Hearing the dreaded words from your doctor that you’ve been diagnosed with infertility can cause much anxiety and stress. Does that mean I can’t get pregnant? I can’t have kids? Shattered dreams for many people who wanted to grow their family.

Signs of female infertility include:

  • Pain during sex
  • Heavy, long or painful periods
  • Dark or pale menstrual blood
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Hormone changes
  • Underlying medical conditions
  • Obesity
  • Not getting pregnant

Symptoms that I experienced firsthand and should have given me the red flag and cause for concern: heavy, long, or painful periods, dark menstrual blood, and not getting pregnant. But I’ll explain it all here and if you should experience any of them, please consult your doctor to be evaluated sooner rather than later. Most people don’t realize they have fertility issues until they are ready to conceive.

Pain during sex

If one experiences pain, it could be a sign of an underlying health problem that needs to be evaluated. You could have an infection, endometriosis, or fibroids. These are all risk factors for infertility.

Having an infection such as, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or other sexually transmitted diseases need to be treated or can cause greater harm to your reproductive system if left untreated.

Heavy, long or painful periods

Women who regularly experience heavy periods and painful cramps may be showing signs of endometriosis, a risk factor for infertility. Endometriosis is a condition where tissues usually found in the womb are present elsewhere in the body. A major symptom of endometriosis is chronic pelvic pain, not just during your menstrual cycle.

I was not diagnosed with endometriosis but ever since I can remember having my periods, they were always heavy, long and painful. To the point I had to miss school or work because I would be curled up in bed with so much pain in my pelvic, back and stomach area. It was just a monthly ritual I endured, not thinking that there was more to it.

When I finally went in for an ultrasound, my obstetrician/gynecologist told me I had polyps – they can be small in size like a seed or even be as big as a golf ball. You could have one or many.

Mine were benign (not cancerous) and they are common in the uterus. However, some can cause blockage in your fallopian tubes or interfere with implantation, thus affecting fertility. I had to have surgery to remove the polyps in my uterus to improve my chances of conceiving.

Dark or pale menstrual blood

Menstrual blood is usually bright red at the beginning of a woman’s period then it becomes darker over the next few days. If your menstrual blood is paler than usual or very dark at the beginning of a cycle, you should consult with your doctor.

My blood was always dark during my menstrual cycle. I would dispel clots of blood all the time during my period. This was another sign that I had polyps. Polyps form because the lining of your uterus is not being completely shed during your monthly period and due to estrogen levels.

Irregular menstrual period

The length of a menstrual cycle varies between individuals and over time. Having an irregular cycle or missing periods can contribute to infertility because it means a women is not regularly ovulating.

Having too long of a cycle (35 or more days) or too short (less than 21 days) can also mean that you’re not ovulating. Ovulation is essential because that is when the ovary releases an egg to be fertilized by a man’s sperm.

Having irregular menstrual periods and irregular ovulation can be due to having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a hormone imbalance, being overweight or underweight, or having thyroid issues.

Hormone Changes

People don’t really notice hormone changes unless a doctor specifically tests for hormonal issues. If your hormone levels fluctuate, one could have unexplained weight gain, severe acne, or reduced sex drive.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) causes a hormone imbalance and is associated with insulin resistance and obesity. It’s considered the most common cause of infertility.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Other medical conditions that can affect a women’s fertility could be damage to her fallopian tubes or ovaries, premature menopause, or undergoing cancer treatments.

Damage to your fallopian tubes or ovaries can be the result of having infections such as, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or other sexually transmitted diseases.

Damage can also be done due to previous pelvic surgeries, especially if you previously had an ectopic pregnancy, where a fertilized egg implants and develops in a fallopian tube instead of the uterus. You would have to have surgery for removal due to the pregnancy not being viable.

I had an ectopic pregnancy during my first in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. Thankfully, my tubes were not severely damaged during the surgery and I was still able to conceive after via another IVF cycle.

Obesity

Women with obesity have a lower probability of getting pregnant and are at higher risk for pregnancy related issues if they do conceive compared to those without weight issues.

Women who are also significantly underweight may experience fertility issues as well.

With the appropriate diet and exercise for one’s body type, you could possibly manage this without any major treatment.

As with any new diet or exercise regimen, it is always best to consult your doctor for their medical opinion and recommendations.

Not getting pregnant

The most significant sign of infertility in a woman is not getting pregnant after trying for at least a year. For woman over 35 years old, she may be diagnosed with infertility if she has not become pregnant after 6 months of trying.

We tried for almost 5 years to conceive naturally before we went to see a specialist.

We were young and healthy. We didn’t think anything was medically wrong with us. We went to our annual physicals and never discussed fertility issues with our physicians.

We thought it just wasn’t our time and we could make a few lifestyle changes to our diet and exercise to improve our chances of conceiving. Unfortunately, that didn’t work for us and we had to consider artificial reproductive treatments.

Conclusion

So if you experience any of these signs:

  • Pain during sex
  • Heavy, long or painful periods
  • Dark or pale menstrual blood
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Hormone changes
  • Underlying medical conditions
  • Obesity
  • Not getting pregnant

Please get checked by your doctor. Then your doctor can determine the next best steps to help you conceive.

Our next step was in vitro fertilization (IVF). It was a longer path to get our dreams realized of having children. I wish I knew the signs of infertility so I would have seen my doctor sooner rather than later to have that important discussion and evaluation.

Infertility does not discriminate – you can be young and still have fertility issues and it affects all walks of life. Studies show that it affects a third of women.

The key is to get an early diagnosis. So you have time to prepare and plan to grow your family. There are many options available – assisted reproductive treatments like IVF, surrogacy, or adoption – for your journey to parenthood.

Faith, hope, and love always.

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8 Comments

  1. Thank you for a wonderful perspective and insight on IVF and the whole insurance thing ( I’m not a fun of insurance). Having WIT(whatever it takes mentality is great). Using your experience is very great, especially sharing your story and the overcoming. Few of my mentors went thru with this, spend a lot of money and some of them end up with two amazing kids etc. Anyway I learned something. Is there any remedies that maybe people can actually do to give them the chances of having kids without IVF. 

    1. Thanks for reading! That’s awesome that your mentors shared their journey with you. Some natural remedies I’ve learned about are fertility diet, exercise, and acupuncture. Stay tuned I’ll be doing a post on that soon. But of course with any new regimen, I’d consult one’s doctor before proceeding.

  2. Hi Dana, a very thoughtful article. I checked your About Me page as well and am glad that you do have a family, even if that’s after years of trying. I had my own trials when wanting to conceive: I married in my late 30s and within a year of our wedding I was diagnosed with cancer. I had to begin chemotherapy, which I was told could very well make me infertile, and although we did see a fertility specialist they told us that they couldn’t help us in the time available before I had to start having treatment. A year after the chemo finished I did get pregnant, but sadly miscarried, but at least that gave me hope that I could get pregnant again. Three years after the initial cancer diagnosis I eventually gave birth to our wonderful daughter, and I feel grateful every day for her life, and her presence in mine.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your heartwarming life story! Blessings indeed! I’d like to include stories like this in my future blog posts – it gives others hope and inspiration – things we all need nowadays in such unprecedented times. Would you like to be featured?  

  3. I could imagine how depressed one could be if told that she will be unable to bear  her own kid, infertility goes a long way to causing depression, but getting to know the signs could help you overcome it at the initial stage, in further discussion the signs of infertility are..
    Failure to Ovulate. …
    Problems in the Menstrual Cycle. …
    Structural Problems of the Reproductive System. …
    Infections. …
    Failure of an Egg to Mature Properly. …
    Implantation Failure. …
    Endometriosis. ….
    having the knowledge of these signs will go long way go a long way to help curtail infertility in ladies…

    1. Thank you for your insights! Dealing with infertility can cause a roller coaster of emotions with one of them being depression. Which is why I also wrote a post on mental health awareness tips – please check it out if you can. 

  4. Infertility is something that is very close to my heart. All I can say it is very emotional and draining both physically and mentally. All I can request from you guys is to wish me best of luck.

    What would you recommend for irregular periods?

    Many thanks

    Habib

    1. I would recommend you speak with your doctor to determine what’s best for irregular periods since everyone’s health history is unique and different. I didn’t experience irregular periods personally.

      I wish you the very best in your journey – may you find strength when you need it the most and may you never feel alone. Feel free to check out my other posts on our IVF journey and how we dealt with infertility. Take care!

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