How Does Lifestyle Affect Fertility in Men and Women?
When we're teenagers, our hormones rage and we're out being fairly reckless on occasion, often unable to contain those crazy urges that occur when we're in the process of becoming adults. The last thing we want is to become pregnant or get someone else pregnant while we're satisfying our needs in those early years. As time goes by, we often develop unhealthy habits, some of which by choice—like smoking or drinking. Others by chance—like the stress that comes from building a career and dealing with adulthood. Over time, as we settle into our adulthood and make way for children to come into our lives, some of these negative lifestyle situations can affect fertility. Where once super-fertile teenagers were wrestling between the sheets and hoping this wouldn't be the one time that leads to a baby, adults become partners who support their spouses during times when they're having difficulties conceiving.
Do Lifestyle Habits Affect Fertility?
Lifestyle absolutely can affect fertility. While some people are genetically predisposed to having trouble conceiving, many couples' difficulties lie in complications from the way they live their lives. Here's a look at some of the common reasons problems revolving around lifestyle-induced infertility:
While smoking has its obvious health concerns for the people who partake in the task, many people don't realize the impact it has on fertility. Male smokers produce less semen and the sperm they do produce don't tend to be as mobile and agile as those of non-smokers. In terms of couples who are trying to get pregnant, the more sperm, the better the chances of conceiving a baby. Lowered sperm counts, or sperm that are too weak to fertilize an egg, impede the possibility of pregnancy. Interestingly, a limited number of studies also suggest that males' exposure to cigarettes in utero can minimize their future fertility.
Women who smoke while they're trying to get pregnant also tend to struggle with infertility. 54% more smokers than nonsmokers have trouble conceiving within the first twelve months of trying. Females are born with all the eggs they'll ever produce. This means each egg that could possibly be fertilized at some point in time is exposed to everything a woman subjects herself to during her lifetime. The toxins contained in cigarette smoke can damage these eggs, often leaving fewer possibilities when the woman reaches the age in which she's actually prepared to conceive.
Stop smoking right now! Even if you don't plan to try to get pregnant right away—or ever, for that matter—you'll be doing your own lungs and body a huge service by putting the cigarettes down. The longer you wait, the harder it may be to conceive a baby. And during that time, you're subjecting your body to harmful chemicals and toxins that could lead to other stressors far greater than the inability to have a baby.
It seems like it's so easy to start gaining weight as we become adults. Metabolism slows, schedules get busy, conveniences like fast food and Amazon mean we don't have to leave our cars or homes as much as we used to. And, let's not forget all the days we're stuck in the office, unable to break away from the computer for a quick ten-minute stroll around the parking lot.
Excessive weight can cause your hormones to change. In women, this can affect their menstrual cycles, as well as the quality of their eggs. Overweight men may experience reduced sperm counts or problems ejaculating. In both genders, obesity can reduce libido, which is an essential factor in the baby-making process.
Find ways to exercise regularly, even if you're only going for a stroll through your neighborhood when you get off work. Regular exercise at the gym is great because it boosts metabolism and helps burn fat, but if that's not something you can do on a regular basis, look for other ways to burn off the calories. Try parking as far away from the grocery store as possible, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Even the smallest changes in your daily exercise routine can lead to big things when you're trying to get the pounds off.
Make sure you're eating a well-rounded diet of fruits, vegetables, and proteins, too. Skip the craving to hit the fast-food drive-thru and look for ways you can enhance your diet in your own kitchen. You can get pretty crazy with salad options these days. Challenge yourself to cook a protein you've never made before. Salmon, fish, and shredded pork can be pretty forgiving, especially if you use a slow-cooker. Find ways to incorporate the food pyramid into your daily diet. You'll probably be surprised about the amount of energy you have after you've switched things up for a bit. Not to mention, you should anticipate a healthier sex life when you and your partner aren't feeling tired and have the confidence to do what you used to do in the bedroom.
While stress may not be the actual cause of infertility itself, it certainly doesn't help matters. People who are highly stressed may take on a number of other lifestyle choices, which are detrimental to the conception of a baby. For example, people who are heavily stressed because of work of family members may be inclined to drink alcohol to calm their nerves when they get home. Alcohol has been shown to reduce men's sex drives and delay women's abilities to get pregnant. Some people may look toward drugs or cigarettes to relax, both of which have been shown to be harmful to fertility.
If none of these cases affects you, you might still find it difficult to sleep or enjoy sex with your partner. People who aren't able to enjoy the touch of their partners may end up being resentful about the process of trying to create a baby, which can only elevate the stress levels within the home.
It's important to find ways to decompress when something's stressing you out. Regular exercise isn't only good for your body; it's good for your mind, too. Consider trying a yoga class after work, or maybe even on your lunch break, so you can reset your mind and clear out all those thoughts that are keeping you up at night. Mindful meditation is another great way to say goodbye to the worries of the day so you can be more focused on your partner's needs.
Working Together to Improve Fertility
If you're trying to make a baby, you're not in this alone. It takes two to Tango, after all. Open the lines of communication with your partner so you can set up a lifestyle that works well for the both of you as you work towards this common goal. Plan date nights in which you walk around the park instead of hitting the movie theater. Trade your dinner night out for a well-rounded dinner in. Commit to not drinking or quitting smoking together so you can be there for each other when things get stressful and you want to revert back to the old way of doing things. In the end, it's just as much about finding ways to be there for each other now as you would be if the baby was already here. Positive lifestyle choices that impact your fertility also impact you as an individual person. It's important not to forget that!
If you want to have children, the best thing you can do is be the healthiest person you can possibly be. This means mind, body, and spirit alike. Once you know what may be holding you back from conceiving, you can make changes—some easy, some hard—to your lifestyle to ensure you have optimal possibilities when you're ready to bring a little one into the world.