Becoming a parent is a dream that many hold dear. But for 1 in 5 people attempting to conceive, that dream may be hard to come by.
Infertility is a common problem that can plague would-be parents for a number of reasons. Studies conducted within the last decade have shown that several lifestyle factors can influence a couple’s struggle to conceive — nutrition, weight, exercise, and psychological stressors can play a significant role in infertility. Addressing these issues can place those on their conception journey to a path of greater success.
Fertility is more complex than many realize
If we observe the world at large, with a population of 8 billion people, it may seem like getting pregnant is a simple process, but that doesn’t mean that is is easy for every person to achieve. The process of conception and carrying a pregnancy through to birth is a complex biological process that requires several factors to align just so — and some of those factors are entirely outside of one’s control.
Since one’s fertility can be fragile, it helps to be aware of one’s overall wellness and consider changes one can take to better the chances of conceiving and carrying a baby to term.
Lifestyle factors affecting fertility
It’s well-known that lifestyle factors such as what we eat, how much sleep we may receive, and choices such as smoking or excessive drinking can greatly affect our overall health. One’s fertility can fall under this health and wellness umbrella, and improving some of these lifestyle factors can sometimes mean the difference between getting pregnant or not.
Medical issues can stand in the way of conceiving that may be completely beyond the control of a hopeful parent. Diagnoses such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or endometriosis, for instance, can affect fertility. These medical issues can leave a person feeling helpless. However, giving patients the education and direction they need to improve some lifestyle factors delivers some control back to their hands, allowing them to actively participate in increasing their fertility.
Some of the lifestyle factors that can affect fertility can be surprising. Many may not be aware that working the night shift can also negatively impact one’s ability to get pregnant. Inconsistent sleep can cause hormone fluctuations and overall production, lessening the hormones necessary for successful conception. It may seem obvious that one should not smoke if one hopes to conceive, but some may not be aware that overexercise can also keep someone from conceiving by inhibiting ovulation.
The first step in improving one’s overall health to better their chances of conceiving is being aware of what factors need improving. The varied lifestyle choices that can negatively affect fertility include:
- Smoking, drinking alcohol, and other drug use
- Lack of healthy sleep habits
- A high caffeine intake
- Overexercise and over-dieting
- Existential stress
- Environmental or occupational exposures to certain pollutants
- High blood pressure
This list is by no means exhaustive, but taken as a whole illustrates the importance of overall health in the conception journey.
Improving your chances
So, what steps can be taken to improve your chances of getting pregnant? Knowing the risk factors for infertility is the first step. The second step is to take stock of your own health and wellness and pinpoint areas that may need attention. Many steps one can take to improve their health and chances of conceiving are gentle, non-invasive actions. These can include:
Adding micronutrients to your diet
Growing evidence shows specific vitamins and supplements may help aid conception. Folic acid has been a supplement many have turned to before trying to conceive and, should they become pregnant, continue to take it to support a healthy pregnancy. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and CoQ10 have been found to enhance sperm quality. Those seeking to conceive and carry healthy pregnancies to term should consult their doctors about the right micronutrients to add to their diet.
Use fertility tracking
One part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is becoming more attuned to one’s body processes as a whole. Your fertile window is the five days leading up to ovulation, plus the day of ovulation and the day after ovulation. An ovulation kit can help one pinpoint their ovulation days and have a better chance of catching the fertile window. Learning more about how our bodies act within this fertile window can also help us increase our chances of conception. Cervical mucus is one indicator of fertility. When estrogen levels rise, cervical mucus production increases. The mucus presents as slippery and clear, which can be your body’s way of saying it’s ready to conceive. Your basal body temperature is your temperature when you’re fully at rest and can be another predictive factor in tracking your fertility. Ovulation may cause a slight increase in basal body temperature. You’ll be most fertile during the two to three days before your temperature rises. By tracking your basal body temperature each day, you may be able to predict when you’ll ovulate.
Move your body
It may seem easier said than done some days, but eating well and increasing your movement may be the best way of improving fertility. Being in better shape has various health benefits: better concentration, more stamina, and less anxiety among them. One can increase their movement, even by small increments daily. Even small changes can have impactful effects on fertility.
If you’ve been actively trying to conceive or are even thinking about starting a family, a taking stock of the lifestyle factors that could possibly impact your fertility may be due. Those looking to get pregnant should speak with their medical providers about the best way to improve lifestyle conditions to give themselves the best chance of seeing two lines on that pregnancy test.
Benjamin Tee, twoplus Fertility co-founder, dedicated himself to the study and innovation of fertility care after failing to start a family over a long stretch of time. As a Stanford Biodesign Fellow with a PhD from Stanford University, Tee found personal frustration over a lack of reliable home-based fertilization solutions on his family’s fertility journey. This spurred him to birth twoplus and change the status quo. Through arduous research and collaboration with engineers, Tee successfully grew twoplus to help couples across the world overcome fertility woes to have babies.