How Does Chronic Illness Affect Fertility?

What chronic illnesses can affect my fertility and why?
profile picture of Laurence A. Jacobs, MD, reproductive endocrinologist, Fertility Centers of Illinois
ByLaurence A. Jacobs, MD, reproductive endocrinologist, Fertility Centers of Illinois
Fertility Specialist
Updated
Mar 2017
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When you’re fighting a chronic illness, your reproductive system becomes a fairly low priority for your body, which may need to pay more attention to vital organs like the heart, brain, kidneys and lungs, and less attention to the ovaries or uterus. A wide variety of chronic illnesses, from heart disease to diabetes, can suppress both ovulation and sperm production, which can make it difficult to get pregnant. Thyroid disorders can also stop ovulation. If you’re fighting cancer, the treatments themselves, including  chemotherapy drugs and radiation to the pelvic area, can suppress fertility. And certain autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, can interfere with your ability to start a family.

The good news is that some of these illnesses can be treated. Type 2 diabetes, for example, can often be controlled with a healthy diet, exercise and weight loss. If you live with a chronic illness, talk to your doctor about ways to get your symptoms under control and what you may be able to do to improve your fertility odds.

 

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