6 Important Lifestyle Factors That Influence Fertility
If you want to have a baby, but find yourself having a harder time getting pregnant than you thought, it is important to know what lifestyle factors commonly influence fertility.
But I want you all to understand that women dealing with the pain of infertility are not the only ones who should pay attention to this information.
Your reproductive system plays a significant role in your womanly body. You may want a child someday, or you may never want a child. Either way – understanding and improving your fertility is a key to unlocking your overall health.
That is why I want to talk to both groups of women: the hopefully moms and the not-moms-yet (or not-moms-ever!).
Here are six common lifestyle factors that influence your fertility, which means they also influence your reproductive system. That includes your period and your hormones.
Lifestyle Fertility Factor #1: Weight
I know we don’t like talking about the scale, ladies. We are going to anyway. You’re probably wondering how much your weight actually plays a part in whether or not you will be able to have a baby.
Both weighing too much and weighing too little can have a negative impact on your fertility.
About 12% of all infertility cases can be directly connected to the woman having a weight issue on either end of the spectrum.
We all probably have internalized ideas about what “normal weight” is in a world consumed with the perfect body image. A good place to start figuring it out medically is your BMI (click HERE for a BMI calculator).
If you are in the BMI range between 18.5 and 24.9, you are considered “healthy weight.”
But BMI can never tell you the whole story. It does not account for the makeup of your body. Some people can have a great BMI, but have low muscle mass, low bone density, and a high fat percentage. So pay attention to body fat:
- Under 12% is considered too low for optimal fertility
- Over 35% is considered too high for optimal fertility
Lifestyle Fertility Factor #2: Exercise
I’m willing to bet many women are thinking at this point: I need to lose some weight… guess I’ll hit the gym. Working out is a great idea to boost fertility– but only to an extent. Too much vigorous physical can actually:
So what exercises should you do to drop weight, lose body fat, or gain muscle mass without harming your chances of having a baby? Here are a few ideas:
- Leisurely bike rides
- Brisk walking
Below is a video of a few yoga poses you may want to try.
Lifestyle Fertility Factor #3: Smoking
In today’s world, we have all heard it a million times: smoking is bad. It’s old news, but the truth is 15% of Americans still use cigarettes.
So I’m going to say it again. Not only is smoking creating a wide variety of issues in your body, it is also harming your fertility.
Smoking is negatively connected with harming ovulation cycles as well as “reducing the amount or quality of cervical mucus.” In fact, a cigarette’s chemicals can actually make you lose eggs more quickly. Since eggs are never replaced, smokers often go into early menopause.
Keep this in mind too: once you are pregnant, you will need to stop smoking anyway. You have to call it quits at some point. Why not stop now and boost those odds of conception?
Lifestyle Fertility Factor #4: Alcohol
Let’s start with the great news. A glass of wine or a nice cold beer on a hot day won’t harm your fertility. So enjoy responsibly.
Heavy drinking, on the other hand, is linked to fertility-harming side effects – like having a higher chance of developing ovulation disorders.
In Sweden, scientists followed the lives of over 7,000 for 18 years. Over the course of that time, the researchers discovered that the heaviest drinkers were much more likely to seek fertility treatment at some point in their life than moderate drinkers or abstainers.
But what exactly is heavy drinking? Many social drinkers may wonder what qualifies as a nice night out with friends and what qualifies as a problem? Here are a few guidelines:
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says heavy drinking is binge drinking on 5 or more days each month
- The SAMHSA says that binge drinking is hard to define. It is traditionally considered between 5 and 8 drinks at a time, but that does not take into account a woman’s size. For women, researchers say the risky range is often between 40-60 grams of ethanol.
- Standard sized drinks (12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, 1.5 oz. spirits) often contain 14 grams.
Lifestyle Fertility Factor #5: Safe Sex
We’ve already harped on smoking and alcohol – now it’s time for the next guilty pleasure: sex.
One of the more common reasons women suffer from infertility is the presence of an STI. The two main culprits are chlamydia and gonorrhea. Not only can they harm your fertility in general, they can also cause pelvic inflammatory disease, fallopian tube infections, or infection of the upper genital tract.
Nearly 3 million cases of chlamydia and over 800,000 cases of gonorrhea happen in the United States each year. So the chances of one of these STIs affecting you and your fertility are actually quite high.
Of course, the best solution is prevention. Safe sex practices include:
- Reducing the number of sex partners
- Using condoms every single time you engage in sexual activity
- Getting tested before engaging with a new partner and asking them to do the same
- Participating in mutual monogamy
Since these two STIs often have no symptoms, you may already have these two STIs without even knowing it. If there is even the slightest possibility, get an STI screening.
Lifestyle Fertility Factor #6: Environmental Pollutants
It probably does not come as a shock, but too much exposure to environmental pollutions – like pesticides or chemicals – can harm a woman’s fertility or IVF success.
- Pesticides can play a role in missed periods or intermenstrual bleeding, reduced fertility, prolonged time-to-pregnancy, and endometriosis
- Chemicals – like BPAs, PFCs, and Phthalates – all have proven ties to infertility
While I would like to tell you there is a great way to avoid exposure to environmental pollutants entirely, I can’t. That’s the world we live in. I can, at least, offer a few suggestions on how to greatly limit your exposure:
- Grow your own produce, buy organic produce, or thoroughly wash regular produce
- Switch out all your cleaning supplies to safe brands or make your own with items like baking soda or essential oils
- Swap out all bathroom and cosmetic items to safe brands (check out the Skin Deep website for help!)
- Exchange plastic kitchenware for glass alternatives
Lifestyle Fertility Factor #7: Improving Your Lifestyle
If you want to boost your fertility, or if you want to be confident in your fertility someday, or if you simply want a healthy reproductive system – these factors above are six of the largest lifestyle areas to look at in your life.
- Perhaps you need to meet with a nutritionist to figure out how to get to your healthy weight and a trainer to figure out how much exercise is appropriate
- Maybe you need to cut out some drinking days each month
- You might need to get an STI check and then commit to condom-only encounters
- You could drop the cigarettes even before you get pregnant
- Or you may need to make some changes in products you bring into your house
I want you to see how inexpensive and relatively easy all of these lifestyle changes can be. This means they are a great starting place for anybody dealing with fertility issues before they enter more expensive options like IVF.