Signs and Symptoms of Infertility

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Relationship problems

For women, infertility means not being able to become pregnant or stay pregnant despite trying for 6 to 12 months. For men, the main sign is not being able to induce pregnancy in your partner. Infertility might be the issue if you have unprotected sex but have not gotten pregnant. This might be your only sign or symptom of infertility.

Infertility has many causes. It's just as common for the cause to originate with the man as it is with the woman. Often, though, a cause is never found.

Signs and Symptoms in Women

The most common reason for infertility in women is a problem with ovulation, the process of maturing and releasing an egg from an ovary. Women need to have normal menstrual cycles and ovulation to be fertile. Many things can interfere with ovulation. They include aging, stress, smoking, alcohol and weight.

The two most common ovulation problems causing infertility are polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and primary ovarian insufficiency (POI).

Signs and symptoms of these conditions include:

  • Irregular or missed menstrual periods

  • Growth of hair on the body or face

  • Thinning of hair in the scalp

  • Changes in skin color or acne

  • Unusual weight gain

  • Hot flashes

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Painful sexual intercourse

Signs and Symptoms in Men

The usual cause of infertility in men is abnormal sperm production. The most common reason for this is a problem with veins in the testicles, called varicoceles. These veins are larger than normal and may cause the testicles to overheat. That can affect the quality of sperm. Varicoceles may look or feel like a thick mass of blood vessels. There are usually no other symptoms of this condition.

There are other reasons why a man’s testicles do not produce healthy sperm. One reason may be testicular failure. Another name for this is hypogonadism.

Symptoms of hypogonadism may include:

When to Talk to Your Doctor

You may have infertility without any symptoms. Talk with your doctor if you have signs of infertility—not being able to conceive despite trying for 6 to 12 months, or 6 months if the woman in the relationship is 35 or older—even without symptoms.

Also let your doctor know if you experience the symptoms above, regardless of whether you are actively trying to get pregnant. This is because some conditions, such as PCOS, can lead to other health problems, such as an increased risk of diabetes.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 6

  1. Infertility FAQs., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  2. Infertility Facts Sheet.

  3. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Hormone Health Network.

  4. What Are Signs of Varicocele? American Urological Association.

  5. Hypogonadism. Hormone Health Network.

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