Health and Wellness Choices for Fertility

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Infertile couples should work on correcting lifestyle issues starting with their first visit to their fertility specialist. The eggs that they will be relying on to produce viable embryos are already developing for 3 to 6 cycles before the cycle of treatment (and of course those measures should be continued during the cycle and embryo/fetal development). For example, for women who smoke, their success with IVF is cut in half, but if they stop for 6 months before and during their cycle, it returns to normal. This is particularly important for women who are feeling stressed, who are obese, who do not exercise regularly, who smoke, and who have a poor-quality diet. Correction of lifestyle deficiencies can increase couples’ odds of being successful from 10 to as high as 100% or more, described in detail on our website, It’s up to you to become fully informed and to take this part of your treatment into your own hands.

Reducing stress and particularly your response to stress can have the greatest impact for some individuals. The mind-body approach is most effective and can be done at one’s own pace and schedule using an online program accessed on the “lifestyle and fertility” page (menu item 2; click on “mind/body” on line 7 under “stress”). Couples should not have an IVF cycle during or soon after (3-6 months) periods of stress.

For obese women, correcting all of these factors will be of much more benefit than losing weight, and will lead to gradual ongoing moderate weight loss and improved general health. In one study, regular moderate exercise was associated with more than three-fold higher success with IVF.

Multiple studies have shown decreased IVF success with an unhealthy diet, and improved outcomes with a “prudent” or “Mediterranean” diet (less total fat, saturated fat, and trans-fat, more seafood, fruits and vegetables, and less sugar). Omega-3’s are very important for embryo and sperm quality, and supplements in the form of fish oil have the advantage of assuring adequate levels are quickly reached (most likely a period of loading is necessary to reach good tissue levels). A prudent diet also increases antioxidant intake. Because antioxidants are so important for the oocyte/embryo and the sperm, supplements can be helpful in addition to emphasizing good sources in the diet (see “lifestyle and fertility” and on the right side of every page).

Moderate exercise improves fertility and IVF outcome for both the male and the female, mainly by reducing oxidative stress. The female should not undertake strenuous exercise because it lowers fertility and IVF success. The male should avoid extreme exercise training as it decreases sperm quality and testosterone levels. Five or more hours of biking per week also reduces sperm quality, likely due to excess heat around the testicles.

The role of alcohol intake has been controversial, with studies showing reduced outcomes and others showing no impact of moderate intake. The role of caffeine intake is becoming clearer, with recent studies showing no impact of moderate intake.

Learn more about wellness for fertility by contacting us today to schedule an appointment.