If you’ve struggled to become pregnant after many long months of actively trying to conceive, it’s only natural to wonder whether you or your partner has an undiagnosed medical condition that affects your fertility as a couple.
While it’s true that a significant number of couples eventually find out that low sperm count, poor sperm motility, an ovulation disorder, or a gynecological condition like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is to blame for their infertility, just as many couples are surprised to find out that their fertility problems may be a result of certain lifestyle factors.
Luckily, you can control most of these factors, meaning you can alter or reverse them simply by making a conscious effort to make certain changes and cultivate healthier daily habits. Read on to learn how your lifestyle may be affecting your fertility, and what you can do about it.
Achieve a healthy body weight
About 10% of women of reproductive age in the United States experience difficulty either becoming pregnant or staying pregnant. For many of these women, infertility is often directly linked to body weight.
Being overweight or significantly underweight can make it more difficult to become pregnant because both conditions can impact your estrogen levels and interrupt normal ovulation, which is the release of an egg from one of your ovaries each month.
Carrying too much extra body fat can lead to higher-than-normal levels of circulating estrogen, which inhibits ovulation, much like birth control. Not having enough body fat has the opposite effect, in that it makes it harder for your body to sustain enough circulating estrogen to stimulate monthly ovulation.
If you’re overweight or underweight, taking steps to reach a healthier body weight may be enough to reestablish normal ovulation and make pregnancy possible.
Whether you smoke a pack a day or you only smoke when you’re stressed out, quitting cigarettes is one of the best ways to improve your health as well as your fertility.
Tobacco restricts female fertility in a multitude of far-reaching ways. Smoking can age your ovaries prematurely, deplete the number of healthy eggs you have left, damage your cervix and fallopian tubes, and increase your chances of having an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. If that isn’t enough, smoking is also extremely harmful to your overall health as well as that of your developing fetus.
When you kick the smoking habit for good, improved fertility is just one of the benefits you stand to gain. You’ll also be improving your long-term health, protecting your pregnancy, and increasing the likelihood that you’ll deliver a healthy, full-term baby.
Eat a nutritious diet
Although fertility experts don’t know exactly how a woman’s nutritional status affects her chances of conceiving, they do know that your body — and your reproductive system — perform best when fueled by a nutritious, well-balanced diet that supports optimal function.
You don’t have to adopt a special “fertility diet” when you’re trying to conceive, either — all you have to do is opt for whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein sources, and healthy fats whenever possible, and avoid or limit refined grains and foods that are high in added sugars, preservatives, or unhealthy fats.
Fertility experts do recommend, however, that you limit the amount of caffeine you consume when trying to conceive. While research hasn’t yet shown a clear link between too much caffeine and infertility, it’s believed that drinking too much caffeine can affect hormone levels and interfere with ovulation.
You probably already know that drinking alcohol while pregnant can endanger the health of your unborn child, but did you know that drinking alcohol can also significantly reduce your fertility?
Researchers aren’t clear on exactly how alcohol consumption compromises conception, but evidence suggests that it disrupts normal ovulation in multiple ways.
Because no one knows precisely how much or how little alcohol it takes to impair reproductive function, however, women who are trying to conceive are typically advised to avoid alcohol completely.
Aim for moderate exercise
If you already exercise regularly, keep it up. Exercise helps you maintain a strong, healthy body and puts you in an ideal position for a healthy pregnancy, when the time comes.
But when you’re still trying to conceive, it’s best to avoid or limit strenuous exercise. Routine intense physical activity has been shown to interfere with normal ovulation and reduce levels of progesterone, a reproductive hormone that’s essential for pregnancy.
In fact, researchers have found a strong correlation between increased frequency, intensity, and duration of exercise and decreased fertility in women.
Whether you’re an avid runner, a competitive bodybuilder, or some other type of highly active athlete, dialing your activity level down to moderate intensity may be all you need to do to finally conceive.
No matter what lifestyle changes you need to make to support optimal fertility, board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Darin L. Weyhrich is always ready to help. Call our office today or click the button to contact us.