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7 Silent Signs of Infertility Every Couple Should Know

Your cramps, his orgasms and zits(!) are surprisingly common early signs of infertility

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You’ve been trying to get pregnant for 6 months

That’s about the time frame women between the ages of 35 and 40 should give themselves, before discussing fertility concerns with their doctor. For women under 35, experts recommend trying for about a year—really trying, as in unprotected, well-timed intercourse—before having any testing or treatment; women over 40 may want to consult an obstetrician/gynecologist right away. See your doctor sooner than later if you’ve suffered multiple miscarriages, have a history of pelvic inflammatory disease (a serious complication of some STDs), or experience any other symptoms of infertility. Meanwhile, learn these infertility myths you don’t have to worry about.

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You have no idea when your period is coming

Twenty-eight days is the average length of a menstrual cycle, though anything between 21 and 35 days is considered normal. Fluctuating a little from month to month is one thing, but if your period is so irregular that you don’t even try to track it anymore, it could indicate a problem producing eggs, or ovulating. Ovulation disorders (meaning you ovulate infrequently or not at all) account for infertility in about 25 percent of infertile couples, according to the Mayo Clinic. One of the most common causes of female infertility is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)—a condition characterized by longer than normal stretches between periods, or even skipping cycles for months in a row. (Get the silent signs of PCOS here.) Irregular periods may also result from excessive physical or emotional stress, which can mess with the hormones responsible for stimulating ovulation each month; being too heavy or too thin, or gaining or losing a lot of weight quickly may also have the same effect. Talk to your doctor; he may be able to prescribe fertility drugs to help induce or stimulate ovulation.

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When it comes, it’s crazy heavy

Heavy, as in a pad and a tampon still doesn’t feel like enough. Certain medical conditions, like thyroid problems or kidney disease, can cause excessive menstrual bleeding, medications (such as anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-coagulants) may as well; or the reason may be a condition linked to infertility. In a normal menstrual cycle, the hormones estrogen and progesterone work together to regulate the buildup of the lining of the uterus—that’s the stuff that sheds during your period. But if, for example, your ovaries don’t release an egg, the dominoes are tipped: your body produces less progesterone, hormones become imbalanced, the lining in your uterus over-develops, and you end up bleeding extra heavily. Fibroids in your uterus can also cause heavier or longer-than-normal periods; some types of these benign tumors can block fallopian tubes or interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. Up to 10 percent of infertile women have fibroids, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. If you soak through at least one pad or tampon an hour for more than a few hours, see your doctor.  This is the worst health advice gynecologists have ever heard.

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Or it’s insanely painful

We’re not talking about that uncomfortable throb or dull ache that most women are cursed with during their periods—those cramps are your uterus’s way of telling you it’s contracting to expel its lining. For some women, the message comes through more loudly and clearly than others, but it doesn’t compare to the pelvic pain and severe cramping associated with endometriosis. This kind may begin before your period and extend several days into it, it may include your lower back and cause abdominal pain, and it can get worse over time. Endometriosis occurs when tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows in other locations, such as your ovaries, bowel or pelvis. The extra tissue growth (and its’ surgical removal) can cause scarring, it can get in the way of an egg and sperm uniting, and it may also affect the lining of the uterus, disrupting implantation. Approximately one-third to one-half of women with endometriosis have difficulty getting pregnant. Other symptoms include pain during intercourse, urination and bowel movements.  Here are other conditions that cause stomach pain.

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You face breaks out like a teenager

It’s not because you just ate a whole lot of greasy food (myth!). Sudden, out-of-control acne could be blamed on fluctuating hormones (from your period or menopause), a whole lot of stress, or a medication side effect. It may also be a sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome. That’s because in women with PCOS, ovaries make more androgen—the “male hormone”—than normal. Elevated levels may lead to adult acne flare-ups, as well as excessive facial or body hair, and even male-patterned baldness. These natural acne remedies may help your skin.

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Your man’s scrotum is swollen

Nope, infertility is not only about you: about one-third of all infertility cases treated in the United States are caused by a male problem. Varicocele is one of them, and it’s when the veins that drain the testicle become enlarged, similar to the varicose veins you get in your leg. It may cause the scrotum to swell or form a weird, twisted mass on the surface (kind of like a small bag of worms). The condition may decrease the quality of sperm, as well as how much is produced—thus impacting fertility. The good news: varicocele can be surgically repaired, which may improve sperm numbers and function or cure the infertility.

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He has “dry” orgasms

Obviously sperm is an essential ingredient in baby making, so when very little—or no—semen is ejaculated during climax, making that baby can be tough. Aptly called retrograde ejaculation, what happens is the semen goes backwards into the bladder, instead of up and out through the penis. A bunch of health conditions can cause it, including diabetes, nerve damage from spinal injuries, certain medications, and surgery of the bladder, prostate or urethra; treatment depends on the underlying cause. These are health secrets your prostate secretly wishes you knew.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest