Get Fertility Fit!

A good preconception plan involves getting in to the best possible shape to have a baby. Remember to never lose site of the fact that getting pregnant takes two! Improving you and your partner’s health may improve the chances of conceiving.

“If you are trying to conceive, start 2015 by getting FERTILITY FIT “

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For men both sperm quality and function may be affected by lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor diet, alcohol, and too little exercise. Studies have shown that improving lifestyle can improve sperm in as little as three months. This is good news for men.

Likewise for women excess weight can indirectly impact on egg quality, lead to symptoms of irregular cycles and possibly irregular ovulation.

So, if you are wanting to conceive in 2015 now is the time to get your health in order or as we say “Get fertility fit” for conception.

Read The 7 tips to help you and your partner get into shape.

Fertility Fit TIP 1: Be a healthy weight

Both male and female fertility can be affected by weight. One of the best and simplest ways to know your weight is a measure called the Body Mass Index (BMI).

Weight Classification BMI range
Underweight < 18.5
Ideal Weight 18.5 – 24.9
Overweight 25 – 29.9
Obese >30

Studies have shown that it more difficult to conceive when your BMI is greater than 25. Studies have also shown there is increased risk to you and your growing baby if you are obese. These risks can include gestational diabetes and hypotension in pregnancy, plus increased miscarriage rates On a positive note additional studies have demonstrated that losing just 5% to 10% of your weight can improve the chances of ovulation and subsequent pregnancy.

Conversely, being underweight and having very low body fat stores can lead to ovulation disorders and infertility.

A healthy diet of fruit, leafy green vegetables, protein and regular exercise will all help with your general wellbeing and help maintain a healthy BMI weight.

Fertility Fit TIP 2: Reduce your alcohol content

Alcohol has been shown to affect fertility but the level of consumption associated with risk is still unclear. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) recommends that men and women trying to conceive drink no more than five standard drinks per week, with at least two alcohol-free days per week and for women, recommends no drinking at all during pregnancy. This is due to the difficulty in knowing what is a safe level for a pregnant woman to drink.

By the way alcohol is also fattening and often accompanied by other unhealthy lifestyles.

Fertility Fit TIP 3: Stop smoking

There is no safe level of smoking no matter if you are trying to conceive or now pregnant. The evidence is strong that smoking adversely affects male and female fertility.

Female smokers, or those exposed to smoking are more likely to take longer to conceive compared to that of a non-smoker. Furthermore, smoking can also result in less success with fertility treatment and is linked to a higher miscarriage and stillbirth rate.

Men who smoke may have reduced semen volume and sperm count and more abnormal sperm compared to non or ex-smokers. Toxins found in tobacco smoke, such as cadmium, nicotine, lead and radioactive elements may be directly toxic to sperm as they are found in the circulation of the testes.

Speak to your family doctor about a smoking cessation program.

Fertility Fit TIP 4: Start an exercise program

Try to incorporate moderate levels of exercise 4-5 times per week. Try a nice brisk walk around your local park, or perhaps join a local gym. The aim is to be in the healthy weight range for your body – being underweight or overweight can affect fertility. other benefits to exercise include an improvement in general wellbeing, reduced stress, all of which may improve your sex life.

Fertility Fit TIP 5: Have a diet high in antioxidants

Antioxidants can act as scavengers removing any free radicals that could possibly harm sperm. Large studies have shown improvement in sperm health with antioxidant treatment. They may even help with your general wellbeing. Antioxidants are found in many foods such as citrus fruit, tomatoes, peppers, green vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, and nuts and seeds.

Fertility Fit TIP 6: Have a preconception care assessment by your family doctor

Preconception assessment with your doctor helps to rule out any risk factors that could affect your baby and pregnancy.

Areas looked at are:

  • Lifestyle factors (weight, smoking, alcohol, diet and illicit drug use)

  • Investigation and management of any pre-existing medical disorders such as diabetes, epilepsy or thyroid disease.

  • Any medication review

  • The screening for infections and checking for immunity to vaccinations

  • Looking at nutrition and commencing folic acid supplementation to help with spinal development in the fetus

  • Blood tests to rule out iron deficiencies, and assess the blood type

  • Carrier screening for any genetic conditions

  • Review of any previous obstetric deliveries or complications

  • Urine testing for any infections

It is here that smoking intervention strategies can occur, or weight loss plans, and where infertile couples can be identified and treated sooner.

TIP 7: Start the vitamin supplement FOLIC ACID.

All women trying to conceive or thinking of conceiving need to commence a minimum of 400mcg of folic acid daily. The ideal time to start is at least one month prior to conception. Folic acid is from the vitamin B group and is important for helping the neural tube development during the first 12 weeks of fetal growth. You can get this dose of folic acid in a preconception-pregnancy vitamin supplement from any pharmacy.

References:

  • The Fertility Society of Australia; Preconception Health Special Interest Group: Effects of caffeine, alcohol, and smoking on fertility
  • NHMRC. “Advising on smoking cessation in pregnancy” Nov 30, 2012
  • NHMRC. 2009 ” Australian Guidelines to reduce health risks from Drinking alcohol
  • Hull M.G, North K et al. 2000. Delayed conception and active and passive smoking. Fertility and Sterility 74:725-733
  • British Medical Association 2004, Smoking and reproductive life, British Medical Association
  • Balen AH 2007, ‘Impact of obesity on female reproductive health: British Fertility Society, Policy & Practice Guidelines’, Human FertilityVol 10 no 4, 195-206
  • Jensen TK; Hjollund NH, 1998, ‘Does moderate alcohol consumption affect fertility?’, British Medical Journal, Vol 317, no 7157
  • Wilson RD, Johnson JA, Wyatt P et al 2007, ‘Pre-conceptional Vitamin/Folic Acid Supplementation 2007: The Use of Folic Acid in Combination With a Multivitamin Supplement for the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects and Other Congenital Anomalies’, Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, Dec;29(12): 1003-26