Can Lifestyle Choices Be Causes of Infertility?
A number of factors can lead couples to infertility, but not all of them are medically related. Certain lifestyle choices can affect fertility just as much, if not more, than medical conditions.
It is important for hopeful parents to practice a healthy lifestyle while trying to conceive. The lifestyle choices that both men and women make can play a large part in whether or not they can get pregnant and have a healthy child.
Most of these lifestyle issues can be resolved through a personal choice to improve. Couples should be aware of the lifestyle issues listed below that may contribute to infertility, and help one another improve their daily habits.
If these issues become unmanageable, couples are encouraged to discuss further options with their healthcare provider or with an infertility physician.
Women’s lifestyle issues
Maintain a healthy weight
When it comes to female fertility, a woman’s weight can greatly impact her hormone production. Being significantly overweight or underweight can inhibit normal ovulation. Women who are obese can have a harder time getting pregnant and can take longer to achieve pregnancy than a woman of normal weight. It is important for women to maintain a weight that is considered medically healthy, measured by a body mass index (BMI) calculator.
Bodies perform best when they are fueled by healthy nutrients, and pregnancy is no exception. It is important to eat nutritious foods likes fruits and vegetables as opposed to foods that are high in fat and preservatives. Conditions caused by food intake, including celiac disease (gluten sensitivity), can also affect a woman’s fertility.
Prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Effects of STDs, specifically chlamydia and gonorrhea, can lead to infertility in women. The best way to avoid contracting STDs is to practice safe sex and limit the number of sexual partners.
In addition to other health concerns, smoking ages a woman’s ovaries and depletes her eggs prematurely. If a woman does not have healthy eggs, she will struggle to become pregnant.
Limit alcohol consumption
An increase in ovulation disorders is associated with heavy drinking. Women who are trying to get pregnant are encouraged to avoid alcohol completely.
Though there are not clear links between caffeine and infertility, many reproductive experts recommend limiting daily caffeine consumption to less than 200 to 300 milligrams (or two cups).
Be wary of vigorous physical activity
While exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are important, physical activity should be done in moderation. Excessive physical activity can inhibit ovulation and reduce production of progesterone, which are essential in becoming pregnant. Doctors recommend that women who are trying to become pregnant should not exercise more than five hours weekly.
Avoid exposure to toxins
Exposure to toxins can affect hormones and the health of a woman’s eggs. Certain jobs can result in over exposure to these toxins. For example, dental assistants are exposed to high levels of nitrous oxide and industrial workers are exposed to drugs and chemicals during manufacturing processes. Agricultural workers and hair stylists are among other careers that may lead to reduced fertility due to toxic exposure.
Men’s lifestyle issues
Maintain a healthy diet
The cells in a man’s body do not properly function if the body lacks nutrients. For this reason, it is important for men to maintain well-balanced diets to ensure their bodies have the nutrients needed to function properly, which assists in the production of healthy sperm.
Avoid alcohol and drug abuse
Aside from contributing to overall poor health, drugs and alcohol can lower the number and quality of a man’s sperm. Steroids specifically can cause testicles to shrink, decreasing sperm production.
When it comes to fertility, men who are overweight may struggle to produce sperm. Obesity can also lead to a decreased sex drive. It is important for men to maintain a healthy weight in comparison to their height (BMI).
Do not use tobacco
Tobacco is proven to decrease sperm production, in addition to causing a number of other overall health concerns.
Prolonged stress can interfere with the hormones needed to produce sperm. Sometimes infertility itself can lead to stress so it is important for men to find a healthy release from stress during the time in which they are trying to conceive. Yoga, meditation and exercise are great ways to relieve day-to-day anxiety.
Certain chemicals can create female hormone-like effects in the male body, which can lead to reduced sperm production. Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and other chemicals may also affect the sperm’s ability to bind to an egg during fertilization.
Activities that cause increased scrotal temperature
In order for sperm to mature, they must be a couple of degrees below normal body temperature, which is why the testicles are in the scrotum located outside the main body. Spending excessive time in hot tubs, wearing tight underwear, holding a laptop directly on the lap and other activities that increase scrotal temperature can decrease sperm production.