With an estimated 22-33 million Indian couples affected by infertility, the problem of infertility is growing by leaps and bounds in the modern world, as everything from how well you sleep to what you eat and where you work all have profound effects on fertility. It is important to understand the ways in which lifestyle behaviors can benefit or impair fertility and to actively modify lifestyle behaviors to improve fertility potential.
A person’s general well-being affects their reproductive health in a number of ways, where fertility can be significantly affected by a variety of lifestyle choices, including when a couple plans to start a family, nutrition, weight, exercise, psychological stress, exposure to pollutants in the environment, etc. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr. Kshitiz Murdia, CEO and Co-Founder of Indira IVF, highlighted: “Even lifestyle choices like drinking alcohol and caffeine, using illegal drugs, and smoking cigarettes can affect a couple’s ability to to conceive successfully. For example, diabetes, which is sometimes called a lifestyle disease, can lead to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women and low testosterone levels in men, both of which have an effect on reproductive health and can cause infertility.
According to him, “patients with long-term diabetes may experience blood circulation problems and nerve problems. This could cause erectile dysfunction, or problems getting an erection, as well as problems with ejaculation, which could harm your fertility. In women, compared to their non-diabetic peers, patients with type 1 diabetes are less likely to become pregnant and the chances of miscarriage and stillbirth are increased. Additionally, problems such as obesity and anemia can increase complications. Exposure to hazardous substances in the environment is another important factor. We could be exposed to dangerous toxins in the environment. This can include radioactive materials, noxious factory gases, or large amounts of contamination. Such long-term exposures can influence the reproductive systems of both men and women, which in turn can change the size and shape of eggs and sperm.”
He advised: “One should consult a doctor and seek the advice of a fertility expert if you are unable to conceive after trying unprotected intercourse for more than a year. Being a parent is one of the most basic transformations for most men and women, and the stress of not being able to have children can worsen mental and emotional health. Therefore, adopting healthy lifestyle practices is a way to ensure proper functioning of the body in addition to guaranteeing adequate reproductive health.”
Adding to the list of lifestyle issues that can delay conception, Dr. Sujit Ash, Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynecology at PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Center in Khar, revealed:
Age plays an important role in determining the fertility of both partners. Infertile couples should access early care after a maximum of one year without conception and 6 months between older couples. Also with age, the risk of diabetes mellitus or hypertension increases, which can affect libido and fertility, so medications for treatment must be chosen wisely. Maintaining a healthy weight helps prevent hormonal imbalance that negatively affects fertility, thus improving ovulation and the risk of miscarriage and other complications. Among obese women with PCOS, losing 5% of body weight greatly improves the chance of ovulation and pregnancy. Overweight infertile women are encouraged to reduce weight for effective treatment results. On the other hand, being underweight is also related to ovarian dysfunction and infertility in women. Moderate regular exercise could help release endorphins which aid relaxation and also help with weight control. But too much exercise can be harmful. Thin and underweight women who exercise vigorously or take anabolic steroids may be at risk of hormonal imbalance, which reduces fertility. Finding a balance gives you the best chance of achieving a pregnancy. In today’s generation, substance use, including tobacco smoking, using other tobacco products, marijuana use, caffeine addiction, binge drinking, and the use of illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine is very common. and the fact that these reduce fertility is not unknown. The need to understand the side effects and abstain from such substances should be instilled. Infertile couples should avoid anxiety and emotional stress. It is also a known fact that nutrition affects fertility, so good nutrition and a balanced diet should be encouraged. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can cause infertility in women. Those who must undergo these types of treatments may consider fertility preservation such as oocyte or embryo freezing. It would be prudent to avoid excessive irradiation by reducing contact with electronic devices such as mobile phones that emit electromagnetic waves to prevent infertility. The presence of pesticides and toxic solvents in our daily lives cannot be denied. It is not possible to eliminate all hazards in the environment, but efforts can be made to reduce them.
Most lifestyle factors are modifiable habits. Counseling infertile couples increases awareness of risky lifestyle behaviors and facilitates appropriate lifestyle changes that could improve reproductive health.