10 Ways to Improve Fertility
By: Dr. Pankaj Shrivastav (MD.DGO.FRCOG), Director of Conceive Gynaecology & Fertility Hospital in Sharjah, UAE
Our current fast paced and metropolitan lifestyle often adversely affects our health and wellbeing. Constant exposure to pollutants, toxins and unhealthy diets has seen a decline in male and female fertility. Here are some tips on how we can adopt a healthier lifestyle and avoid the damaging nature of environment.
1. Avoid smoking
One of the many damaging effects of smoking is a decline in sperm production. Scientific evidence confirms that increased smoking leads to abnormal sperm (morphology), lower sperm count and less motile sperm production. This also includes smoking sheesha and substance abuse like marijuana and other illegal drugs. Most men have a tendency to deny and defend this habit by arguing that their fathers and forefathers smoked and still bore many children but the fact remains that no two individuals react the same to a toxin and moreover, previous generations weren’t exposed to as many toxins as men today are.
There is also sufficient evidence to indicate that heavy smoking results in erectile dysfunction in men.
Female smokers are three to four times more likely to have problems getting pregnant. They are also at increased risk for irregular menstrual cycles, tubal factor infertility and uterine problems leading to a failure to conceive.
2. Avoid drinking
Alcohol also has similar effects on sperm morphology, count and motility. While a glass or two a week won’t harm your fertility, binge drinking will. In men, an excess of alcohol is known to cause decreased libido.
Women consuming one to five alcoholic drinks a week are associated with decreased conception rates. Women who regularly drink alcohol also face an increased risk of experiencing irregular ovulation, early menopause and miscarriages during pregnancy.
3. Follow a healthy diet
Following an unhealthy diet can lead to obesity. Unhealthy weight gain is detrimental to fertility because fat converts testosterone into estrogen. The circulating estrogen hormone in a man’s body lowers sperm production, sperm count and also decreases libido. It is also worth noting that just a 5% weight reduction in women who are insulin resistant and have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is known to take a woman from being anovulatory (not producing eggs) to ovulatory and fertile (producing eggs) with better ovulation or egg production cycle.
4. Adopt a healthier lifestyle
With an ever bustling culinary scene, it is tempting to consume vast quantities of food often beyond our metabolic requirements. Opt for low glycemic index and wholesome foods in balanced and regular meals. Avoid alcoholic binge weekends and going hungry for long stretches of time.
5. Exercise regularly
A fitness regime is extremely important to balance out the calories we consume. Walk or cycle to work if possible especially during cooler months of the year. Take the stairs frequently. When the weather is good go for a jog on the beach. The fresh air and cardio will do wonders for your mind and body. Try not to take the car everywhere – see if you can walk to the grocery store down the block. Aim to get 3-4 hours a week of intense workouts because not only will it keep diseases like diabetes and heart disease at bay but it’ll also boost the wellness of your reproductive organs, thereby increasing your fertility.
6. Avoid unhealthy stress
Management of stress has been a hot issue for fertility experts and researchers for quite some time. Many experts are adopting a holistic attitude towards its treatment. If you are under extreme levels of stress, your body can begin to behave in irregular ways. Stress often triggers a change in the regular hormonal balance. This could make ovulation, menstruation, and conception more difficult. When you are trying to conceive, aim to be as stress-free as possible. Great ways to reduce your stress include activities like yoga, exercise, pursuing hobbies etc.
7. Avoid harmful environment conditions
Sperm production by nature is extremely sensitive to a rise in temperature. Use of laptops on one’s lap for extended periods exposes the sperm to direct heat and radiation which is detrimental to their production. This is a risk that can easily be eliminated by using laptops on tabletop surfaces. Similarly, men in professions where they’re exposed to furnaces and smelters like in the oil & gas industry, mining industry and chefs in kitchens need to be wary of the prolonged heat exposure.
There are other professions too where substances are used that can potentially harm fertility. These are invariably chemicals, solvents, pesticides/fertilizers and lead-based paints. There is also emerging evidence to suggest that airline cabin crew and airplane pilots have decreased fertility because of the radiation they’re exposed to in the upper layers of the atmosphere. Whilst it is not always possible to switch professions to avoid these risks, it is possible to wear correct protective gear and clothing to reduce the extent of exposure.
8. Use toxin free products
In our daily lives, we use plastic tupperware and bottles due to their convenience. These products release bisphonols over time. These chemicals have an estrogenic effect, which directly impairs spermatogenesis. Yet another risk factor that can easily be avoided by using glass tupperware and bottles.
Recreational drugs should be avoided! For men it is very important to note that steroid use and abuse is detrimental to sperms production and quality; indulge in bodybuilding without these drugs.
Be aware of pesticides and hormones in food produce sold at markets which find their way into our bodies and adversely affect sperms and eggs. They act as hormone opposers, disrupting reproductive mechanisms in our bodies, thereby causing infertility.
9. Seek advice when required
Couples should know when to seek reproductive medical advice. Be aware of when is an optimal time for your body to conceive a child. Find that balance between work and a happy married life. Young couples can wait for a year of trying before they seek medical advice. Couples over the age of 35 should go to the fertility doctor immediately. Do your homework and seek the center/doctor with the best reputation.
10. Plan ahead (Gamete freezing)
A woman’s fertility peaks in her 20s with better egg quality and number to work with, but after age 40 years, the fertility decline is rapid and chances of conceiving are extremely low. In the last 50 years, sperm and egg quality have been declining due to environmental and lifestyle factors and changing social trends like marrying later. It is vital to be aware of these factors and address them. If you are thinking of having a family with your husband/wife then consult your infertility doctor for options like egg and sperm freezing. These techniques are methods of preserving gametes from a younger, fertile self to be used at a later stage.
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