September 2, 2014
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Fertility


Healthy lifestyles and fertility

Your lifestyle may affect your fertility. A healthy lifestyle may contribute to your ability to conceive. Here are some lifestyle factors that have been shown to impact the fertility in some couples.

If you're concerned about any of them, or want to learn more about healthy living, talk to your doctor or fertility specialist.

Smoking

Smoking strongly contributes to infertility. As well, smoking has been known to increase the risk of tubal pregnancies, cervical cancer and pelvic infections, and has been linked to sperm problems in men.

You should speak to your health care provider about the potential effect of smoking on your ability to conceive. Your health care provider may also be able to help you find a program to help you quit smoking. The Health Canada website, www.hc-sc.gc.ca, has several helpful resources and links for smokers who want to quit.

Weight

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure to determine the amount of body fat and amount of lean body mass. It gives a general indication that determines whether weight falls within a healthy range.

Being overweight or obese may reduce a woman's fertility. A body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9 is considered overweight, while a BMI of 30.0 or higher is defined as obese. Being obese may increase the risk of infertility, may cause irregular or infrequent menstrual cycles, and may increase risk of miscarriage. For women who are obese, weight loss of 5% to 10% may dramatically improve ovulation and pregnancy rates.

Please be aware that BMI values may not be as indicative of your physical condition if you are very fit or muscular, since muscle mass can increase body weight. However, if you are extremely fit or underweight, you may also have hormonal changes and reduced fertility levels as a result.

For more information about weight management and what you can do about it, talk with your health care provider.

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption has been shown to compromise the fertility of both men and women. If you are trying to conceive, you may want to consider reducing or eliminating alcohol from your lifestyle. Studies have shown that alcohol has the potential to affect the developing fetus, causing fetal alcohol syndrome. For men, alcohol use can damage sperm. Your health care provider can provide you with more information regarding whether or not your level of alcohol consumption could be affecting your fertility.

Prolonged exposure to high temperatures

Prolonged exposure to high heat from hot baths, whirlpool tubs, and steam rooms can lower a man's sperm quality. If you are trying to conceive, the male partner should try to avoid these.

Lubricants

Using lubricants such as petroleum jelly or vaginal creams may affect the sperm's ability to reach and fertilize the egg. While trying to conceive, avoid using lubricants unless one is explicitly recommended by your fertility specialist.

Stress and worry

A recent study surveyed 151 women about their concerns and worries while undergoing ART (assisted reproductive technology) treatments for infertility. The results showed that women who worry about the medical procedure, their finances, or missing work due to the procedure are likely to produce fewer eggs and have less chance of conceiving than women who don't worry. You may want to consult your doctor or fertility specialist about resources available for stress management.

Caffeine

Low-to-moderate consumption of caffeine (less than 300 mg/day, or about 3 cups of coffee) does not appear to lower a woman's chance of becoming pregnant. Some studies, however, have suggested that higher amounts may make it harder to conceive. Caffeine may also have an effect on sperm quality. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate.

Occupational risks

Exposure to toxic substances on the job, such as pesticides, radioactivity, X-rays, and electromagnetic or microwave emissions, may lead to sperm abnormalities. If you've been exposed or if you're concerned about occupational hazards, talk to your human resources department or person in charge of occupational health and safety at your workplace.

Medications

Some medications for heart disease and high blood pressure may cause infertility in men. If you have questions about your medications, talk to your health care provider. Also, before you start a new medication, let your doctor or pharmacist know that you and your partner are trying to conceive, so you can make sure the medications won't interfere with your fertility.

If you'd like to learn more...

If you have concerns about your fertility, you should talk to your health care provider or a fertility specialist. If you make an appointment, read some suggested questions that you might want to ask your health care provider.

You should also see a doctor (find a fertility clinic near you) if you are under 35 and have been trying to conceive for at least 12 months, or if you are 35 to 37 and have been trying to conceive for at least 6 months. Women over 37 do not need to wait 6 months before seeing a doctor because waiting too long to seek help could harm their chances of conceiving.

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