Lifestyle Habits May Impact Fertility
Couples that are having difficulty getting pregnant may benefit from changing some lifestyle habits. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, two lifestyle factors that may have an affect on fertility are weight and exercise.
Weight loss or low weight may affect the hormonal signals that the brain sends to a woman's ovaries or a man's testes. In mild cases, a woman's ovaries may still make and release eggs, but the lining of the uterus may not be ready to have a fertilized egg implant because of inadequate hormone levels. In more serious cases, the woman's ovaries may not produce eggs at all. These women may have irregular or no menstrual cycles. Low weight or weight loss in men may decrease the sperm count or affect how well the sperm function. If low weight has been identified as a problem that may be contributing to infertility, the ideal treatment is to stop losing weight or, sometimes, to gain weight. In some circumstances medication may be recommended.
Exercise and diet are very important to general good health. Normal exercise generally does not affect fertility; however, excessive exercise may impact fertility by decreasing the sperm count in a man or interfering with ovulation in a woman. If this is contributing to infertility, decreasing or modifying the exercise program is the best treatment.
Being obese or overweight also impacts a woman's fertility. With increased weight, an increase in insulin levels may cause the ovaries to overproduce male hormones and stop releasing eggs. Losing weight will correct the hormone imbalances and allow the ovaries to make eggs.
For a woman who is overweight and has high insulin levels, medications that increase her body’s ability to respond to insulin may help her get pregnant. Any other metabolic or medical conditions also need to be addressed before attempting to get pregnant.
Caffeine and tobacco also affect a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. Studies suggest that more than 250 mg of caffeine a day – about 2 cups of coffee – make it harder for a woman to conceive. Smoking also makes it harder to get pregnant. Some studies suggest that fathers who smoke may have abnormal sperm function, but other studies don’t show an effect on pregnancy rates. It’s probably best for prospective fathers to cut down on cigarettes to maximize their partners’ chances of getting pregnant.
Peter J. Chen, MD, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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