We are all aware that factors of our lifestyle affect numerous parts of our daily lives, but when was the last time you thought, “How can my lifestyle affect my fertility?”
Never – Like many, starting a family isn’t an immediate priority – but do you want children in the future? Fertility is a long-term concern. Knowing how your lifestyle can impact your fertility today can help you when it comes to preparing to conceive in the future. It might only be a simple tweak or a change. Having a healthy lifestyle will benefit both you and your future baby.
Occasionally – You are probably planning to start a family in the distant future.
Daily – You are probably planning or actively trying to start a family.
Although they aren't everything, many lifestyle factors including smoking, alcohol, BMI, certain drugs, caffeine consumption, nutrition and stress can impact your current and future fertility. That being said, it should however be remembered that every individual is unique and different… and so is their fertility.
Fertility treatment is therefore not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are choices that any individual can make to aid a healthy lifestyle and indirectly promote male and female fertility. It also takes two to tango (oocytes and spermatozoon, that is), so when considering how lifestyle factors can impact your chances of conception, all parties need to be taken into consideration.
Smoking, be it first or second-hand smoke, can negatively impact each step of the reproductive process for both men and women. Cadmium and cotinine are two specific toxins found in tobacco smoke that can reduce sperm quality and egg production (including AMH levels). Other impacts of smoking on fertility include increased sperm DNA damage and reduced fertilisation and development potential, culminating in lower pregnancy rates.
Smoking other substances can also negatively impact fertility.
If you’re trying to conceive, our advice is to not to drink alcohol at all.
If you want to reduce or stop your alcohol consumption, please contact your GP. You can also find more information at:
For both men and women, a higher or a very low BMI can impact fertility. To qualify as a private fertility patient, your BMI should be no more than 35, and to be accepted as an NHS funded fertility patient, no more than 30.
A higher BMI can impact hormonal imbalances, pregnancy risks and the amount of drugs needed for fertility treatments in females and sperm numbers in males.
As lifestyle and fertility are connected, eating a wide variety of healthy foods is advised when trying to conceive. Eating foods with antioxidant properties, including fruits and vegetables, is likely to be beneficial for protecting against oxidative stress, or when there is an imbalance of free radicals to antioxidants in your body—something which can be harmful to both eggs and sperm. Be mindful when consuming junk food, as it should ideally be avoided. Switching from trans fats (e.g. margarine and hydrogenated vegetable oils) for unsaturated fats (e.g. oily fish and nuts) is also advised.
Although irrelevant for most people, regular and intense exercise regimes can impact male and female fertility. Regular, moderate exercise is however proven to aid various body functions, including reproduction.
When exercising, do be mindful of taking any supplementary drugs and substances, wearing tight underwear and limiting your exposure to excessive heat sources (e.g. hot baths or saunas). Do seek advice from TFP if you are concerned that your exercise regime or occupation could be impacting your fertility.
Wondering where to start when it comes to vitamins? We’ve broken down the key vitamins and supplements of interest for your fertility, and all of these can be bought over the counter at your local chemist, in supermarkets and in health stores.
For female fertility, the beneficial supplements and vitamins list evolves throughout the fertility journey. Pre-pregnancy, folic acid and ‘well-woman’ vitamin supplements including antioxidants, Omega 3, zinc and selenium are advised. Adding in a Vitamin D (10µg/day) supplement after conception is beneficial to both a developing baby and its mother.
Taking 400 micrograms (400 µg) of folic acid to supplement your diet, both pre-pregnancy and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, has been found to reduce the risk of developmental abnormalities.
Individual vitamins and ‘well-man’ vitamin supplements can also be helpful for male fertility, particularly in the case of lower sperm function. Key ones to look out for include antioxidants, Omega 3, zinc and selenium.
Whether it’s a one-off prescription or over-the-counter medication which you take regularly, please do consult the pharmacist, information leaflets and labels to establish the impact of your medication on your fertility. When you’re trying to have a baby, there are some everyday medications that are not advised.
It is a myth! Contraception itself, be it the pill, IUS, IUD, injection, ring or implant, cannot make you infertile. Doctors, pharmacists and nurses actively avoid causing harm. Therefore, they would not prescribe contraception that had the ability to make you infertile.
If you are interested in finding out more about your fertility after the discontinuation of contraception, please contact us.
There are no ifs or buts about it… fertility is an emotional rollercoaster. It is essential that you take time to acknowledge that the stress, strains and anxiety that come with trying to conceive can’t always be avoided (even with the best intentions). We strongly advise prioritising your overall health and well-being (physical and mental) when looking to conceive and while undergoing fertility treatment.
Patients often find establishing a strong support network is useful for discussing their thoughts and feelings. Integrating counselling into your fertility journey can also help individuals and couples by allowing them the opportunity to confidentially explore any feelings and distress they are experiencing.
Yes, lifestyle factors can impact both an individual and couple’s and individual chances of conceiving, but it is all relative and, in some cases, it may be less or more than you think.
Remember that you and your fertility are unique. Look for fact, not fiction. There is support out there.
To find out more about how your lifestyle factors could be affecting your fertility, contact us today.
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