Nine Factors that Influence Fertility

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Making the decision to begin building your family is one of those major life steps many of us spend a long time looking forward to.

Firstly what is fertility?

Female fertility is the ability of a woman to conceive a biological child and male fertility is the ability to impregnate a female egg.

The decision to have a baby with or without a partner is a big decision.

Typically there are 9 factors which can influence fertility. Some you have control over, while others you may not. Remaining aware of these factors can help you to be better prepared.

#1: Genetics

Genetics play an important role in your fertility. Look to the women in your family for an idea of how easy or difficult it may be for you to conceive. 

There are several conditions known to impact fertility which have genetic / hereditary components. Endometriosis, premature menopause, chromosomal abnormalities each tend to have genetic ties. 

#2: Weight

Maintaining a healthy body weight can be crucial to fertility. Both obesity and malnourishment can each account for 6% of reported infertility cases. You can improve your chances of becoming pregnant by maintaining a healthy body weight. If you are struggling with your weight, consider visiting a doctor or nutritionist to discuss ways to find a healthy balance. 

#3: Age

Particularly for females, fertility can be directly linked to age. The reality is that female fertility begins to decline when a woman reaches the age of 30, and reduces further from age 35 and onwards. This does not necessarily mean that women should rush into conceiving out of fear of losing their fertility, but rather that they should remain cognizant of how fertility may change at certain points in life. 

#4: Lifestyle

Once you start thinking about having a baby, focus on making some healthy lifestyle changes.

Smoking, alcohol, steroids and the use of illicit drugs can all have damaging effects on your fertility. Some reported effects include reduced egg quality,  as well as reduced sperm development and production. Even caffeine may reduce fertility. 

Focusing on a healthy lifestyle is the best way to aid conception and contribute to an overall healthier pregnancy.

#5: Stress

The science backing up the relationship between stress and fertility is fairly robust.  Many researchers believe the increased levels of the stress hormone,  cortisol, are damaging to fertility because it leads to immune, digestive and reproductive suppression. 

Managing stress may improve your chance of conception.  Take a yoga class or get outdoors; anything that helps you to regroup and refocus after a stressful day. 

#6: Nutrition

The book, The Fertility Diet, was written by Harvard researchers after tracking the nutritional and lifestyle habits of nearly 18, 000 women who were trying to conceive over an 8 year period. 

Here is a highlight of just a few of the recommendations. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Reduce sugar intake. Use unsaturated vegetable oils and avoid trans fat. Eat vegetable protein rather than protein from animal sources. Choose slow-release carbohydrates like beans and whole grains. If you drink milk, consider whole milk rather than skim. Get plenty of iron from vegetables and drink lots of water. 

Assess how fertility friendly your current diet may be and consider what changes could be made to improve your chance of conception. 

#7: Exercise

Both too much and too little exercise can inhibit fertility. Regularly participating in strenuous workouts can even pause a woman’s menstrual cycle completely.  The Nurses’ Health Study points to positive overall health benefits from a more moderate workout routine. Their findings indicate a range of exercise optimal for fertility, dubbed the “fertility zone”, which consists of around 30 minutes of exercise a day. There are exceptions made for women above or below a healthy BMI, but the overall results were that regular exercise can actually improve fertility
(Chavarro, Jorge E., M.D. et al.  pars 46-51.) 

#8: Sleep

Getting adequate sleep is essential for optimal hormone production.  Sleep levels affecting leptin, estrogen, luteinizing (lutenizing) hormones, and follicle-stimulating hormones in women. Find ways to calm your system prior to bed, focusing on relaxation and sleep inducing methods. 

#9: Exposure to Toxins

There are a variety of chemicals in household products and the environment that can be destructive to fertility. Certain pesticides have been shown to reduce fertility in both males and females and can even increase the rate of pregnancy loss. Food additives and preservatives have demonstrated negative effects on sperm count and testosterone levels. Phthalates (Fa-lates) found in personal care and cleaning products have been found to inhibit the development of reproductive organs in utero. 

In an effort to remain healthier overall as you strive to achieve pregnancy, pay attention to labels and become educated on the possible harmful substances you may be exposed to on a daily basis. 

As you attempt to conceive, you should make taking care of yourself a priority. Remember that once you are pregnant, your little one will experience everything you do, so finding ways to reduce stress and improve your health now can lead to a healthier pregnancy in the long run. 

If you have any concerns or issues influencing your fertility, please seek the advice of a doctor for further advice. 

Here’s to having healthy babies!

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us, we are always happy to help!

Resources

“Abnormal Body Weight: A Preventable Cause Of Infertility.” ASRM Protect Your Fertility Campaign: Abnormal Body Weight: A Preventable Cause Of Infertility. Network Solutions, LLC, n.d. Web. 30 July 2013. 

“Age and Fertility: A Guide for Patients.” American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Network Solutions, LLC, 2012. Web. 30 July 2013.

“Age-Related Factors That Influence Fertility.” Age-Related Factors That Influence Fertility. US Department of Health and Human Services, 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 30 July 2013.

Barbieri, Robert L., Alice D. Domar, and Kevin R. Loughlin. “New Releases.” Making Fertility Friendly Lifestyle Choices. Harvard University, 2000. Web. 30 July 2013.

Barham-Floreani, Jennifer. “7 Modifiable Lifestyle Factors Which May Influence Fertility.”Well Adjusted™ Great Health for Growing Families. NEU, 12 June 2012. Web. 30 July 2013.

Chavarro, Jorge E., M.D., Walter C. Willett, M.D. , Patrick J. Skerrett, M.D.  “Fat, Carbs and the Science of Conception.” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 01 Dec. 2007. Web. 30 July 2013.

“Genetic Causes : Reproductive Science Center – New Jersey.” Reproductive Science Center New Jersey. Fertilitynj.com, n.d. Web. 30 July 2013.

“Male Factor Infertility.” Male Factor Infertility. Ohio State University, n.d. Web. 30 July 2013.

“Put the Sleep and Infertility Link to Rest.” Attain Fertility. Domain Discreet Privacy Service, 2010. Web. 30 July 2013.

Shapiro, Connie. “When You’re Not Expecting.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers LLC, 20 Aug. 2010. Web. 30 July 2013.

“Stress and Infertility.” WebMD. WebMD, 2005. Web. 30 July 2013.

“Unexplained Infertility.” RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. The Coulter Companies, n.d. Web. 30 July 2013.

“Women’s Health.” PCOS Weight Gain Causes and Treatments. WebMD, 22 Aug. 2012. Web. 30 July 2013.