The more we learn about infertility, the more we discover about how lifestyle factors can contribute to the chance of conceiving with or without fertility treatment. Most of the same lifestyle factors will also affect your chance of having the healthiest pregnancy. This is part of the process for which you do have control. We encourage you to consider these factors, and modify your lifestyle if needed, to optimize your success rates with fertility treatment. We want you to have the best chance of conceiving whether trying to conceive spontaneously, or with help.
Weight and BMI
We think of body weight in terms of Body Mass Index (BMI). A normal BMI is in the range of 19 – 25. Women that have a BMI either significantly below or above the normal range can have ovulatory dysfunction, which significantly affects fertility. However, it seems that ovulation problems are not the only factor making it harder for women with a high BMI to conceive. High BMI is associated with decreased pregnancy rates and an increased miscarriage rate, even when ovulation is occurring. This affect is most notable in women with a BMI over 35. Sometimes, improvement in ovulation and fertility can be achieved with a drop of even 5% of your bodyweight. Although we take all factors into consideration, we do encourage you to optimize your bodyweight, prior to even starting fertility treatment.
Newer studies have shown that moderate amounts of exercise for both men and women are great for fertility. This does not comes as a huge surprise, since exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight, increases blood flow and decreases stress, to name only a few of the benefits. The optimal amount of exercise seems to be moderate cardiovascular exercise for 20 – 40 minutes, several days a week. If the exercise is too strenuous, considered to be over 5 hours a week or over an hour a day, this can actually be detrimental to your fertility.
Dietary health to optimize fertility can be summed up as the ‘Mediterranean diet’. Try to incorporate a balance of different vegetables and variety of proteins, including fish, which are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids. Avoid a large amount (more than one serving a week) of the deep-water fish including tuna and swordfish because of their mercury content. Try to eat whole grains and complex carbohydrates in place of processed and refined ‘white’ foods, like white bread and white rice. Minimize the amount of simple sugars in your diet, although fruit in moderation is healthy. Darker colored fruits, such as blackberries, blueberries, and pomegranates, are particularly high in antioxidants, which have been shown to be good for egg and sperm quality.