Lifestyle and the environment we live in play a significant role in growth and reproductive health. Time and again, evidence dictates a profound link between lifestyle and fertility. Lifestyle factors can show both positive and negative impacts on reproductive health. On one hand it can impact fertility in both men & women. On the other hand lifestyle modifications to improve fertility can enhance overall reproductive health and in turn fertility rate.
Fertility is when the couple is clinically healthy to give birth to their offspring without obstacles. Any fertility issues can cause difficulty in bearing children. Today’s technological and digital era has certainly eased lives in different ways but is causing a slow and silent impact on health. Nevertheless small but positive changes in these environmental aspects and lifestyle factors can bring about a miraculous change in health; especially reproductive health. Several studies have shown how modifiable lifestyle factors can enhance reproductive health and overall wellbeing.
This article speaks about the impact of lifestyle on fertility and the lifestyle modifications to improve fertility and optimize their chances of experiencing pregnancy.
1.How does lifestyle affect fertility?
First let’s give you an overview on infertility.Infertility is one of the major upsetting issues of the modern age. The decline in fertility is majorly attributed to lifestyle changes. Statistical studies reveal that almost 50% of the male and female infertility causes are attributed to lifestyle issues.
What are the factors and how do they hamper fertility in men and women? Some of the prominent and potential lifestyle determinants that can impact fertility are:
- Smoking: Smoking is one factor that can impact fertility in both men and women; whether you are a smoker or exposed to a smoking environment constantly. Chemicals discharged through smoke such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, cyanide, etc can cause severe sperm DNA damage bringing about a reduction in sperm motility, low sperm count. morphology, and impair spermatogenesis (sperm production) in men. These metabolites can also affect women leading to fallopian tube contraction, reduced ovarian reserves, reduced production of quality eggs, and even cause ectopic pregnancy.
- Alcohol: Alcohol has also shown to increase the delay in conception. Excessive alcohol consumption is known to impair fertility in males as well as females. Alcohol can alter the hormones and increase the risk of preterm pregnancy loss.
- Sleep disorders: Sleep deprivation or uneven sleep patterns can cause the release of stress hormones. These negatively impacting hormones can vary the sex hormones in both men and women causing decreased sex drive and leading to fertility issues.
- Diet: Diet is one of the most commonly discussed factors that can affect overall health and reproduction. Poor nutrition or eating disorders cause fluctuations of sex hormone levels leading to fertility issues such as PCOS, ovulatory disorders, uterine problems, gestational diabetes, hypertension, etc in women.
In Men, an increase in weight is associated with impairment of sperm production, erectile dysfunction, elevated scrotal temperatures, reduction in sperm count and quality.
- Exercise: Maintaining a healthy weight is essential. But, it is observed that excessive exercise patterns, lifting heavy weights, and overstaining the body than needed in both men and women can cause problems in getting pregnant. Also, having a sedentary lifestyle too can cause obesity, hormonal variations causing fertility issues.
- Environmental factors and chemical exposure: Exposure to radiation, chemical exposure during cancer treatment procedures, or exposure to pesticides, lead, etc is known to affect fertility.
- Other Factors: Certain medications, psychological stress, can decrease the likelihood of conception in women and likewise affect the sperm count and function in men.
2. Factors on which fertility rate depends
Lifestyle issues are one of the causes of fertility disorders. However, there are several other medical or biological factors other than the manageable lifestyle factors that do affect the fertility rate. Some of them are mentioned below
- Ovulation factor: Irregular ovulation or no ovulation can affect the timely release of eggs from the ovaries. The presence of polycystic ovaries, hormonal disorders, thyroid problems, and primary insufficient ovaries, are some of the ovulatory disorders.
- Tubal factor: Damage or blockage of the fallopian tubes can hamper the movement of the gametes and also affect fertilization. Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases (PID), Infections, etc can lead to tubal defects.
- Uterine factor: Structural anomalies of the uterus, uterine fibroids, polyps are some of the uterine disorders leading to infertility.
- Peritoneal factor: The conditions that involve the peritoneum (the inner membrane lining the abdomen) such as pelvic adhesions (where the inner pelvic organs glue to each other), endometriosis (growth of uterine lining outside the uterus) are some of the peritoneal factors affecting fertility.
- Malefactors: In men spermatogenesis occurs in the testicles, the sperms produced are stored in the epididymis and transported out through the ejaculatory ducts and vas deferens. Conditions such as low sperm count, poor sperm morphology, reduced sperm motility, ejaculatory disorders, erectile problems constitute fertility concerns in men.
- Age factor: Fertility decreases with increasing age especially after 35 in both men and women. In women, the ovarian reserves decline that can affect egg quality and egg production. In older men sperm integrity, and sperm numbers deteriorate.
- Unknown factors: Sometimes, infertility goes unexplained and the exact cause of it cannot be traced. However, couples with unknown causes of infertility struggle to get pregnant.
3. How can you improve your fertility?
Certain fertility affecting factors such as inherited medical conditions, congenital problems, structural deformities, etc cannot be controlled or managed. But, lifestyle factors that influence fertility and reproductive health such as occupational exposure, drug abuse, nutrition, exercise, habitual indulgences, can be modified. Some of the lifestyle modifications to improve fertility are:
- Changes in diet: Foods rich in iron, low in carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, and antioxidant rich foods can improve fertility.
- Destress: While you make changes in diet and other lifestyle factors, try to relieve stress by doing things that interest you, reduce your stressful workload, take frequent breaks between work and start to destress.
- Maintain a healthy weight: It is generally advised to exercise in moderation or exercise regularly in limit to maintain a healthy weight as well as avoid overexercising. Yoga and meditation can be helpful.
- Stop smoking: Try to quit smoking. Studies show that people who quit smoking observed improvement in fertility, sperm and egg quality.
- Avoid alcohol consumption: Similar to smoking, chronic alcohol consumption needs to be avoided to enhance fertility.
- Take precautions during chemical exposure: Take necessary measures like wearing protective clothing while exposing yourself to chemicals, pesticides, and radiations that can impact fertility.
4. When to see a doctor?
While you try to improve your fertility through the above fertility tips, you must check with a fertility specialist when you observe at least one of the following conditions below.
- If you are unable to conceive after trying for more than 12 months.
- If you are experiencing infrequent ovulation or no ovulation for more than three months
- If your menstrual cycles are shorter than 24 days or longer than 35 days
- If you are experiencing heavy bleeding or bleeding in between your periods
- If your having issues like endometriosis, PCOS that is not letting you get pregnant
- If men observe lump, or swelling in the testicular region
- If men face erectile problems or have no ejaculate
- If You have experienced recurrent loss of pregnancy
- You have a known fertility issue, such as PCOS or endometriosis, or it’s not possible for you to get pregnant naturally
- If you want to preserve your eggs for future use
- If you want to take help of assisted reproductive technology to attain pregnancy
Also Read: Secondary Infertility
It is quite evident that our lifestyle choices can impact reproductive health. But these lifestyle choices when modulated can bring a huge positive impact on fertility and other affecting factors can be taken care of to a certain extent. Omya Infertility Treatment Centre in Delhi can be your fertility destination for various lifestyle contributing issues. Our experienced panel of fertility experts apply cutting edge technology to deliver optimal results. We offer a full suite of Nutritionists, gynecologists, andrologists, who provide patient care to a spectrum of fertility concerns in both men and women.