For some couples, falling pregnant can happen at the most unexpected times. Others can try for years with no success.
With more and more men and women choosing to start a family at a later stage in their lives, infertility and issues surrounding how to stay as fertile as possible are increasingly under discussion.
We spoke to Dr Caroline Pilot from LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor about what lifestyle factors can increase, or decrease, fertility.
Lifestyle factors that affect fertility
Whether you find it easy or difficult to become pregnant usually depends on your biological make-up, but there are nevertheless a number of lifestyle factors which can affect your fertility. Here are just a few:
Exercise can increase fertility
Exercise is not only good for keeping weight down, it also decreases the levels of stress hormones in your body, and allows your body to absorb more of the vital minerals and nutrients that keep you healthy, improving the chances of fertility in both men and women.
Excess weight can decrease fertility
Women who are over or under weight may experience changes in their ovulation patterns. Extremes of weight can affect the regularity of ovulation, or stop it completely.
Hormonal changes experienced by men who are overweight can also affect the quality of sperm produced.
Carrying extra weight can also affect your ability to achieve or maintain an erection. If you are worried about erectile dysfunction (ED) why not visit LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor’s ED clinic and take our free ED assessment.
For those of you who need a little help shedding the pounds, our weight loss service might be able to help you manage your weight.
Smoking can decrease fertility
We are not entirely sure how smoking affects fertility, but we know that it does. Studies have shown that some women who smoke take up to 1.5 times longer to become pregnant than non-smokers.
This could be down to the effect of nicotine on a woman’s ability to produce the necessary hormones for reproduction.
Research has also suggested that smoking can alter sperm quality, reducing the chances of successful fertilisation.
Smoking affects male fertility by:
- lowering sperm count (the number of sperm in a given measure of semen)
- harming motility (how well sperm can move around, affecting its ability to reach the egg)
- affecting the shape of sperm (misshapen sperm find it more difficult to travel)
- limiting the amount of sperm produced
STIs can decrease fertility
Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can make it difficult for a woman to become pregnant.
A proportion of women who contract chlamydia and gonorrhoea develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This can result in permanent damage to the fallopian tubes and uterus, which may affect fertility.
Men with gonorrhoea can experience epididymitis, inflammation of tubes near the testicles. This can lead to infertility if left untreated.
It is import for both partners to get checked for STIs before they begin trying for a baby.
Alcohol can decrease fertility
Research suggests heavy alcohol usage can damage sperm quality by lowering sperm count and increasing the proportion of abnormally shaped sperm.
The pill does not affect fertility
Many people think that the contraceptive pill affects women’s long-term fertility, but this is not true. A woman’s normal hormones will kick back in simply by stopping taking the pill. This usually happens after a few days. For more information on the contraceptive pill, visit our Contraception clinic.