Lifestyle factors greatly influence your chance of becoming pregnant and having an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery. Following these guidelines will increase the likelihood that you will conceive, and maximize your chances for success if a more complex treatment like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is needed.


Smoking can have a huge impact on your ability to become pregnant and carry your baby to term. If either partner smokes, you decrease your chance of getting pregnant by 50%, and increase your chances of having a miscarriage. Second-hand smoke causes a similar reduction in the chance of pregnancy and decreases ovarian reserve. It is recommended that both partners stop smoking before starting fertility treatments.


Limiting your caffeine intake is another important step to take before trying to become pregnant. Before or during an IVF cycle, you should not have more than one cup of decaf coffee or tea (5 mg or less). Chocolate (approximately 20 mg of caffeine per serving) and sodas (about 80 mg) should also be avoided. Since caffeine has been associated with miscarriage, you should continue to avoid it throughout your pregnancy.


During an IVF cycle, you and your partner should avoid alcohol, which has been shown to decrease the pregnancy rate (Hakim, 1998, Rossi, 2009) and possibly increase the rate of miscarriage (Klonoff-Cohen, 2003).

Exercise & Fertility

Moderate exercise (e.g. a brisk walk) for 30 minutes most days has been shown to increase both male (Vaamonte, 2012) and female fertility (Wise, 2012). While moderate exercise is recommended, two studies suggest that women who exercise vigorously more than 3-5 times per week may experience reduced fertility (Morris, 2006, Wise, 2012). It is possible that the stress on the body of the vigorous exercise combined with the stress of infertility may produce an adverse effect.

Weight & Fertility

Obesity (BMI over 30) decreases a woman’s fertility, increases the chance of miscarriage and increases the chance of premature birth with all of its associated risks for the baby. The most prominent effect occurs when the BMI is over 35. Even with a successful birth, the odds of delivering before 32 weeks (quite premature) increase by 25% when the BMI is over 30. That risk doubles to 50% when the BMI is over 35. Such early delivery can lead to a marked increase in the chance of the newborn not surviving or having very significant health problems or permanent disabilities.

If your BMI is over 35, we generally recommend weight loss before attempting conception. A daily brisk walk plus 200 fewer calories each day can result in losing 30 pounds per year. Vigorous exercise does not appear to reduce fertility in obese women.

Adapted from Lifestyle and Fertility by Dr. David Meldrum at

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