Do Lifestyle Habits Impact Conception Odds?

Conception can often seem like a mystery. While the basic process of a sperm and egg combining to turn into an embryo and later a fetus is straightforward, other factors can also impact how easily the event occurs. In particular, fertility can be affected by both underlying health conditions and external lifestyle behaviors. Although most people focus on issues like egg quality, routine habits in everyday life can be equally important.

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Fertility impacts men too

Conversations about fertility tend to focus nearly exclusively on women, given that a woman must act as the host for a successful pregnancy to come to term. But a third of all infertility cases are directly linked to male issues, and another third is a combination of both the male and female partner. Since a woman can’t get pregnant without sperm, which must be supplied by a male donor, both men and women should be mindful of behaviors that might reduce fertility or prolong conception. Just as behaviors can reduce egg quality or reduce overall health in women, the same factors can also reduce sperm quality and quantity, impact sperm motility, and even lead to reduced sexual function, which can inhibit a man’s ability to get a woman pregnant through natural methods.

1. Get to a healthy weight

Being overweight or underweight doesn’t mean that a couple can’t conceive, but there’s a direct correlation between weight and fertility. Studies show when a woman’s weight is outside of the normal BMI range, whether over- or underweight, a woman might not ovulate regularly or may find that fertility treatments aren’t as effective. Likewise, in men, being outside of the recommended normal BMI range can also lead to reduced testosterone levels and poor sperm quality. Both men and women should work towards reaching a healthy weight before trying to conceive.

2. Put out that butt

Most people know that smoking and pregnancy don’t mix and can encourage birth defects in an unborn baby. But the time to quit smoking is before a woman or couple is trying to conceive. Both men and women who smoke have a higher incidence of infertility than individuals that don’t smoke. People who smoke have double the rate of infertility compared to the nonsmoking cohort. Likewise, smoking can reduce the efficacy of fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF). As further proof to stop smoking now, chemicals released in cigarettes speed up egg loss in women while decreasing sperm counts and increasing the incidence of abnormal sperm in men.

3. Drink alcohol in moderation

Ideally, couples trying to conceive would stop drinking entirely. But that demand isn’t always realistic, especially for social drinkers or enjoying a glass of wine with dinner. However, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption is important to minimize the risk of delayed conception. A recent study showed women who consumed 14 or more drinks per week who were also actively trying to conceive took over a year to achieve that goal. Similarly in men, heavy drinking can reduce testosterone levels, shrink the testes, impact ejaculation, and change sperm quality and motility.

Plan for health and conception

Along with getting to a healthy weight, stopping smoking, and reducing alcohol consumption, women and couples trying to conceive should focus on eating a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and also consider reducing caffeine consumption. If individuals are concerned that infertility might be an issue, consider speaking with a physician or fertility specialist.

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