One in seven couples will experience difficulties getting pregnant. For many of us, simple changes to our lifestyle may be enough to boost chances of conceiving. Professor Tim Child from The Fertility Partnership explains which lifestyle choices could be holding you back by reducing your fertility and what not to worry about.
For women, weight has a significant role to play in fertility. If you’re a woman who is underweight or overweight, it can impact the chances of you conceiving and also miscarrying. Aim for a healthy Body Mass Index, ideally between 19-25, but certainly less than 30. For men, weight has less of an effect, though sperm quality does decrease as the weight increases so best to keep a watch.
We are often told to relax when trying for a baby, which can be hard if you are experiencing problems conceiving. Actually you can relax…or worry, as it doesn’t appear to make a difference to your chances of conception.
Nicotine, even in passive smoking, reduces fertility in both men and women. If either partner smokes, it can take longer to conceive, cause fertility problems and doubles the chances of suffering a miscarriage.
Although vaping is relatively new, studies have shown the flavours used appear to harm sperm with bubblegum and cinnamon flavours having the most impact.
There are lots of ‘fertility diets’ out there, but if you’re a woman consuming a good variety of healthy foods any changes to your diet are unlikely to make a significant difference to your fertility.
6. Vitamin supplements
The special vitamin packs aimed to improve fertility have been shown to make no difference to a woman’s fertility – the only tablet a woman should take is folic acid, ready for when you fall pregnant. But studies have shown that some multivitamins designed to help a man’s fertility, can actually improve sperm quality.
Caffeine is the world’s most popular stimulant drug. It is high in antioxidants and many studies show that it has health benefits. However, if you drink too much caffeine it could affect your fertility. So, while trying to conceive, consider switching to decaffeinated coffee. Or if you do want caffeine, be mindful of its strength.
Research hasn’t yet found a strong link between moderate alcohol intake and infertility, although heavier drinking is associated with a decrease in fertility, particularly in men. So, at a time when everyone seems to be telling you to stop everything, if a glass of wine helps you to relax and importantly spend quality time with your partner then go ahead…but keep it in moderation.
Participating in a sport you enjoy is a great way to relax and stay healthy, but no sport will make you more fertile.
All ‘recreational’ drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines are known to negatively effect men and women’s fertility. Anabolic steroids alter the level of testosterone in men, causing the body to produce low or no sperm. Even after stopping taking steroids, it can take a very long time for fertility levels to rise.
About the expert
Professor Tim Child (Associate Professor in Reproductive Medicine, University of Oxford. Honorary Consultant Gynaecologist, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford) is an internationally renowned fertility specialist. He was the IVF clinician who helped put together the current NICE Fertility Guidelines and is a board member of Fertility Fairness, a lobbying group for greater NHS IVF funding. He is also the co-author of UK’s highest selling textbook in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (Impey & Child; Obstetrics and Gynaecology). His particular areas of interest are infertility, oocyte in-vitro maturation (IVM), recurrent miscarriage, PCOS, reproductive immunology and laparoscopic surgery with special interest in endometriosis. In 2012 he helped bring together Oxford Fertility and IVF-Hammersmith to form The Fertility Partnership (TFP), of which he is a Founding Director. TFP is now the largest provider of IVF treatments in the UK across its 7 clinics including Marylebone, Maidenhead and Oxford. To learn more, visit www.thefertilitypartnership.com