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About 10 out of every 100 women in the US have problems with getting pregnant, according to statistics. The human body acts in mysterious ways when it comes to creating new life, and there are also certain factors that can influence the likelihood of conception — which can also be a mystery. Sometimes, the most trivial things can decrease fertility and ruin your chances of getting pregnant.
Bright Side understands that infertility is a sensitive issue for many women, so we’d like to shed some light on the factors that can affect fertility and warn you about the detrimental ones.
Things that worsen fertility
1. Over exercising
While exercise can boost fertility, especially among women with obesity, too much working out can do more harm than good. Doctors suggest that intensive and excessive workouts may influence hormone levels and interfere with the menstrual cycle, causing low progesterone levels. This may prevent a fertilized egg from implantation. Women who exercise often and aim to lose weight are more likely to limit calorie intake and have an unbalanced diet. If a woman trains too hard, this creates stress on the body, decreasing fertility. It doesn’t mean that women should stop exercising, but listening to the body and slowing down, if necessary, will bring more results.
2. High levels of stress
The exact connection between infertility and stress is still unknown, but many researchers came to the conclusion that psychological distress and anxiety influence the chances of getting pregnant. Some women may be more affected by stress than others. Besides, many start worrying about an inability to conceive that causes depression and excessive stress for a woman, starting a vicious circle. High levels of cortisol and adrenaline may influence the body’s functioning. This worsens chronic health conditions and opens up the possibility for new diseases, like obesity and metabolic dysfunctions. Practicing mindfulness and learning more about stress-coping techniques may help eliminate the impact of stress on the body.
The number of eggs a woman will have in her lifetime is determined when she’s born. Eggs age and worsen in quality as a woman gets older. In her 20s, a woman has a 25-30% chance of getting pregnant every month. This probability decreases to 5% by the age of 40. Of course, every woman is different and it’s impossible to precisely predict the outcome of an attempt to get pregnant. However, doctors warn that age is a significant factor that affects fertility and even IVF treatment can’t always overcome age complications.
4. Unhealthy weight
Being both over- and underweight is the primary reason for infertility in 12% of infertility cases, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Unhealthy weight may cause problems with hormone levels that, in turn, lead to ovulation disorders, irregular menstrual cycles, and heighten the risk for miscarriages. Luckily, this cause of infertility can usually be reversed. 70% of women who got their weight back to normal managed to conceive without any additional treatment. Women should make sure that their body mass index (BMI) is in a healthy range and consult a dietitian for a diet plan.
5. Exposure to certain chemicals
We assume that the cosmetic products we apply to our bodies and the household cleaning chemicals we use are safe, but this is not always the case. Research suggests that certain chemicals, like phthalates and parabens, might cause endocrine disruptions and other related problems. The study suggests that while these chemicals are safe when tested in the laboratory, scientists still don’t know for sure how they interact with each other in the body. While further research is needed, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Try to choose more natural cosmetic products and limit your exposure to cleaning chemicals. There are plenty of natural cleaning recipes that you can substitute for harsh chemicals.
How to boost fertility
1. Practice yoga.
Yoga is not only a great way to stay active without over exercising, but it can also be effective for women who struggle with getting pregnant. Certain yoga poses increase the blood flow to the pelvis and improve the work of the endocrine system. As a bonus, yoga decreases the levels of stress and anxiety that have a negative effect on fertility. Yoga offers a variety of poses to boost fertility. For example, you can start your practice with Setu Bandhasana and Viparita Karani to improve blood circulation. Then move to Uttanasana to balance your hormones. And finish your workout with Balasana to relax your body and mind.
2. Be careful with the products you use in the vaginal area.
Some products may affect a woman’s vaginal pH level and create a hostile environment for getting pregnant. For example, douching may contribute to the development of vaginal infections and STIs. Choosing the wrong lubricants can also negate all your efforts to get pregnant. It’s better to opt for “fertility-friendly” lubricants that don’t contain any harmful ingredients. These lubes are pH neutral which mimics cervical mucus and doesn’t harm sperm or interfere with its mobility.
3. Eat diverse and well-balanced foods.
Apart from following basic eating rules, like consuming plenty of fiber and healthy fats and staying away from junk food, pay attention to the products that can diversify your menu and boost it with the necessary vitamins and minerals. For example, grapefruits are rich in polyamine putrescine, which improves egg health and low levels of vitamin C, which can contribute to a hormonal imbalance. And don’t forget about spices! One research study showed that women who consumed cinnamon had improved ovulation and menstrual regularity in comparison with the ones who got the placebo.
4. Add certain vitamins to your diet.
A lack of certain vitamins may decrease fertility. All vitamins in the body should be in balance, but some of them play a more significant role in conception and the maintenance of a healthy pregnancy. They include: Folic acid: folic acid is a must when preparing the body for childbearing since it decreases the chances of problems with a baby’s development in the early weeks of pregnancy.
Zinc: zinc contributes to the quality of eggs, which improves their fertility and their ability to be inseminated.
Omega-3 fatty acid: omega-3 fatty acids improve your overall health and boost fertility, which improves the blood flow to the uterus and increases cervical mucus.
Iron: iron is essential for keeping energy levels high and preventing a lack of ovulation.
5. Drink less coffee.
The good news is that you don’t have to cut caffeine completely. But experts suggest than limiting caffeine intake might be a good idea. Try not to drink more than 2 cups of coffee a day (about 200 mg of caffeine). Remember that coffee isn’t the only product that contains caffeine. Tea, soda, chocolate, and energy drinks also contain caffeine, so pay attention to the product label and don’t forget to include them when counting your daily intake.
Do you know of any other factors that can influence fertility? Share your experience in the comments.
Illustrated by Polina Koshel and Ekaterina Gandrabura for BrightSide.me