How does lifestyle affect fertility?

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How does lifestyle affect fertility?

At FIVclínic we firmly believe in the impact of different lifestyles on the results of assisted reproductive techniques as well as on natural fertility. We know that the most determining factor in reproduction is the woman’s age, but also that other factors such as tobacco, obesity, diet, alcohol, stress or physical exercise have an impact on both female and male fertility. We speak with Anna Goday, gynecologist specialized in assisted reproduction at FIVclínic.

Tobacco: does smoking have reproductive effects?

Data collected at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona in a study where more than 3,500 patients were questioned about tobacco use, showed that being 37 years or older and being a smoker led to worse results in ovarian stimulation. Furthermore, smoking patients have also been reported to have a higher abortion rate and a higher rate of ectopic pregnancies (extrauterine pregnancies).

Everything indicates that the negative effect of tobacco would be dose-dependent (more cigarettes a day, more toxicity) and reversible, therefore, more reasons to quit smoking, since the toxic effect on fertility reverts if you quit.

“Given these data, it is totally inadvisable to use tobacco, both during ovarian stimulation and thinking about a future pregnancy,” says Dr. Goday. Thus, we believe that starting an assisted reproduction process could be a good motivation and the ideal time to put aside this habit.”

Physical exercise: is it important to be fit when looking for pregnancy?

Yes. According to the results obtained in our center, where we assessed through questionnaires the type of physical exercise carried out by couples, the parameters of ovarian stimulation (follicular development or estradiol levels) are better in those patients who perform regularly cardiovascular activity. It would be ideal, then, that both women and men regularly carry out moderate physical activity. The WHO describes it as that activity that consumes between 3-6 MET (unit of measurement of energy). “My recommendation would be to walk briskly about 30 minutes a day or other equivalents such as dancing, walking, taking the dog for a walk …”, specifies Dr. Goday.

Diet and obesity: what role does weight play in reproduction?

“It is usual for us to make an assessment of the body mass index (BMI) on the first visit, and in the case of overweight, and especially obesity, we recommend controlled weight loss,” says Dr. Goday. A BMI over 25 reduces the chances of pregnancy and also increases the abortion rate. Sometimes obesity is precisely what is reducing our natural fertility, as it alters our menstrual cycle.

“In these cases, the solution may not be an assisted reproduction treatment, but rather the doctor should assess whether the treatment should be weight loss in the case of sterility with a clear endocrine cause.”

Also, an obese woman who becomes pregnant has a higher risk of complications during pregnancy and worse perinatal outcomes. In other words, excess weight is a fundamental factor that we must control.

On the other hand, referring to some components of the diet such as caffeine, specifically coffee consumption, we analyzed the consumption of coffee by a total of 400 couples in our center and saw that the high consumption of more than 3 coffees a day could alter embryonic quality. Therefore, we recommend a moderate consumption of coffee, that is, ideally drinking 1 or 2 coffees a day.

Alcohol: nothing happens if I drink a little?

Alcohol is another factor that negatively affects the fertility of a couple: it affects both sperm quality and oocyte quality. And if consumed during a pregnancy it could have very negative repercussions for the fetus. Thus, we recommend not consuming alcohol while looking for pregnancy, as the oocyte recovery rate worsens and, consequently, the pregnancy rate. Once the pregnancy has been achieved, there is no doubt: tolerance 0 with alcohol.

Stress and pregnancy: bad combination

There are other factors, such as stress, that could negatively affect the results of an IVF cycle. The stress that these treatments can generate in the couple or the frustration of not getting pregnant are, sometimes, causes that cause some couples to abandon the treatment. Therefore, good psychological and emotional support is essential in these types of treatments.

Unchangeable factors: age and ovarian reserve

There are factors that we cannot modify such as age or ovarian reserve, but having healthy lifestyle habits (not smoking, moderate coffee consumption, moderate physical exercise, etc.) are modifiable factors that we can try to follow and that can improve the results of a in vitro fertilization cycle.

Ongoing research on the effects of lifestyle and fertility

Convinced of the impact of different lifestyles on the results of assisted reproduction techniques and natural fertility, the FIVclínic team conducts a study to determine how tobacco, alcohol, drugs, diet, stress and physical exercise affect the results. of an in vitro fertilization cycle. On a voluntary basis, patients who wish to participate answer validated questionnaires to determine the lifestyle followed by each couple. This gives us information that we can later relate to folliculogenesis, oocyte quality, embryonic evolution in the laboratory, pregnancy rates, and even assess whether these factors can act during pregnancy or in the life of the future. baby.

Research is a very important part of our center and we believe that it is essential to continue researching along these lines. We also want to promote the healthiest possible life habits that will help us both in our general health and fertility.

Anna Goday. Gynecologist specialized in assisted reproduction of FIVclinic.


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