Lifestyle Causes of Infertility
Causes of infertility can be due to genetic issues, anatomical problems, disease and more. But a person’s lifestyle choices can also cause infertility. When trying to maximize one’s fertility to get pregnant, making smart, healthy lifestyle choices is crucial. In most cases, these are things people can do on their own, without fertility treatments or any medical input.
Infertility is not always reversible, whether through treatments or lifestyle habits. But for some men and women, improving health and making smarter choices affecting the body can help improve fertility.
Some individuals or couples may find that after making the lifestyle changes that follow, infertility is still a problem. At this point, seeing a fertility specialist could help identify any medical issues that could be preventing pregnancy.
If you have made smart lifestyle choices and still are struggling to conceive, schedule an appointment or contact us today.
Lifestyle causes of infertility in women
Healthy weight and diet
Maintaining a healthy diet and weight are associated with a higher rate of fertility in women. Being both overweight or underweight can affect ovulation. Women with a significantly higher or lower than normal body mass index (BMI) tend to have more ovarian dysfunction. These problems can affect crucial hormone production and cause infertility.
Diet and weight also can contribute to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that obese women with PCOS can greatly improve their likelihood of ovulation and pregnancy by losing 5 percent of their body weight. Low carbohydrate diets will also benefit some women.
In addition to the other health concerns, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) smoking can have a serious effect on a woman’s fertility. Smoking depletes a woman’s eggs prematurely and ages the ovaries. There is also evidence that indicates smoking harms the cervix and fallopian tubes, which can increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Additionally, ASRM says women who smoke or have a partner who smokes have lower pregnancy rates.
Finally, a woman who smokes while she is pregnant increases her risk for pregnancy complications, such as intrauterine growth restriction and placental infarction (loss of blood supply to the placenta), among other complications.
Limit alcohol consumption
While it is known that pregnant women should not drink alcohol, alcohol’s effects on fertility are less commonly known and clear. Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with infertility and ovulation disorders.
Prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to inflammation, damage and scarring of the fallopian tubes. This scarring can cause tubal factor infertility. These infections have also been linked to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy and overall infertility.
While the connection between caffeine and fertility is not fully understood, it is recommended that women trying to get pregnant reduce daily caffeine consumption. Limit caffeine intake to less than 300 mg., or two cups per day.
Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, but according to the NIH excessive exercise can inhibit hormones and ovulation, a key cause of infertility. An NIH study examining women undergoing IVF, found that women who exercise for four or more hours per week had a 40 percent decrease in live birth rates. Women should do physical activity in moderation, no more than five hours a week.
Exposure to certain toxins can affect hormones and the health of a woman’s eggs. Women who work in professions such as dental assistant, industrial worker, agricultural worker and hair stylist are exposed to high levels of potentially harmful chemicals.
Pthalates are chemicals found in plastics, and work as endocrine disruptors that may have negative effects on both the mother and the child. We advise the use of washable glass or metal water bottles instead of plastics. Endocrine disruptors are also found in receipts of most businesses.
Lifestyle causes of infertility in men
Healthy weight and diet
Much like the problems that can occur for women when they are obese or overweight, unhealthy diet and weight can affect infertility in men. A lower sperm count and a decrease in the quality of the sperm – major factors in male infertility – are both connected to obesity. The NIH has identified that diets high in fat and protein have a negative impact on male fertility.
Smoking decreases sperm quality and motility (effectiveness of movement), causing infertility in men.
Avoid alcohol and drug use
Drug and alcohol use, aside from contributing to poor overall health, can decrease the quality and number of a man’s sperm. Heavy drinking has been linked to lower testosterone levels and can cause erectile dysfunction. The recreational drugs cocaine and marijuana, in particular, can harm sperm production. Steroids can also be a cause of infertility in men.
Certain prescription drugs can have a negative impact on sperm production, particularly testosterone. Other medications, such as calcium channel blockers used to treat hypertension, may alter sperm function. Flomax can alter ejaculation effectiveness. Check with your doctor to see if any of your medications place you at risk.
Certain chemicals can create female hormone-like effects in the male body. This can lead to reduced sperm production. Chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, pesticides and more can affect the sperm.
Sperm maturation takes place in the testicles, which are a few degrees below normal body temperature. Semi-regular participation in activities that increase the scrotal temperature can decrease sperm production.
Spending excessive time in hot tubs, wearing tight underwear and holding a laptop directly on the lap for long periods are discouraged, as they can raise the temperature of the testicles.
Stress and infertility in men and women
Prioritizing health is important, but ensuring a positive well-being is also key. Although unclear, the link between stress and infertility is present. Stress and depression are connected to reduced testosterone in men. Stress in either partner, or both, can also inhibit the frequency of sex, which effectively reduces the chance of pregnancy.
For women, physical stress is an influencing factor in fertility. This is most evident in women who work longer hours, or overnight, at stressful jobs. These women have lower fertility rates.
Lowering physical stress, through options such as exercise, therapy, meditation, support groups and yoga, has been shown to improve fertility in both men and women.