Lifestyle choices do make a difference when it comes to making a baby. To achieve the maximal chance of conceiving, especially as the treatment becomes more complex (such as with IVF), it is important to have and maintain a healthy lifestyle. But what are the habits that can be most damaging to your fertility?
Listed here are seven lifestyle questions that will help you identify the biggest roadblocks to your chances of a future pregnancy. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, your fertility might be at risk. Speak to your doctor about ways you can break your unhealthy habits to optimize your chances of a successful pregnancy.
- Do you Smoke? Smoking is a serious infertility risk factor, but one that you can change today by stopping. Smoking can damage your fallopian tubes and cervix and make conception more difficult. It also can decrease your egg supply, age your ovaries at a faster rate than normal and even bring about early menopause. If you do get pregnant, studies show that smokers have a greater risk of miscarriage and premature births.
- Are You Overweight or Obese? Fortunately, your weight is typically one fertility risk factor that you can change. Just a BMI (body mass index) 10 to 15 percent above normal can lead to higher levels of estrogen in your body that can disrupt normal ovulation. Additionally, overweight women often have excessive amounts of androgens, as well as insulin, which can disrupt ovulation and make it hard to get pregnant.
- Are You Underweight or Have an Eating Disorder? Women who are underweight are often hypo-estrogenic, which means they don’t produce enough estrogen to ovulate normally. Underweight women are unable to produce the necessary hormones to trigger ovulation, which is essential for conception. Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, can also lead to abnormal menstrual cycles and infertility. It’s best to seek professional help right away if you suffer from either condition.
- Do You Exercise Excessively? Studies have shown that excessive and strenuous exercise can lead to irregular periods or no period at all. It is not uncommon for dancers, professional athletes and runners to have ovulation problems. Cutting back on exercise may resolve this infertility risk factor, so talk with your doctor.
- Do You Have a History of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)? STDs such as gonorrhea and Chlamydia are common infertility risk factors that can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) if left untreated. PID can result in complications such as scarring, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and blocked fallopian tubes – all of which can adversely affect your chances of getting pregnant.
- Do You Drink an Excessive Amount of Caffeinated Drinks? Excessive amounts of caffeine from coffee or energy drinks have been linked to recurrent miscarriage and endometriosis. One study has shown a 50% increase in infertility in those who consume excessive amounts (500 mg or more) of caffeine intake daily. An even smaller amount (more than 200-300 mg) daily may still increase the risk of miscarriage. It is reasonable to minimize caffeine prior to and during pregnancy to optimize reproductive outcome.
- Do You Drink Excessive Amounts of Alcohol or Use Illicit Drugs? Alcohol and drug abuse have been shown to increase your chances of ovulation disorders and endometriosis and can interfere with getting pregnant and/or carrying the pregnancy to term. In men, a recent study has shown that regular marijuana use interferes with sperm production.