After indulging during the holiday season, the New Year is the perfect time to set health goals that can improve your fertility and overall health. There is no better time than the present to incorporate lifestyle changes that will allow you to take control of your life, your health, and your fertility.
While there is a lot we can accomplish during fertility treatment, only you can make healthy lifestyle choices that will greatly help in achieving the goal of a child. You must be empowered to change things for the better in order to give conception the best chances for success. Here are the five most important health and fertility-boosting tips that I share with each of my patients.
Quit smoking and vaping. Study after study clearly shows that cigarette smoking hurts fertility in men and women. Cigarettes lower sperm counts and motility (movement), as well as sperm fertilizing function. Ovarian blood flow and egg quality are also harmed by smoking, and smoking is extremely harmful to fetal development. While there has not been a lot of time for research on vaping and fertility, a recent mouse study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society found that pregnant mothers exposed to e-cigarette vapor showed a significant delay in the onset of the first litter, as well as impaired embryo implantation despite high levels of progesterone. This leads us to conclude that it will take much longer for a woman to get pregnant if she vapes.
Aim for a healthy weight goal. As little as 5 to 10 percent in weight loss for those that are obese or overweight can dramatically improve your chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby. Many studies have shown that in obese women, especially those with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), weight loss is associated with a resumption of ovulation, higher pregnancy rates with all fertility treatments, fewer pregnancy complications, and better perinatal outcomes. Excess weight also impacts male fertility potential. Male obesity has been linked to increased sperm DNA fragmentation and can impact sperm production as well. Pre-diabetes and diabetes, both of which are commonly caused by obesity, have been associated with an increased risk of sperm DNA damage. This results in a higher risk of miscarriage, lower testosterone levels and a loss in libido.
Eat healthy, nourishing food. Contrary to what you might see online, there are not any fertility “miracle” foods. But eating healthier is not just a good idea, it can improve your overall fertility. Start by increasing your intake of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and limiting refined carbohydrates like white bread, cookies, and cake. Doing this can balance hormones and normalize blood sugar and insulin levels, boosting fertility. In a 2018 review, Harvard University scientists found that folic acid, vitamin B-12, omega-3 fatty acids, and a Mediterranean diet were linked with better fertility in women. Conversely, the study found that diets high in trans fats, red and processed meats, added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with lower fertility. Another recent study found that a diet high in any kind of fat negatively affected testosterone production in men. Maybe a good call to skip Keto then?
Get active often. Moderate exercise will help you lose weight, feel better, reduce stress and feel good. Studies have found that moderate exercise improves fertility for all body types, and this can be as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day or taking your favorite exercise class three times a week. Intense exercise can have a negative impact on fertility, so it is important to talk with your doctor about exercise habits before trying to get pregnant.
Commit to sleeping. Give yourself a bedtime to follow and turn off electronic distractions such as phones, laptops, tablets, and TV. A 2017 study found that women with sleep disorders other than sleep apnea may be more than three times as likely to experience infertility as their counterparts who don’t have trouble sleeping. Aim for at least seven hours a night, and eight or nine of you can swing it. You can’t “make up” for lost sleep, so make this a daily habit. If you’re exercising and eating well, getting a good night’s sleep will also come a lot easier.
Author Bio: Dr. Laurence Jacobs, Fertility Centers of Illinois