Fertility, Lifestyle and Health

How They Influence Your Ability to Conceive

About 10 to 15 percent of couples are impacted by infertility.  Many factors can influence your ability to get pregnant, including the lifestyles and health of both partners—not just the female.  Let’s take a look at how lifestyle and your health affect your fertility.

Lifestyle Choices Can Limit Fertility

Lifestyle factors are the habits and choices you make that can influence your health and wellbeing, including your fertility.  Many research studies have found there are habits that negatively affect your health and your fertility, while others have positive effects by improving your overall health.  Cigarette smoking, using drugs, heavy drinking, and caffeine consumption can negatively affect your health and fertility.  Being overweight or obese contributes to poor semen quality in men and higher rates of miscarriage in women.

Eating a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, and a moderate amount of carbohydrates is associated with lower rates of infertility due to ovulation disorders.  Moderate physical exercise may help protect fertility in both men and women.  However, excessive exercise lowers sperm quality in men and may stop ovulation in women.  Likewise, being underweight has a negative effect on fertility.

The relationship between stress and infertility is not clear.  It’s a chicken-and-egg question, but reducing stress seems to have an influence in increasing fertility.

Health and Fertility

Some medical conditions directly affect your fertility.  Diabetes can lead to reduced sperm quality, and can also cause men to have problems getting or maintaining erections.  In women, diabetes can increase the risk of miscarriage or of having an overly large baby, which is dangerous to both mother and child.  Well-controlled blood sugar levels diminish these risks.  Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects one in 10 women of childbearing age.  Caused by hormone imbalance and metabolism problems, it is a common and treatable form of infertility.  Most men with cystic fibrosis are infertile because of absence of the sperm canal, known as congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens.  This condition prevents sperm from getting into semen.

Infertility is Not Sterility

In some cases, infertility can be managed by losing weight, stopping smoking, and other lifestyle factors.  If these measures don’t work, or if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year or more, you may want to consult a reproductive endocrinologist.  The fertility specialist is an expert in assisted reproductive technology (ART), and will develop a treatment plan to help you achieve the family you desire.  Many of the causes of infertility are treatable, both in women and in men.  In about 40 percent of cases both partners need fertility treatment to have a baby.  According to the CDC, 1.9 percent of all babies born in the U.S. in recent years were conceived with the use of ART.  With this technology and expertise, there’s hope for creating a family of your own.