In order to carry a healthy baby to term, a woman’s body needs to be in good health. Rather than risk an unhealthy pregnancy, the reproductive system responds to certain lifestyle factors and characteristics by making a woman unable to conceive. If you’re struggling to conceive, it’s important to consider these factors and how they are impacting your fertility. These factors are mostly modifiable, so it may be that all you need to do in order to improve your fertility is make a few healthy changes in your lifestyle.
The relationship between obesity and infertility has been well studied. Although there are several manners in which being obese reduces fertility, the most prominent of these is through a condition called PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome. This condition, which causes cysts to grow on the ovaries, makes it nearly impossible for a woman to become pregnant. Although PCOS can occur in women of healthy weights, it is far more prevalent in those who are overweight or obese. High levels of body fat cause excess estrogen to be released, and this estrogen contributes to the growth of the cysts. Luckily, PCOS can be reversible. Losing weight healthily with proper diet and exercise is likely to restore your fertility.
Low Body Fat Levels
It takes a lot of energy and nutrition to support a baby’s growth. Your body stores its extra energy as fat. If you don’t have enough extra fat stored to support your baby’s growth, you may stop ovulating and may be unable to become pregnant. Luckily, this situation is almost always temporary. Gaining some healthy weight by eating a balanced, calorie-rich diet is likely to restore your fertility if low body fat levels are to blame for your infertility.
How much body fat is enough? Experts recommend that women maintain their body fat levels between 21% and 31% for optimal health. Every woman is different, so if you’re on the low end of this range and struggling to conceive, putting on a few pounds may help. Many gyms offer body fat measurements using a skin caliper test, which estimates your percent body fat according to the thickness of folds of skin. Bio-electric impedance tests, which measure body fat by passing an electric current through your body, are more accurate but harder to find.
Recent studies have found that women who drink regularly have a harder time getting pregnant than those who avoid drinking or drink only in very limited quantities. Alcohol consumption can impact your natural hormone levels, making you less likely to ovulate predictably or at all. If you’re a regular drinker who is trying to become pregnant, try limiting yourself to just 2 – 3 drinks per week. Once you become pregnant, you’ll need to abstain from drinking anyways. Think of this as starting a good habit early.
High Stress Levels
Years ago, stress was a very temporary state. A person would become stressed when faced with a dangerous animal or situation, and then the stress would subside after the individual fought off or fled from that threat. Today, many women live in a constant state of stress. The stress presented by work and family obligations, or by juggling a busy schedule, is not easily dissipated like the stress of an approaching tiger. When women are under chronic stress, their hormonal levels become altered in such a way that may interfere with fertility.
If you’ve been struggling to conceive and believe high levels of stress may be partly to blame, engaging in stress-relief activities on a daily basis may help ease your levels of stress hormones back into the healthy range, thus restoring your fertility. Good stress-relief activities include meditation, yoga, massage therapy, listening to music and taking peaceful walks.
One thing you should not do in an effort to manage your stress levels is light up a cigarette. Smoking is not just bad for your baby once you do conceive; it also hurts your chances of becoming pregnant in the first place. The toxins in cigarettes, which include nicotine, cyanide and carbon monoxide, can cause your eggs to die off prematurely. Unfortunately, these eggs cannot be regenerated and recovered. However, you can avoid doing any more damage than has already been done by stopping smoking immediately. The sooner you quit, the more healthy eggs you’ll have left to work with.
If your lifestyle involves any of the infertility risk factors listed above, now is the time to make changes. Talk to your doctor to eliminate any more sinister underlying causes of infertility, and then dedicate yourself to improving your health. The healthy changes you make today will improve your chances of conceiving, and they’ll also have a positive impact on your child’s lifelong well-being.