How To Alter Our Lifestyle To Improve Fertility
The choices made in everyday life can have a large effect on fertility. By making a few alterations in our daily routine, it can help to improve our chances to not only conceive but also have a successful and healthy pregnancy.
Women with infertility often report elevated levels of anxiety and depression, which shows that infertility can cause stress. What is still not specifically known, though, is if stress can directly cause infertility. Research has shown that pregnancy rates increase when psychological distress is reduced (Rooney, 2018).
Ways to help improve mental health:
- Diet and Exercise
- Seeking counseling from a life coach or therapist
- Getting your daily dose of sunshine
Many women who undergo fertility treatment avoid pharmacological treatment as they are concerned that it may adversely affect their fertility and/or chances of conceiving. However, studies have not shown that there are any negative effects of using antidepressants while trying to conceive, and there are even some medications that are safe to take during pregnancy (Fertility and mental health, 2021).
Research has shown that a Mediterranean Diet is the ideal form of eating when it comes to improving pregnancy rates. This was defined as a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fish, vegetable oils, and a low intake of snacks. Another thing to take note of when trying to improve your nutrition is to take in enough B vitamins with your food. Other recommendations include eating plant protein instead of animal protein, eating high-fat dairy, and low glycemic carbohydrates (Snegovskikh, 2017).
Here are some food choices that we recommend including in your diet: Raw nuts, beans/lentils, whole fruits and vegetables, salmon or any other fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids, whole grains.
Here are some food choices that we recommend limiting from your diet: processed foods, refined/simple carbohydrates, excessive caffeine, alcohol.
If you have a hard time getting these vitamins into your diet, then supplements can be taken: iron, folic acid, Vitamin D, and B Vitamins (Snegovskikh, 2017).
Maintaining a healthy weight is important when trying to improve your fertility. Research shows that women who are overweight or underweight have a higher rate of infertility. Obesity in men correlates with decreased sperm mobility and motility (Snegovskikh, 2017). In addition to keeping a healthy diet (as discussed above), exercise is also a key role in maintaining a healthy weight.
It is recommended to perform 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily. Moderate intensity exercise is defined as an exercise that will increase your heart rate, and make you breathe faster. During moderate intensity exercise, you should not have to pause for a breath when trying to talk. Examples of some moderate exercising are brisk walking, gardening, swimming, and dancing (The Benefits of Exercising/Being Active When Trying to Conceive, 2021).
Below are some tips and tricks for increasing your daily activity level:
- If you have a desk job, take frequent work breaks to get up and walk around
- Park further out in the parking lot when running errands
- If you have access to an exercise machine (treadmill, elliptical, stairmaster), download a show or movie onto your smart device and watch while exercising. This is a good way to take advantage of screen time
- Download a e-book to your mobile device and go for a walk
- Take 5 minutes out of your day to stretch and do some jumping jacks
Not only is exercise important for maintaining a healthy weight, but it also helps to improve mental health. Please note that it is not recommended to over exercise. The exercise recommendation may change upon pregnancy.
Tobacco: It is recommended to avoid tobacco use completely. A study noted that women who smoke have a 60% higher chance to have issues with fertility than women who don’t smoke (How our environment impacts fertility, 2021).
Caffeine: It has been researched and shown that fertility is not impacted when keeping daily caffeine doses to less than 200mg daily. It is recommended to limit your caffeine intake to two 6-8oz coffees per day (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2020).
Alcohol: It is recommended to avoid alcohol completely when trying to conceive. An increased rate for ovulatory disorders has been noted in women who heavily drink (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2020). A study done through Harvard University showed that consuming only four alcoholic beverages per week correlates with decreased IVF live birth rates (Rossi, 2011).
Cannabis: It is recommended to completely avoid any cannabis use while trying to conceive. A recent study showed that women who “used cannabis while trying to conceive were 41% less likely to conceive than non-users” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2021). The study also showed that cannabis users had higher LH and FSH levels, which are hormones involved in the ovulation process. It was also noted that there may be a correlation with cannabis use and alteration of the uterine lining, which can can make it more difficult for the embryo to implant after an embryo transfer (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2021).
Snegovskikh, Dr. Victoria. “What Is the Optimal Fertility Diet?” Women & Infants Fertility Center In Rhode Island, https://fertility.womenandinfants.org/blog/fertility-diet.
“The Benefits of Exercising/Being Active When Trying to Conceive.” Tommy's. Together, for Every Baby, https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/planning-a-pregnancy/are-you-ready-to-conceive/being-active-when-trying-conceive.
Fertility and mental health - MGH - CWMH. MGH Center for Women's Mental Health. (2021, February 11). Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://womensmentalhealth.org/specialty-clinics/infertility-and-mental-health/.
Rooney, K. L., & Domar, A. D. (2018, March). The relationship between stress and infertility. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6016043/.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, April 25). Can lifestyle choices boost my chance of getting pregnant? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/female-fertility/art-20045887.
How our environment impacts fertility. Kindbody. (2021, July 26). Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://kindbody.com/how-our-environment-impacts-fertility/.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, January 11). NIH study suggests using cannabis while trying to conceive may reduce pregnancy chances. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-suggests-using-cannabis-while-trying-conceive-may-reduce-pregnancy-chances.
Rossi, Brooke V., Katharine F. Berry, Mark D. Hornstein, Daniel W. Cramer, Shelley Ehrlich, and Stacey A. Missmer. 2011. “Effect of Alcohol Consumption on In Vitro Fertilization.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 117 (1) (January): 136–142. doi:10.1097/ aog.0b013e31820090e1.