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Health Conditions That Affect Fertility

Dianna Graveman |14, May 2012


Trying to conceive when you have a health condition can be challenging. Certain conditions can make it more difficult or can cause issues during the pregnancy. Your health care provider can supply you with important information about controlling your condition and increasing your chances of getting pregnant, but here's a quick guide to some conditions that may make conceiving a little tricky.


With endometriosis, tissue from the endometrium (uterine lining) grows outside the uterus. This tissue eventually causes scarring to build up on the ovaries or fallopian tubes, which can block the tubes and prevent an egg from being fertilized. If your health care provider determines that you have endometriosis, surgical intervention may be necessary to improve fertility.


For most women, diabetes does not make it more difficult to conceive. However, it can limit the window of opportunity over time because women with either type 1 or 2 tend to start menstruating when they are a little older than average. Mature diabetic women may enter menopause a little earlier, too. Also, the incidence of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is higher in women with type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that PCOS is associated with insulin resistance.

The disorder can cause irregular periods or complete cessation of periods. Besides infrequent periods and difficulty conceiving, other symptoms of PCOS include increased body hair growth, thinning scalp hair, acne, and pelvic pain. Treatment methods are available to help regulate your periods and sometimes resolve infertility issues related to PCOS. If you suspect you have PCOS, consult your health care provider immediately.


Obese women also have a higher risk of developing PCOS, which can lead to fertility issues. Along with various health care interventions, sometimes simply losing weight can help balance hormones and restore a woman's menstrual cycle. Try to establish a reasonable exercise routine you can stick to. Daily walks are often a good way to get started if you are not used to strenuous exercise.


High blood pressure does not directly affect your ability to conceive, although the symptom often accompanies other health conditions that can--like PCOS and obesity. Developing an exercise routine and modifying your diet to reduce weight will benefit you not only while trying to conceive, but it will help keep both you and your baby healthy while you are pregnant. Also, some drugs used to treat hypertension in males, such as spironolactone, can affect fertility by interfering with sperm production or with the sperm's ability to fertilize eggs. Men who take Tagamet for peptic ulcers may also experience lower sperm production. If your partner or spouse has high blood pressure, talk with your health care provider about medicine alternatives.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Many STDs, if not treated, can damage a woman's fallopian tubes and cause infertility. Men can also experience infertility because of STDs, which can often cause scarring that blocks ejaculatory ducts and other structures. Seek medical attention as soon as possible, if you suspect you have contracted an STD. Some of these diseases can be effectively treated if diagnosed quickly.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

PID affects a woman's fallopian tubes, uterus, and ovaries. Some STDs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, but occasionally a woman can also contract the condition if complications arose during an abortion or other pelvic surgery. It is less likely, but still possible, for PID to occur with use of an IUD (intrauterine device) or after complications from childbirth. According to a 2009 Harvard Medical School report, women who have had one PID episode have about a 15 percent risk of becoming infertile. With a second episode, that risk doubles to about 30 percent, and for three or more occurrences, a woman's risk jumps to more than 50 percent. If you have had very painful menstrual periods and have had an STD--or if for any reason you suspect you have PID, your doctor can provide treatment and information about your chances of becoming pregnant.

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