Lifestyle Changes to Improve Fertility
If you are struggling with getting pregnant, a consultation with one of Ohio Reproductive Medicine’s board-certified fertility specialists is highly recommended. However, in addition, you may consider simple lifestyle changes that can help improve your chances of conception. The goal is to create the healthiest environment for conception and pregnancy.
Keys to fertility
For both women and men, the keys to fertility include maintaining a healthy weight, exercise and choosing foods that support your ability to conceive and achieve pregnancy.
30% of infertility has been associated with weight extremes. Infertility rates are 3 times higher in obese women. Women who are overweight can improve their fertility by losing just 5% of their body weight. Insulin resistance causes the body to release more insulin which halts ovulation. Underweight women often suffer with ovulation problems as well.
Obesity in men alters testosterone and other hormones that can affect sperm count and sperm mobility. Sperm-related infertility accounts for up to 33% of male factor infertility.
In addition to diet, lifestyle choices that support conceptions include limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and moderate daily exercise.
Healthy eating can optimize fertility
What you eat affects the health of you or your partner’s eggs and sperm. A Harvard study reported that women can decrease infertility risk due to ovulation disorders by 80% with healthy dietary changes (1). The Fertility Diet created by Walter Willett from Harvard School of Public health is designed to boost ovulation and improve fertility (2). It is based on sound science.
- Consuming full fat dairy is associated with a lower risk of ovarian dysfunction, and supports healthy ovulation. Avoid Low fat dairy because studies have shown they increase ovulatory dysfunction.
- Consume protein from meat and vegetables. Don’t eat too much animal protein as in increases the risk of infertility.
- Consuming soy can help female fertility. Men should avoid soy as it can lower sperm count.
- Eat more fiber.
- Eat dark leafy greens to improve ovulation, and make healthy sperm.
- Include beans in your diet as they boost fertility.
- Adding walnuts to your man’s diet can improve his fertility.
- Avoid Trans Fats which are associated with a high risk of infertility.
- Avoid highly processed foods and hydrogenated oils.
- Reduce carbs and sugar. Eat complex carbs to stabilize blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels have been reported to reduce conception.
- Moderate caffeine consumption 1-2 cups per day has no effect on fertility. Higher doses may. The science is not conclusive.
- Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin that is formulated to provide the nutrients you need for optimal hormone function, egg development and fetal development. Prenatal vitamins contain folate, Vitamins A&D, iron, B6 and B12. These nutrients are the building blocks of a healthy pregnancy. Folate from food alone is not sufficient. Folate from nutritional supplements can increase pregnancy success. Women should take 800 mcg/ day of folate during fertility treatments and throughout pregnancy.
- Take an iron supplement. Studies report that women who regularly took an iron supplement were 40% less likely to have difficulty getting pregnant.
- Sperm stored in the body is at risk of oxidative stress which damages sperm DNA. The risk for damage to sperm involves smoking, obesity, chronic disease and being over the age of 38. Including antioxidants like vitamin C, E, Folic Acid, selenium and zinc can reduce sperm damage.
- Vitamin D is essential to the creation of sex hormones, and for ovulation. Lower vitamin D affects sperm motility, and in women is associated with pregnancy complications. A Yale study reported that vitamin D deficiency is linked to infertility. Improving Vitamin D levels has been shown to improve success with IVF.
- Vitamin E is associated with positive reproductive outcomes. It can shorten the time to pregnancy, and improve sperm motility. But take caution since high doses of these supplements can have a negative impact. Omega 3 fatty acids help regulate your hormones, promote ovulation and improve blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Moderate exercise (up to one hour) can reduce the risk of infertility, and improve sperm quality. Poor sperm quality can cause miscarriages. Exercise of less than 15 min can increase the risk of infertility. Extreme exercise can cause infertility. How you exercise can also impact your success with IVF.
Oral health is vital. Gum disease, cavities and periodontitis negatively impact pregnancy.
Studies show that smoking increases your chance for infertility by 13%. Smoking can extend the time it takes to conceive. Smoking also increases your risk for a miscarriage and can cause birth defects
Alcohol can impact both female and male fertility, affecting conception and implantation. There is no safe dose of alcohol.
Stress impairs fertility. Try acupuncture, yoga, meditation, breathing and other mind body therapies. Massage can help too.
Understanding your fertility cycle can improve your chance of conception. Timing intercourse can help improve conception, but it does not affect fertility.
It is known that some water- based lubricants and any lubricant that contains a spermicide are to be avoided. There are sperm friendly lubricant that won’t affect sperm motility.
Melatonin is naturally produced by the body during sleep. Any artificial light, including device screen light can affect melatonin production. Sleep decreases cortisol levels which can lower testosterone.
Men can improve their fertility by eliminating tight fitting clothes, long bike rides and hot tubs, and avoiding holding a laptop in their lap because this can increase scrotal temperature and reduce sperm production.