Many lifestyle factors including smoking, alcohol, BMI, certain drugs, caffeine consumption, nutrition and stress can impact your current and future fertility. This 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.
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 which can reduce sperm quality and egg production (including AMH levels). Other impacts of smoking on fertility include increased sperm DNA damage, reduced fertilisation and development potential, culminating in lower pregnancy rates.
Smoking other substances can also negatively impact fertility.
For information and help to quit smoking, please check out the services available in your local area.
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 (in Belfast no more than 33), 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 including fruits and vegetables with antioxidant properties is likely to be beneficial for protecting against oxidative stress, something which can be harmful to both eggs and sperm.
Be mindful when consuming junk food. 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.
Moderate and regular exercise can improve the activity of important enzymes, which influence many of the body’s functions including reproduction.
If you take any supplementary drugs or substances as part of your exercise regime, be sure to seek advice about their effects on your fertility.
Intense exercise, tight underwear and other potential sources of excessive heat, such as hot baths or saunas, are best avoided by men hoping to conceive using their own sperm.
Do seek advice from TFP if you are concerned that your exercise regime or occupation could be impacting your fertility.
The key vitamins and supplements of interest for your fertility can be bought over the counter at your local chemist, in supermarkets and 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 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.
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.
To find out more about how your lifestyle factors could be affecting your fertility, contact us.
Watch this short video about how patients can best prepare themselves for their IVF journey.