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Risk Factors

Many of the risk factors for both male and female infertility are the same. These include:

  • Age. A woman's age can affect her fertility. By age 40, a woman's chance of pregnancy has decreased from 90 percent to 67 percent. By age 45, the chance of becoming pregnant declines to 15 percent. Infertility in older women may be due to a higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities that occur in the eggs as they age. Older women are also more likely to have health problems that may interfere with fertility. The risk of miscarriage also is much greater for older women.
  • Emotional factors. Depression and stress may have a direct effect on the hormones that regulate reproduction and affect sperm production or ovulation.
  • Occupational and environmental risks. Studies suggest that prolonged exposure to high mental stress, high temperatures, chemicals, radiation, or heavy electromagnetic or microwave emissions may reduce fertility in both men and women.
  • Unprotected sex. Having multiple sex partners and not using condoms may increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that can cause infertility in both men and women.
  • Smoking. Smoking may increase the risk of infertility in women and may reduce sperm production in men.
  • Alcohol use. Even moderate alcohol intake - as few as five drinks a week - can impair conception.
  • Being overweight. Body fat levels that are 10 percent to 15 percent above normal can overload the body with estrogen, throwing off the reproductive cycle.
  • Being underweight. Body fat levels 10 percent to 15 percent below normal can completely shut down the reproductive process. Women at risk include those with eating disorders , such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, and women on a very low-calorie or restrictive diet. Strict vegetarians also may experience infertility problems due to a lack of important nutrients such as vitamin B-12, zinc, iron and folic acid. Marathon runners, dancers and others who exercise very intensely are more prone to menstrual irregularities and infertility.

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