Most people planning to be a parent intend to make changes to their lifestyles once the baby arrives… but many people are finding that they need to make these lifestyle changes in order to conceive.
Many lifestyle choices such as smoking, drugs, exercise, sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), and caffeine can impact fertility.
Smoking & Fertility
Cigarette smoke has a negative impact on the ability to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term. Virtually all scientific studies show that smoking has an adverse effect on fertility. For women, smoking is harmful to the ovaries. Cigarette smoke accelerates the loss and quality of eggs and may advance the time of menopause by several years. When women who smoke go through IVF, they have lower number of follicles, lower number of eggs retrieved, lower rates of fertilization of the eggs, and an increased rate of miscarriage. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine reports that women who smoke need to undergo twice as many in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts to conceive compared to women who do not smoke. For men, smoking can lower sperm count, reduce sperm motility and increase abnormalities in sperm shape and function.
- Both smoking and secondhand smoke exposure can reduce pregnancy rates by up to 50%.
- Smoking can reduce ovarian reserve, ovarian response, semen quality, and fertilization, as well as increasing miscarriage rate.
- Smoking affects uterine receptivity to embryos: heavy smoking (>10 cigarettes per day) has been shown to decrease pregnancy rates by 50%.
- Male smoking has been shown to increase the risk of a non-viable pregnancy and therefore increase miscarriage rates.
Studies show that quitting smoking for at least 2-3 months prior to attempting IVF significantly improves chances for conception.
Based on the overwhelming body of scientific evidence, Advanced Fertility Care Physicians strongly advise all patients who smoke and are trying to get pregnant to QUIT IMMEDIATELY.
Alcohol & Fertility
Alcohol has been shown to have an adverse effect on female fertility, causing hormone imbalances that disrupt the menstrual cycle and make it difficult to conceive. What’s more, extreme alcohol consumption can result in a woman not having her period or even anovulation, a menstrual cycle where ovulation doesn’t occur. Without ovulation, a woman cannot become pregnant. Alcohol use and abuse can also lead to abnormalities in the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus, where a fertilized egg is implanted and then grows. Estrogen and progesterone levels can be affected by alcohol as well. The more alcohol a woman drinks, the more serious and likely the fertility problems. The stakes get even higher if a woman continues to drink once she is pregnant. There’s an increased risk for miscarriage, impaired fetal growth and development, pre-term birth and stillbirth. The most well-known effect of alcohol use during pregnancy is a baby born with fetal alcohol syndrome, which results in irreversible mental retardation, growth deficiency, behavioral disturbances and atypical heart-shaped facial appearance
Alcohol also has an impact on male fertility. Research has shown that alcohol reduces the quality, quantity and mobility of sperm. Alcohol also reduces absorption of the fertility mineral zinc.
Most studies agree that the larger the amount of alcohol consumed, the greater the effect on fertility. It’s currently recommended that if you’re trying to conceive you should limit your intake to one or two alcoholic drinks a week.
Alcohol’s influence on IVF Success Rates
- 13% reduction of number of eggs retrieved
- Risk of not becoming pregnant increased by 3 times
- Risk of miscarriage increased by 2 times
- Over 2 times decrease in pregnancy rate
- Over 2 times increase in miscarriage rate
Caffeine & Fertility
Most studies show that caffeine use is associated with a decreased potential to produce a pregnancy. The data is not as strong as the data presented earlier on smoking and fertility, but women and men who are trying to conceive should limit caffeine to less than 300 mg of caffeine per day. Some other studies on women undergoing IVF have shown a more drastic association of even minimal caffeine intake (>2 mg of caffeine = 1 cup of decaf coffee) with a lower chance of pregnancy and increased potential for miscarriage.
Exercise & Fertility
While exercise is important for everyone to promote health and good living, some scientists have demonstrated that over exertion may actually impact overall fertility success. It is fairly well known that professional female athletes and marathon runners may interfere with normal ovulation as a result of the level and amount of exercise, as well as by a decreased percentage of body fat below the minimum required to facilitate normal ovulation. This condition is called hypothalamic amenorrhea. However, some scientists have shown that even for the “recreational exerciser” undergoing IVF, intense cardiovascular exercise for ≥4 hours per week may be associated with increased cancellation of IVF cycles, increased pregnancy loss, and reduced live birth rates. Therefore, some experts in the field have recommended walking or limiting intense exercise to 4 hours or less per week.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) & Fertility
Sexually transmitted diseases are infections that are passed from person to person through sexual contact. Many STDs can cause a host of unpleasant side effects, ranging from genital itching to painful intercourse. Some STDs are very serious and can be life-threatening, and two STDs, chlamydia and gonorrhea, are the most important preventable causes of infertility.
Infertility due to tubal factor accounts for 15% of infertility. Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea is the most common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and 20% of patients with PID end up infertile. The biggest problem with PID is that it is most frequently contracted long before any thought is being given to starting a family.