Your Parenting Info Sign Up

Women’s Fertility — Health and Lifestyle

by Jane Wangersky | June 23rd, 2014 | Pregnancy

rhythm-250253_640Recently, we looked at how a man’s lifestyle and health can affect his ability to father children — how drinking, smoking, obesity, and other factors such as illness can make a man infertile. This is important, as a third of all fertility problems stem from the male partner. It’s time now to look at women, who are the cause of another third of fertility problems (the last third is due to both partners, or to unknown causes). While many of the factors that cause infertility in women are the same as those that do it to men, there are notable differences. There are also differences in the way the problem is treated.

Like men’s, women’s fertility can be affected by smoking, heavy drinking, drug use, and an unhealthy weight. Age, of course, is also a factor, with women’s fertility — like men’s — declining as they get older and eventually — unlike men’s — ending completely. Also unlike men, women can become infertile through intensive athletic training or being under, not just over, a healthy weight. (A woman’s body seems to interpret these as signs of harsh living conditions, not right for a baby.)

Like men, women can find their fertility affected by medical conditions. According to, “Most cases of female infertility are caused by problems with ovulation. Without ovulation, there are no eggs to be fertilized.” Polycystic ovarian syndrome (cysts in the ovaries, along with other conditions) and primary ovarian insufficiency (when the ovaries stop functioning before age 40) are two common causes of this. Irregular periods (or no periods at all) can be a sign that ovulation isn’t happening.

Physical problems with the uterus (womb) or fallopian tubes can also cause infertility, but this is less common. Problems like this may have to be treated surgically, as men’s infertility problems often are.

However, women’s infertility can often be treated with medication to stimulate ovulation. Some (Clomid and Glucophage, for example) are taken orally, while some (Repronex, Pergonal,Follistim and others) are injected. Gn-RH analogs can be taken by nasal spray.

Some of these medications can increase a woman’s chance of having twins — or even more multiples. So it’s important to be ready for that possibility if you’re prescribed any of them. (Twin births are on the increase, and fertility drugs don’t account for all of it — read about other factors here.)

Most of all, a woman with infertility issues needs support. Once again, this is something a couple needs to face together.

Comments on Women’s Fertility — Health and Lifestyle