If you are thinking about getting pregnant or have already been trying, it is never too late (or too early) to assess your lifestyle choices. Starting healthy lifestyle habits - or giving up bad ones - can profoundly improve your overall health and some lifestyle changes can improve the fertility in both you and your partner. Human body is closely tuned to its environment - especially when it comes to making babies. Our day-to-day habits, what we are exposed to, even what we are born with have an impact on us about our health and well-being. Fertility is one such aspect of our health that is also affected by our various lifestyle habits. Lifestyle habits and decisions have a huge influence on health as well as on fertility. These may have hidden consequences that influence our health without our knowledge. It is well established that factors as diverse as smoking or alcoholism to conditions like obesity or poor nutrition and even advancing age affect fertility.
Hence, awareness of these lifestyle habits that impact fertility is essential for maintaining good reproductive health.
Obesity affects reproductive capacity in both males and females. Obesity has an emotional and psychological effect on the persons suffering from it, affecting their chances of reproduction.
In Women: In the case of female fertility, a woman’s weight can hugely affect her hormone production. Being significantly, underweight or overweight can inhibit normal ovulation and can contribute to menstrual irregularities. An obese woman can take longer to achieve pregnancy than a woman of normal weight and obesity increases the chances of miscarriages. Obese women are also more likely to suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which also affects fertility. It is important for women to measured by a body mass index (BMI) calculator and maintain a weight that is considered medically healthy.
In Men: Obese males suffer from decreased testosterone levels and are at greater risk of impaired sperm production and reduced sperm quality. Obesity also decreases sex drive in men.
2. TOBACCO CONSUMPTION
Reasons ranging wide from stress to peer pressure, smoking is a habit that once taken up, is hard to let go.
In Men: Cigarette smoke contains different components, the most significant of which is nicotine, which is converted into a substance in the body that affects the movement of sperms in men. Cigarette also contains heavy metals like cadmium and lead, which affect sperm density. Cigarette smoke also damages the DNA of sperms, while chewing tobacco affects the structure of sperms. It is proven that smoking cigarette decreases sperm production.
In Women: Smoking cigarette ages a woman’s ovaries and depletes her eggs prematurely along with other health problems. Thus, a woman will struggle to become pregnant if she does not have healthy eggs. Smoking is associated with miscarriages, ectopic pregnancy by damaging fallopian tubes (damages its ability to move the fertilized egg towards the uterus) or by causing blockages in fallopian tubes, as a result of which the meeting of egg and sperm is prevented.
None of us can avoid stress, we need to acknowledge and manage your stress. However, for some couples, trying to get pregnant can cause extra worry or anxiety, especially if one or both of them have concerns about infertility. Too much stress or depression leads to hormonal imbalances that can eventually cause fertility problems. Sustained stress may interfere with the hormones needed for sperm production. Sometimes infertility itself can lead to stress so it is important for couples to find a healthy way to release stress during the time they are trying to conceive. If you feel like stress is affecting your relationship or your health, then consider consulting with a counselor or psychologist who can help you with coping strategies. You may also enjoy trying stress-relieving activities, such as yoga, meditation or massage. Meditation, yoga, and exercise help in a great way to relieve day-to-day stress and anxiety.
4. OLDER AGE
In addition to affecting their chances of conceiving, older women also are more likely to give birth to children who have genetic or other inborn effects. They also suffer from an increased risk of miscarriages. Men and women are most fertile during their 20's and their ability to reproduce decreases drastically in the late 30's and 40's. The 20s are the ideal age for women to reproduce. By the time a woman reaches her mid-30s, the quality, as well as the number of eggs in her, begins to decline. In men, sperm quality decreases with age.
Age, Fertility in Men vs Women!
Looking young, feeling young and being young are all different - when science comes into the picture. Although some women may look young even in their 40's, that does not mean they are as fertile as women are in 20's. Some men may look well built and fit at their late 30's or 40's, but this cannot explain the high likelihood of birth defects that occur when these older men have children.
Men - Time Trial:
Men can produce sperms throughout their life after the onset of puberty. However, they have their own issues and disadvantages relating to age. As they grow older, the cells (Sertoli and Leydig in the testes) which are responsible for the production and maturation of sperms start to deteriorate in viability and decrease in numbers. Thus, although older men can produce sperms, these may have defects, which may lead to birth abnormalities in children born to them. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition whose prevalence increases with age, causing a problem in sexual functioning leading to infertility.
Women - Inborn Restrictions:
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5. ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
In Women: Studies have shown that drinking too much alcohol decreases the levels of steroid hormones (which includes sex hormones), also resulting in abnormal menstrual cycles in women. When alcohol is consumed, it is converted into substances that cause oxidative damage to DNA and proteins. Ovulation disorders are found to increase with heavy drinking. Women who are trying to get pregnant must completely stop drinking alcohol. Heavy drinking during pregnancy also affects the well-being of the baby.
In Men: Sperm production is also affected in men who are heavy drinkers. More the consumption of alcohol greater is the degradation of the quality of sperm.
6. HORMONE IMBALANCE
Hormonal imbalances occur due to stress, lack of sleep, etc. Hormones are signaling molecules produced in our body that is sensitive to both external and internal stimulus. Their levels can fluctuate based on a wide variety of factors such as the date of the menstrual cycle in women, stress, or even disorders like those of the thyroid. Estrogen and progesterone are essential to sex hormones whose imbalances can affect ovulation and fertility in women. They modulate the ovulation cycle in women and hence hormonal imbalances can be a risk factor for infertility. In men, hormones like prolactin and estrogen influence the production of another hormone called testosterone, while also affecting sperm production by the testes.
7. DO NOT GET OVERHEATED
An elevated temperature, around your scrotum, reduces sperm production. For sperm to mature, the scrotal temperature must be a couple of degrees below normal body temperature that is why the testicles are located outside the main body, in the scrotum. Whenever you spend long hours sitting behind a steering wheel or in front of a computer screen, the temperature of your scrotum and testes may increase by a few degrees. This rise in temperature may drop your sperm production and reduce your fertility. Do not spend excessive time in hot tubs, wearing tight underwear, holding a laptop directly on the lap and other activities that increase the scrotal temperature.
Recent studies have also implicated air pollution to produce a poor quality of egg or sperms and increased miscarriage rates. It is therefore important to increase exposure to greener and cleaner environment, making sure to avoid exposure to toxins that may be present in the surroundings as these may also contribute negatively on infertility.
Some chemicals can produce an effect of female hormone in the male body, which can lead to reduced sperm production. Herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals can also affect the sperm’s ability to bind to an egg during fertilization.
9. AVOID EXPOSURE TO TOXINS
Exposure to toxins can affect female hormones and the health of eggs/ova in women. Certain profession may result in more exposure to these toxins. For instance, industrial workers are exposed to drugs and chemicals during manufacturing processes and dental assistants are exposed to high levels of nitrous oxide. Further, hair stylists and agricultural workers are some other occupations that may lead to diminished fertility due to toxic exposure.
10. AVOIDING MULTIPLE SEXUAL PARTNERS
Avoiding multiple sexual partners will help reduce the chances of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease. These diseases may impair the reproductive capacity if they are left untreated for long. Effects of STDs can lead to infertility in women specifically chlamydia and gonorrhea. The best way to avoid infection of STDs is to limit the number of sexual partners and practice safe sex. These infections can damage your fallopian tubes and uterus permanently.
11. BE WARY OF VIGOROUS PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Regular physical exercise is important for not only weight loss and a healthier body it also helps to ease stress. However, the key word is "moderate", physical activity should be done in moderation. If exercises are carried out to exhaustion, that is, if one exercises to the point where they suffer from severe pain, and if exercises get in the way of getting sufficient sleep or cause injuries, fertility may be negatively affected. Women who undertake frequent, intense exercise can experience ovulation problems. Excessive physical activity may inhibit ovulation and reduce the production of progesterone, which are essential in becoming pregnant. Moderate physical activity, like walking with your partner after dinner, can do wonders for your health and mind. For that reason, many doctors recommend that women who are trying to become pregnant should be limiting vigorous activity to no more than five hours per week.
12. LACK OF SLEEP
Persons who suffer from a lack of sleep have a substantially higher level of the stress hormones adrenocorticotropic and cortisol, both of which are known to inhibit a healthy fertility cycle.
13. AVOID DRUG ABUSE
Aside from contributing to overall poor health, drugs and alcohol can lower the number and quality of a man’s sperm. Steroids specifically can cause testicles to shrink, decreasing sperm production.
14. EAT HEALTHY
A good diet has a double benefit - in addition, to directly benefiting reproductive health, this habit also helps maintain healthy body weight. A good diet can further prevent the development of diseases like diabetes, one of the many complications of which is reproductive problems. Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants, while consuming caffeine only in moderation, are also beneficial to reproductive health. Do not consume foods that are high in fat and preservatives. Conditions caused due to improper food intake, like celiac disease (gluten sensitivity), can also affect a woman’s fertility.
One rarely lends a thought to the more permanent effect of their habits on their health. Even when such things are considered, people examine other aspects of their health, taking their reproductive health for granted. It is high time that this behavior is changed.
Lifestyle changes alone may not help you get pregnant if you or your partner has a medical condition that affects fertility. If you have tried to get pregnant for more than a year - or if you are a woman over 35 who have tried for more than six months, - you must consider to seeing a doctor for fertility testing.Children are the light of one's life. Do not let poor choices deprive you of experiencing the joy of their existence.