobacco products of any kind.

Drinking alcohol. Doctors now say there’s no safe amount of alcohol women can drink during pregnancy. It can lead to birth defects. It may also lower your chances of getting pregnant and drinking heavily can decrease sperm count in men.

Can you lower your risk? Yes. Men and women should avoid alcohol when trying to conceive.

Weight. Women who are overweight can have irregular periods and skip ovulation. But women who are extremely underweight can also have problems -- their reproductive systems can shut down completely. Men who are obese can have lower-quality sperm or ED.

Can you lower your risk? Yes. Talk to your doctor about how to exercise and eat to maintain a safe weight, especially if you’re over age 40. But don’t overdo it and strain your body.

Mental health. Both depression and lots of stress can affect the hormones that regulate your reproductive cycle. Women dealing with these issues may not ovulate normally and men may have a lower sperm count.

Can you lower your risk? Yes. Try to reduce the stress in your life before and while trying to become pregnant.

STDs. Having unprotected sex puts you at risk for STDs. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and fallopian tube infections in women, and epididymis blockages that can lead to infertility in men.

Can you lower your risk? Yes. Use a condom every time you have sex to reduce your chances of getting certain STDs.

Environmental factors. There may be factors in your everyday life that are reducing your chances of getting pregnant -- especially if your job involves toxic substances or hazards. Some dangers include pesticides, pollution, high temperatures, chemicals, or heavy electromagnetic or microwave emissions. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer can affect both sperm and eggs, too.

Her Risks

There are certain things that apply only to women. Any one of the following could cause problems with ovulation, hormones, or your reproductive organs:

His Risks

Some factors are male-only, as well, and could affect sperm count, sperm health, or sperm delivery, including:

Show Sources


American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists: “Evaluating Infertility.”

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association: “Risk Factors,” “Risk Factors for Women,” “Risk Factors for Men,” “Frequently asked questions about infertility.”

Mayo Clinic: “Infertility.”

Spermatogenesis: “Impact of obesity on male fertility, sperm function and molecular composition.”

CDC: “STDs & Infertility.”

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