30 Apr Lifestyle Choices That Can Affect Fertility
Men and women cannot always make lifestyle changes that can increase their chances of a wanted pregnancy, but there are some factors that can be affected by lifestyle choices. As such, you can improve your chances of pregnancy with a few changes that could make all the difference.
The First Step
The first step in trying to achieve conception after finding no luck in doing so on your own is to consult with a physician or to make an appointment at a reproductive health center. Get a thorough assessment to see if the problem can be accurately defined and treated.
What You Can’t Change v. What You Can
There are infertility issues that cannot be solved just by changing habits or diet but require medical intervention. On the other hand, there are medical conditions that affect fertilization just to the point where it becomes difficult to conceive, but not impossible. In these situations, small lifestyle changes can tip the odds back in your favor.
For example, the most common infertility issue among women is a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This condition has several discomforting symptoms, such as acne and unwanted hair growth. From a medical point of view, however, the irregular periods and elevated blood sugar levels are truly concerning factors, given the negative effects on fertility and on overall health.
PCOS is a condition that causes a hormone imbalance that leads to irregular ovulation. It is the most common cause of female infertility and there is no cure. But, as the PCOS Awareness Association points out, “there are many ways you can decrease or eliminate PCOS symptoms and feel better.”
There are medications that can help, but lifestyle choices play a factor as well. “Losing as little as 5 percent excess weight can help women ovulate more regularly and lessen other PCOS symptoms. The ideal way to do this is through nutrition and exercise,” the association says.
Because PCOS is considered a pre-diabetic stage, that 5 percent weight loss could, in fact, be life-saving. Diabetes increases risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and high cholesterol. It makes that 5 percent weight reduction all the more critical.
Meanwhile, the lifestyle choices that can directly affect fertility do not always represent a one-to-one direct relationship. Smoking tobacco or marijuana, to point to two examples, can negatively affect fertility. That doesn’t mean that quitting smoking is a surefire way to cure infertility. However, it could directly impact your chances of conception if you quit smoking and it certainly has long-term benefits beyond conception, as well.
Here are the options for lifestyle changes that you should pursue:
The menstrual cycle is dependent on a balance of hormones that can be thrown out of balance by obesity, especially when related to abdominal fat. As such, women who are obese have a greater chance of anovulation, a condition in which the ovaries do not release an egg during a woman’s cycle.
Besides an alarming risk to your lungs and a frightening increase in rates of cancer, smoking has been shown to significantly increase (by 35 percent) the fatality rate among women with cervical cancer. Smoking is also suggested in studies to be a critical factor in conception if only because women who smoke have lower pregnancy rates than women who don’t or women who have quit smoking.
When it comes to exercise, studies suggest that woman can overdo it with regards to fertility. “Cohort studies showed that there is an increased risk of anovulation (a cycle in which no egg is released by the ovaries) in extremely heavy exercisers (<60 min/day), but a vigorous exercise of 30-60 min/day was associated with reduced risk of anovulatory infertility,” one peer-reviewed study said.
Translation: Over an hour a day of heavy exercise can be a factor in reduced fertility. On the other hand, less than an hour a day can contribute to better fertility rates.
While controlled and modest alcohol consumption is often sited as healthy, most physicians would rather patients exercise for 30 minutes to improve their health than consume a glass of alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol is extremely unhealthy for a growing fetus.
Women who are trying to get pregnant should keep their alcohol consumption to a minimum. Once they are pregnant, they should stop altogether.
Several sexually transmitted diseases can directly influence fertility in women and reduce fertility in men. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two such STDs that can reduce fertility in women. They can also create a blockage in a male’s epididymis, which is the duct sperm travels through on the way from the testis to the vas deferens. Obviously, a blockage can interfere with fertility.
Recommended change: Use a condom when engaging in sex with any partner that is an STD carrier risk.
Infertility is not considered a mental health issue, but severe stress has been implicated in some studies as interfering with fertility.
It is recommended that women limit their coffee habit to one to two cups per day. Go hang around the water cooler, instead of the coffee pot.