The most common underlying reasons include age, poor diet, weight (both underweight and overweight), nutrient deficiency, stress and anxiety, exposure to toxins, and decreased potency of sperm (due to environmental and lifestyle factors). Genetic issues or unknown birth defects may also contribute.
Tina Koopersmith MD, FACOG, founder of West Coast Women's Reproductive Center, explains it's important to look at an individual's health in a holistic way, similarly to how autoimmune issues are identified and ultimately addressed.
Risk factors that can be focused on immediately include:
- Achieving an appropriate BMI for height/build.
- Incorporating a mostly plant-based diet with lots of vegetables and fruit (up to nine servings per day).
- Vitamin supplementation, especially vitamin D and folic acid (folate).
- Egg quality and quantity
- Ovarian age (which may not correlate with your biological age)
- Pituitary hormone levels
- Anti-mullerian hormone levels (AMH)
- Pelvis (cervix, uterus, tubes)
- Semen analysis
- Erratic menstrual cycles: medication to help ovulation.
- Sperm is abnormal: attempts to "fix" the sperm, such as IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (In Vitro Fertilization).
- Unexplained infertility: combination of fertility drugs and IUI or IVF.
- Third-party reproduction: egg donation, sperm donation, surrogacy.
Finally, she says it's important to be an advocate for yourself. Know your body, treat it well, and be aggressive in understanding what your fertility status is. If you feel like it's taking a long time and your doctor isn't open to doing a full fertility work-up, ask for a consult.
And, if you're young now but don't plan on starting a family for a while, think about freezing your eggs.
Listen in as Dr. Koopersmith joins Dr. Taz to provide an overview of fertility causes, potential solutions, and alternatives should natural pregnancy not be an option.