Problems conceiving, part 2: Lifestyle issues

Getting pregnant is not as simple as it may seem. Lots of bodily functions and systems must work together, and in the right sequence and at the right time. It’s no surprise that infertility – defined as not conceiving after 12 months of having sex on a regular basis with no contraception – affects as many as 1 in 8 couples.

The primary causes of pregnancy failure fall into three categories: lifestyle factors, medical issues and genetics. In this, the second in our series of blog posts, we discuss how lifestyle affects fertility.

Lifestyle issues that impede fertility are defined as the factors that one can often change by choices and behaviors. As such, we encourage people having troubling getting pregnant to try these changes first, if they are applicable. Most of the lifestyle issues can affect both men and women.

Weight. This is one of the primary lifestyle issues that can cause infertility in both men and women. Women who are obese or overweight may experience problems with ovulation, which reduces the effectiveness of in vitro fertilization (IVF). In men, obesity can harm sperm production. While consistent exercise is important to a healthy weight, women who are trying to get pregnant should avoid excessively strenuous workouts.

Diet. Without proper nutrients, a woman’s body doesn’t perform tasks efficiently, including reproduction. In particular, women should limit caffeine intake. Poor nutrition can also limit sperm production in men.

STDs. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause infertility in women, and some STDs can block delivery of sperm in men. Safe sex with a limited number of partners is the best way to prevent infection.

Stress. This can disrupt hormone activity in women that regulates ovulation and can cause similar hormonal issues in men that inhibits healthy sperm.

Alcohol. Men should limit consumption, and women trying to get pregnant should avoid drinking altogether.

Illicit drug use. This can cause varied reproductive related problems in both sexes.

Exposure to toxins. Whether through work, outdoor activities or unhealthy indoor environments, chemicals, pesticides and other toxins can alter the hormonal balance in men and women, affecting fertility.

Temperature. Men should avoid things that raise the temperature of their scrotum, such as a laptop computer placed there.

Age. While not an adjustable factor, age is also a major influence in infertility, affecting females more dramatically than males. Men generally experience infertility issues later in life due to injury or illness.

For more information on problems conceiving, visit our web site.

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