Female Infertility – Risk Factors
The following risk factors do not directly cause infertility but may affect the quality of eggs and sperms. Fortunately, however, many of these variables can be regulated to increase not only the chances of conceiving but also one’s overall health.
1) Diet and Exercise
Optimal reproductive functioning requires both proper diet and appropriate levels of exercise. Women who are significantly overweight or underweight may have difficulty becoming pregnant. Female body mass index (BMI) will be calculated (dividing weight/kg by the height/meter square [kg/m2]. Normal range is between 18.5 and 25.
Cigarette smoking has been shown to lower sperm counts in men and increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and low-birth-weight babies for women. Smoking by either partner reduces the chance of conceiving with each cycle, either naturally or by IVF, by one-third.
Alcohol intake greatly increases the risk of birth defects for women and, if in high enough levels in the mother’s blood, may cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Alcohol also affects sperm counts in men.
Drugs, such as marijuana and anabolic steroids, may impact sperm counts in men. Cocaine use in pregnant women may cause severe retardations and kidney problems in the baby and is perhaps the worst possible drug to abuse while pregnant. Recreational drug use should be avoided, both when trying to conceive and when pregnant.
Medications -SSRI, Steroids
5) Environmental and Occupational Factors:
The ability to conceive may be affected by exposure to various toxins or chemicals in the workplace or the surrounding environment. Substances that can cause mutations, birth defects, abortions, infertility or sterility are called reproductive toxins.
Exposure to lead sources has been proven to negatively impact fertility in humans. Lead can produce teratospermias (abnormal sperm) and is thought to be an abortifacient, or substance that causes artificial abortion.
7) Medical Treatments and Materials
Repeated exposure to radiation, ranging from simple x-rays to chemotherapy, has been shown to alter sperm production, as well as contribute to a wide array of ovarian problems.
8) Ethylene Oxide
A chemical used both in the sterilization of surgical instruments and in the manufacturing of certain pesticides, ethylene oxide may cause birth defects in early pregnancy and has the potential to provoke early miscarriage.
9) Dibromochloropropane (DBCP)
Handling the chemicals found in pesticides, such as DBCP, can cause ovarian problems, leading to a variety of health conditions, like early menopause, that may directly impact fertility.