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Lifestyle Factors and Fertility: A Comprehensive Guide to Optimizing Reproductive Health

April 30, 2024


Fertility is a complex interplay of biological, environmental, and lifestyle factors. While some aspects of fertility are beyond our control, many lifestyle choices can significantly impact reproductive health. In this comprehensive digital guide, we'll delve into the various lifestyle factors that affect fertility and provide actionable tips for individuals and couples looking to optimize their chances of conception.

Book an online Appointment with Dr. Sumana Gurunath for all your Fertility concerns.

1. Understanding Fertility:

Before we explore how lifestyle factors influence fertility, it's essential to understand the basics of reproductive health. Fertility refers to the ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term. Infertility is defined as an inability to conceive despite unprotected intercourse for a period of one to two years. Difficulty in conception can be a result of failure to ovulate, blocked fallopian tubes, abnormalities in the uterus, low semen parameters, pelvic factors like endometriosis or low ovarian reserve. Both men and women equally contribute to fertility, with the above factors playing a crucial role in conception.

2. Diet and Nutrition:

Nutrition plays a fundamental role in overall health, including reproductive wellness. According to the US dietary guidelines, diets high in unsaturated fats, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, vegetable protein, high fibre-low glycemic index foods and fish have been associated with improved fertility in both men and women. Certain nutrients such as folate, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D may also enhance fertility.

These healthy nutrients will not only meet the nutrient requirements but also reduce risk of obesity. Conversely, diets high in processed foods, sugar, unhealthy fats, red meat,saturated fat, and excessive alcohol and caffeine may negatively impact fertility.

3. Weight and Body Mass Index (BMI):

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for fertility. Both underweight and overweight individuals may experience disruptions in hormone levels, menstrual cycles, and ovulation, leading to reduced fertility. A simple method to determine whether your weight is ideal for your height is to calculate your BMI (weight in kgs / Height 2 ). Online calculators and tools can be utilized. A BMI <19 is underweight, 19-25 is normal, 25-30 is overweight and > 30 is obese.

Underweight women with BMI <19 often have irregular menstrual cycles and disturbed ovulation. Many overweight and obese women conceive easily on their own but some have a difficulty in conception. Obesity can disturb ovulation and cause infertility. However, obesity can affect fertility in many ways as many ovulatory obese women have

lower pregnancy rates and take longer to conceive compared to normal women. Obese women have lower response to drugs that induce ovulation, lower egg quality, uterine function, lower success rates following fertility treatment such as IUI and IVF and higher miscarriage rates. Obese pregnant women are more likely to develop diabetes and high blood pressure, deliver preterm and need caesarean for delivery.

Obesity in men may lower testosterone levels and lower sperm counts and motility.

During your fertility consultation with us, we will discuss the impact of weight on fertility and with our team of nutritionists and physiotherapists provide practical tips for achieving and maintaining a healthy BMI through balanced nutrition and regular physical activity.

4. Exercise and Physical Activity:

Regular exercise is essential for overall health. Healthy women attempting conception can continue with moderate intensity exercise which enhances their fertility compared to sedentary women. 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week with strength training twice a week is recommended for all adults. However, vigorous or intense physical activity in this group may disturb ovulation and negatively affect fertility, especially in women.

A combination of moderate to vigorous intensity training and strength training improves fertility in obese women with PCOS. Losing a small amount of weight of 5-10% can improve reproductive function. We'll explore the relationship between exercise and fertility, highlighting the benefits of moderate-intensity activities for reproductive health. Additionally, we'll provide guidance on finding a balance between exercise and rest to support fertility.

5. Stress Management:

Chronic stress can have a profound effect on reproductive health by disrupting hormone levels, menstrual cycles, and ovulation. Couples who have difficulty in conception often have elevated stress levels, anxiety and depression. It is however unclear whether stress causes infertility. We'll delve into the impact of stress on fertility and offer evidence-based stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness to support reproductive wellness.

6. Smoking, Alcohol, and Substance Use:

Tobacco smoke, excessive alcohol consumption, and recreational drug use have all been linked to decreased fertility and increased risk of infertility. Smoking can reduce your egg quality, ovarian reserve and affect tubal function. Smoking is also associated with lower success rates following fertility treatment. Smoking can also affect the sperm quality in men.

Use of tobacco, alcohol and recreational drug use during pregnancy is harmful to the pregnancy and the fetus with greater chance of birth defects, low birth weight, preterm birth and still birth.

Couples who are trying to conceive must consider quitting prior to conception to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. Smoking and drug use cessation can also enhance success of fertility treatment. During your fertility consultation, you will be educated about the harmful effects of smoking, alcohol, and substance use on reproductive

health and provided practical strategies for quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and avoiding recreational drugs to improve fertility outcomes.

7. Environmental Exposures:

Exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants can also affect fertility. Pesticides, heavy metals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and air pollution have been associated with decreased fertility in both men and women. We'll explore common environmental exposures and provide tips for minimizing exposure to toxins to support reproductive health.

Also Read : Lifestyle choices to help you boost your fertility


Optimizing fertility requires a holistic approach that addresses various lifestyle factors, including diet, weight, exercise, stress, smoking, alcohol, substance use, and environmental exposures. By making informed choices and adopting healthy lifestyle habits, individuals and couples can enhance their reproductive health and improve their chances of conception. Consulting with a healthcare provider or fertility specialist can provide personalized guidance and support for optimizing fertility.

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