Whether you are in the middle of fertility treatment or trying for a baby on your own, there are proven wellness strategies that can help to tip the scales in your favor.
While making lifestyle changes is difficult, the added benefit is that you’ll also boost your overall health, and feel great as a result. This could mean more energy, better sleep and/or improved mood.
Remember that every positive step you make helps you reach your ultimate goal. Working out twice a week is better than not at all. Having one glass of wine is better than a bottle. Aim for progress, not perfection, and congratulate yourself for each success along the way.
6 ways to boost fertility and fertility treatment success
Nourish your body. Food is medicine, and what you put in your body can fuel your health. A Mediterranean or Greek diet has been shown to be best for individuals and couples trying to conceive. These diets center on fish and seafood as the main source of animal protein, as well as plant-based sources of fats such as avocados and olives. A study done on 501 couples in Texas and Michigan found that increasing seafood intake to 8 or more servings per month increases both fecundity and sexual intercourse frequency. Opt for lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains. Limit or restrict refined carbohydrates, sweets and saturated fats.
Aim for a healthy weight. When the body is at a healthy weight, it helps regulate monthly ovulation and sperm production. As weight increases, hormones are thrown off in both men and women, which can cause ovulation disorders and alter the shape, movement or count of sperm. It can even make it harder for an egg to fertilize and implant in the uterus, and has been associated with an increased rate of pregnancy loss. Studies have found that losing as little as five percent of body weight in individuals with a BMI over the normal range can dramatically improve fertility potential. A BMI under the normal range can also interfere with ovulatory function – aim for a BMI of 18.5-24.9 to boost fertility.
Limit coffee and alcohol. Both coffee and alcohol can have a negative impact on fertility potential in women and men if overdone when trying to conceive. As recommended by the America Society of Reproductive Medicine bulletin on optimizing natural fertility, aim to limit caffeine to 200mg per day, which is roughly two eight-ounce cups of coffee, and remember that caffeine is also found in tea, chocolate and soft drinks. Consuming more than 500mg of caffeine per day has been associated with infertility, and when pregnant, consuming more than 2-3 cups per day increases miscarriage rates. Cut back alcohol to no more than two to three servings per week. One serving of alcohol is one ounce of hard liquor, 4.5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer. When you become pregnant, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that alcohol consumption cease completely.
Stamp out cigarettes. Smoking harms the fertility potential of both men and women. Medical research published in Human Reproduction found that female smokers are more commonly found to be infertile. In women, chemicals in cigarettes accelerate egg loss and can cause menopause to occur one to four years earlier. For men, cigarettes decrease sperm quality, count, shape (morphology), and ability to move (motility). Smoking can also impact the ability of sperm to fertilize an egg. Quitting smoking, while extremely challenging, is one of the biggest positive changes that can be made for your health and fertility.
Move your body. Exercise is a great way to boost your physical and mental health. In a world where many are sitting all day, prioritizing 30 minutes of movement can make a big difference. Pick something you enjoy and can commit to doing. If you can’t decide, just take a walk. But save the Ironman training for another time – lengthy regular exercise can interrupt ovulation in women and excessive time in the bike saddle can hurt sperm production in men.
Say no to stress. Trying for a baby can be stressful, particularly when you are completing fertility treatment. If you’re doing the other items above, you’re already working on decreasing your stress. While we can’t control what happens in our lives, we can control how we react and what we allow into our day-to-day. Stress can come in all forms – an invitation to a baby shower, a packed social calendar or a tight work deadline. Say no when you can. When you can’t, invite peace through deep, calming breaths or a five-minute meditation session. We also encourage you to attend one of our free support groups or speak with Dr. Tiffany Edwards, our licensed clinical psychologist. All patients are offered one complimentary session.
Medical contribution by Elie Hobeika, M.D.
Dr. Hobeika is board certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. He has studied with world leaders in PCOS and recurrent pregnancy loss and is fluent in English, French, and Arabic.