Lifestyle & Fertility – How a certain lifestyle can positively affect fertility
20. June 2018
The way in which one lives day to day can affect his or her fertility. These affects have been scientifically studied for quite some time, particularly regarding whether or not certain things can be done for men to increase their fertility. Here, we highlight various recommendations that have been shared through the media with couples or singles who are hoping to become parents. Nonetheless, we’d like to point out that the individual study results vary, which is why the following recommendations are only to be taken as influential rather than definitive.
The three medical factors
The three factors that are important for a successful pregnancy are:
- A healthy egg
- A healthy sperm cell
- A functioning uterus
The egg, sperm cell, and uterus can thus influence one’s lifestyle to a certain degree. Henceforth, we’ve gathered a list of Do’s and Don’ts.
First of all, we would like to point out that each measure that you take should be discussed and coordinated with your doctor.
Do’s and Don’ts for potential fertility improvement
Overall, change is easier when shared. Therefore, some recommendations can be following by both partners. Both egg cell and sperm quality can be improved through certain lifestyle changes. The biggest effect – according to some studies – takes place when a lasting change in one’s own lifestyle sustains for at least three months in advance for at least 3 months before fertility treatment.
As a smoker, going without nicotine is not an easy task. Yet as active and passive smoking can negatively impact fertility, reducing nicotine consumption as much as possible is recommended. Cigarettes contain a variety of toxic substances, such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These substances can interfere with the menstrual cycle and adversely affect the quality of oocyte and uterine lining. Smoking can also negatively affect male fertility, as nicotine consumption can reduce the density and mobility of semen.
Scientific studies have illustrated that too much alcohol can negatively affect fertility. Therefore, it is recommended to keep weekly consumption to a minimum. The negative effect of alcohol on fertility can mainly be traced back to an increased burden on the liver. When the liver is overstressed, women may experience hormonal dysregulations, which can then eventually lead to a lack of ovulation in the natural cycle. As for men, increased alcohol consumption can worsen semen quality, thus reducing the likelihood of pregnancy.
“Normal weight” corresponds to a body mass index (BMI) of 20-25 (km/m²). If the body weight is within this range, chances of becoming pregnant increase. An optimal weight can therefore positively affect fertility.
If you are planning an IVF treatment, it is advisable to reduce excess weight in advance. Even losing a few kilos can balance a hormone system, favoring the implantation of the embryo. Regular exercise and a vitamin-rich and low-sugar diet can help you reach your normal weight.
Reduced stress not only increases well-being but can also positively impact fertility. Try to balance you work day so that it includes a little rest and relaxation every now and then.
The hormone epinephrine, which is increasingly formed under stress, reduces the blood supply to the internal organs as well as to the ovary and uterus. Fewer estrogens are released, resulting in reduced egg cell maturation and reduced uterine lining growth. Increase secretion of the hormone prolactin also inhibits ovarian function. In the end, excessive and permanent stress may interfere with embryo implantation.
Excessive caffeine intake can also have a negative impact on fertility. We recommend one to two cups of coffee or tea (back, green, white) per day. Also, be careful not to consume too many other caffeinated goods, such as coke or energy drinks. Increased estrogen concentration in the early follicular phase of the female cycle can be the result of excessive caffeine intake. With normal caffeine consumption, no negative effects on sperm quality are known.
An irregular sleep rhythm affects the hormonal system and mental resilience. Optimal sleep time is between 7 and 8 hours per night. Sleep deprivation or irregular sleep patterns release stress hormones that can negatively impact fertility. Still, too much sleep confuses the hormone balance. The prolactin level – a hormone that is particularly important for milk production after birth – then increases. As a result, the formation of the cycle-important hormones FSH and LH are inhibited, thus suppressing ovulation and maturation.
To increase fertility, special attention should be given to a vitamin-rich diet consisting of fruits and vegetables. Fish also helps: the omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish, as well as certain edible oils (such as linseed oil), can positively influence fertility and child development. Nonetheless, too much fish is not recommended, as recent studies illustrate the possibility of mercury pollution, depending on the origin of the fish. Additionally, the deficiency of folic acid, zinc, and iron should be compensated, as these nutrients can help support your immune system and fertility.
Furthermore, try not to exceed your daily calorie requirement, as excessive calorie intake increases insulin levels. This influences testosterone-dependent metabolic processes, which in turn can negatively affect the female cycle (the so-called PCO syndrome).
Sex can positively impact fertility treatments, as frequent ejaculation improves semen quality. The shorter the seed lingers in the body, the less it is exposed to the body’s harmful influences. For example, frequent ejaculation reduces the likelihood of DNA damage.
Seminal plasma (ejaculation fluid), which is released during sex, also activates a woman’s immune cells. This can prevent the embryo from being perceived as a foreign intruder by the woman’s body and, consequentially, being rejected by the body.
Scheduled intercourse that aims to utilize the optimal fertilization window may also be an option for couples attempting to become pregnant. Nonetheless, this is not recommended. If there is a medical deficiency, infertility can cause stress in the relationship, and scheduled sex should be discussed with your doctor.
As regular movement supports both physical and psychological well-being, it is recommended as a fertility treatment method. Still, excessive sport should be avoided, and men should remember that cycling for long periods of time can reduce the quality of their semen. A study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology further illustrated that extreme sports disrupt hormonal balance, slowing down egg maturation. As such, extensive exercising should be reduced before and during fertility treatment.