Whether you’re about to start trying to conceive or you’ve been trying for some time, it’s worth taking the time to understand some of the factors that might impact your reproductive wellness and enhance fertility. The lifestyle choices you make are everything when it comes to your health and wellness. So, it’s no surprise that they’re absolutely key when it comes to your reproductive health.
Let’s take a look at how to better manage your lifestyle in an attempt to support your reproductive health and enhance fertility.
Regular exercise is critical for a healthy body, so it makes sense that it would be important if you’re trying to conceive.
One particular study showed that an increase in vigorous activity was associated with a reduced risk of female infertility. Researchers determined that for each hour per week of vigorous exercise the participants got, there was a 7 percent lower risk of infertility.1
Now, exercise can help you achieve a healthy weight which is thought to enhance fertility. So, if you’re trying to lose weight before trying to get pregnant, exercise could be very useful in shedding those pounds.
On the other hand, being underweight could affect your fertility just as much as being overweight.
Many experts agree that the healthiest course of action when you’re trying to conceive is to embrace moderate-intensity exercise – and try to get at least 150 minutes of workout time per week.2
When it comes to your diet, several scientific studies support the idea that what you eat is closely linked to fertility.
The key areas that many experts keep coming back to are:
- Dairy products
- Trans Fats
A key Harvard University study on the consumption of animal and plant proteins examined nearly 19,000 women who were trying to conceive. The results showed that infertility was more common in women who consumed high amounts of animal protein.
Women who ate predominantly plant proteins had a substantially lower risk of infertility.
Researchers concluded that limiting animal protein, and upping plant protein consumption may reduce infertility caused by ovarian function.3
Another study by fertility experts at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that dairy (and lactose) may not impair fertility, but a high intake of low-fat dairy foods may. High-fat dairy foods appeared to enhance fertility by decreasing the risk of infertility.4
Trans fats have also warranted much research as of late. You may have heard that trans fats are bad for your heart – but it turns out, they may also be bad for fertility too. This is because they bump up insulin levels, which can directly affect ovulation.5 Though you may not actively seek out those nasty trans fats, they’re great at hiding – look for them hidden as hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils, shortening, or vegetable shortening.
3. Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption
It’s commonly understood that women should avoid alcohol during pregnancy – but what about preconception? And what about that morning cup of coffee? Well, there is still much debate about both of these, with some conflicting results.
One study on couples trying to conceive via IVF concluded that consuming as little as four alcoholic drinks per week was associated with a decrease in IVF live birth rates.6 Another study suggested that high caffeine intake may increase the risk of miscarriage, but moderate alcohol intake had no effect.7
And remember that study of almost 19,000 women and their protein intake? The study also looked at alcohol and caffeine, and concluded that neither substance impaired ovulation “to the point of decreasing fertility.”8
So, whom do you trust?
Many experts argue that because women metabolize both coffee and alcohol differently, the safest thing to do is to limit both substances. IVF experts suggest no more than one cup of coffee a day (preferably decaf) and only a glass of wine here or there, with none after an embryo transfer.9
Prenatal vitamins are a popular topic among women trying to get pregnant. One of the most important vitamins with regard to reproductive health is folate.
Folate (also known as folic acid or vitamin B9) has been shown to positively affect ovarian health, implantation, the development of the embryo, and the entire pregnancy process.10 This is why it comes so highly recommended by fertility experts and OB-GYNs for preconception and pregnancy.
Wondering how to take folic acid? The recommended dose is 400 mcg daily, from the time you are trying to conceive through the first trimester of pregnancy. Folate should be found in all good prenatal multivitamins.11
Many studies show that lowering your stress levels can help to enhance fertility and conception rates.12
In one such study, women struggling to conceive were placed on a 10-week “relaxation behavioral program.” Within 6 months of completing the program, more than 30 percent of the women became pregnant.13
However, learning to relax is one lifestyle change that can feel like the most difficult to adopt. How can you possibly “relax” when the fertility journey can be so stressful?
Well, experts have a few great suggestions on how to relax – and possibly enhance fertility – during this very emotional time:
- Establish healthy sleeping patterns. Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep, let your bedroom only be a place for rest and relaxation, and don’t use electronics before bed.
- Try taking up meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, or other breathing-centric practices.
- Seek out a fertility counselor.
- Embrace self-care. Be gentle and kind to yourself, get out into nature, book a regular massage, or start journaling.14
When it comes tackling fertility problems, every woman’s body is different – and there’s no one right answer. But you can certainly make several lifestyle changes that may potentially help boost your reproductive health and support your fertility efforts. What works for one person might not work for another. You only know what works for you if you try it!
And remember, healthy sperm is essential to conception too. According to the American Pregnancy Association, male infertility makes up about 1/3 of all infertility cases. When trying to conceive, men should aim to get good sleep, keep their testicles cool and free from tight clothing, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy, balanced diet.15