In the United States, over 6 million women of optimal reproductive age — or approximately 10% of women between the ages of 19 and 44 — have trouble becoming pregnant or staying pregnant. After a full year of actively trying to get pregnant (or six months if you’re 35 or older), you and your partner may find yourselves dealing with infertility.
As women’s health experts who specialize in female fertility problems, our skilled team at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, has helped many women pinpoint the factors affecting their fertility. In many cases, lifestyle factors play a key role in preventing pregnancy.
Here, Dr. Rania Ibrahim and Dr. Christina Parmar discuss which modifiable habits and health aspects can undermine your fertility — and what you can do about them.
For couples dealing with infertility, getting to the root cause of the problem can often be a complicated and lengthy process. That’s because infertility is just as likely to be a product of female factors as it is caused by male factors — or a combination of both.
When their male partner’s fertility isn’t in question, women naturally wonder if an underlying medical condition could be the cause. But while ovulation disorders, endometriosis, fibroids, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and other persistent gynecological problems are common obstacles to fertility, infertility can occur in the absence of such conditions, too.
Often, female infertility results from lifestyle factors that compromise reproductive health and reduce the chances of becoming pregnant. Fortunately, these factors are controllable, meaning you can improve or reverse them simply by making better choices and taking the time to modify certain daily habits.
Four lifestyle factors that commonly affect female fertility are:
For many women, infertility directly results from a body weight problem. Excessive body fat (obesity) prompts higher concentrations of circulating estrogen, effectively preventing ovulation, or the monthly release of an egg from one of your ovaries. Having very low body fat levels (underweight) makes it harder for your body to maintain the estrogen levels it needs to support monthly ovulation.
If you’re on either end of the weight spectrum, taking steps toward a healthier body weight is often enough to improve estrogen levels, restore monthly ovulation, and make pregnancy possible. Our team can work with you to help you lose or gain weight in a healthy, supported way.
It’s never healthy to lead a sedentary, inactive lifestyle, but strenuous exercise and regular high-intensity workouts aren’t beneficial when trying to conceive. Research has found a strong correlation between increased frequency, intensity, and duration of exercise in highly active women and lower reproductive hormone levels, irregular ovulation, and diminished female fertility.
If you’re very athletic, it’s best to switch to a more moderate training program while trying to conceive. You can still be active, just dial back the intensity level and aim for shorter workouts. If you’re not very active, however, now’s a good time to start a moderate exercise program: Moderate physical activity can give your reproductive system a boost and help you prepare your body for the demands of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery.
While researchers are still studying how a woman’s nutritional status affects her chances of conceiving, they’ve found that certain unhealthy eating patterns can harm female fertility. Specifically, eating a low-carb diet rich in animal proteins can interfere with normal ovulation, as can eating a diet that contains unhealthy trans fats, which are found in many highly processed foods.
Your body performs best when the right nutrients fuel it, and your reproductive system is no different. You can support optimal fertility by choosing whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein sources, and healthy fats, and strictly limiting processed foods rich in added sugars, preservatives, and unhealthy fats. And don’t forget to take a prenatal multivitamin, too!
You already know smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol aren’t healthy for you or your baby during pregnancy, but did you know that these habits can make it much harder to conceive in the first place? Alcohol use can interfere with ovulation, while tobacco use can prematurely age your ovaries, deplete your eggs, damage your cervix and fallopian tubes, and increase your risk of having an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.
Avoiding alcohol and kicking the cigarette habit can help you overcome fertility problems, protect your pregnancy, and deliver a healthy baby. Because that’s often easier said than done, our team is here to help you navigate the process and provide support along the way.
If you’ve been experiencing unexplained fertility problems, come see us for a well woman exam, lifestyle assessment, and comprehensive fertility evaluation. Call 936-245-8830 today, or use our online booking feature to schedule a visit any time.