Potential titles: What can women do to maximise their chances of conceiving?/Lifestyle factors affecting fertility in women
Women who become pregnant are encouraged to adapt their lifestyle to minimise risks to the pregnancy; however it is becoming increasingly apparent that lifestyle factors also have a significant on a woman’s chances of conceiving in the first place. Research has shown that for both men and women, making positive changes to nutrition and lifestyle is associated with increased chances of pregnancy.
Here are some of the key lifestyle factors that may have an impact on women’s fertility:
It is well known that pregnant women should avoid drinking alcohol, but there is also evidence that women trying to conceive can boost their chances of pregnancy by cutting it out. It is thought that alcohol may cause hormonal fluctuations that interfere with ovulation, as well as increasing the risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy.
Studies suggest that women who smoke are less fertile than non-smokers, possibly due to the impact of toxic chemicals on the balance of hormones in the body and the function of the ovaries. Moreover, quitting should be a priority for anyone hoping to conceive due to the significant risks to the baby of exposure to smoking in the womb.
Drugs and medication
Recreational drugs are an obvious no-no, but some prescription and over the counter medications can also interfere with your chances of conception. If you take any medications, it is worth checking with your doctor or pharmacist whether you should continue to do so when you are trying to conceive.
It is thought that stress may affect hormone levels in the body, impacting on fertility. Research suggests that women suffering from anxiety who receive support and counselling have an increased chance of becoming pregnant, so it is worth seeking help if you are feeling anxious, especially if struggling to conceive itself is causing stress.
Weight, diet and exercise
You can maximise your chances of conceiving by maintaining a healthy weight, with a body mass index of between twenty and twenty-five, because being overweight or underweight may cause problems with ovulation. A balanced diet and regular exercise are important for maintaining a healthy weight, and these lifestyle factors are also associated with better fertility outcomes.
As well as ensuring you eat a range of healthy foods and keep processed foods to a minimum, it is also recommended that you begin taking a folic acid supplement as soon as you begin trying to conceive. Regular, moderate exercise is better than frequent high-intensity workouts as these may cause hormonal disruption, impacting on fertility.
Looking after yourself and your body is more important than ever as you embark on your fertility journey, and the right lifestyle choices may help to speed you on your way. Most importantly, don’t forget to make time to look after yourself, rest and relax as you prepare for pregnancy.
References and Further Information
The lifestyle changes that women are encouraged to make when planning a pregnancy, such as quitting smoking and cutting out alcohol, are well known these days. In the past, less thought was given to the effect of men’s lifestyle choices on the chances of conception, but research has gradually cast more light on this issue. Evidence is mounting that for men, as well as for women, choices around nutrition and lifestyle can have an impact on fertility.
Here are six key areas where simple changes may increase men’s chances of conceiving:
Studies suggest that a healthy, balanced diet is associated with increased fertility among men, so those trying to conceive should ensure they eat plenty of fruit and vegetables alongside fish, poultry, wholegrain cereals and dairy products, and avoid highly processed food.
Taking regular exercise
Being overweight or obese may mean you are less likely to conceive, so taking sensible steps to lose excess weight is a sensible lifestyle choice for men wishing to become fathers. Regular exercise plays a key role in a healthy lifestyle and has been found to boost sperm quality. But it is important to note that moderate exercise is preferable to high-intensity workouts, which have been associated with a decrease in sperm quality.
Cutting down alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol may negatively affect sperm quality. While it is not thought to be necessary for men trying to conceive to cut out alcohol altogether, the NHS recommends sticking to a maximum of fourteen units of alcohol per week, spread evenly over at least three days.
Cutting out smoking
Current research strongly suggests that smoking has a negative effect on sperm quality and may affect sperm count, so giving up is a key lifestyle change for men who wish to conceive. Recreational drugs may also reduce male fertility and therefore should be avoided, as should muscle-building steroids.
Sperm fares best at a temperature of around 34.5C, a little cooler than the rest of the body. Therefore it is a good idea to keep testicles cool by avoiding tight underwear and taking regular breaks to move around if your work involves sitting for long periods.
Finally, it is important to recognise that stress may have an impact on sperm production, and can also reduce your libido and create strain within your relationship. Trying to conceive can be stressful in itself, of course, so it is even more important to take time out to do the activities that you enjoy and which help you to relax, as well as spending quality time with your partner, family and friends.
So if you are a man trying to conceive, it is clearly worth taking some time to reflect on your lifestyle and consider making positive changes. As well as potentially boosting your chances of conceiving, changing your habits can have a lasting impact on your overall health.
References and Further Information