Tips to help safeguard fertility health
*By Mary McAuliffe
It is important for men and women to know that their fertility health is not beyond their control. Some people will struggle with fertility issues, which can be male or female related, a combination of both, or sometimes can be unexplained. For most men and women though, there are simple precautions they can take to safeguard their fertility health.
-Kick the habit: Not only is it beneficial for your overall health to quit smoking, but research shows it takes longer for smokers to become pregnant. Smoking can cause damage to the ovaries and fallopian tubes and alter the hormone levels required for pregnancy. Smoking also increases the risk of miscarriage within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Men who smoke have a lower sperm count that those who do not smoke.
-Eat ‘fertility' foods: Maintain a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, avoid processed foods, junk food and fizzy drinks. Reduce your alcohol intake if you consume more than the recommended units. Also reduce your caffeine intake; we would recommend not more than one cup of coffee a day, and less if you are actively trying for a baby. Eat essential fats instead of trans-fats. Omega 3 essential fatty acids, found in fish oils and good-quality flaxseed oils, are an excellent source of essential fats. While recommended for healthy cell development, essential fats also play an important role during pregnancy. Cut down on animal protein and boost your intake of plant proteins, such as pulses and legumes which are rich in B vitamins necessary to support fertility. Nuts are a great source of zinc, which is an essential nutrient for fertility. Brazil nuts are good for selenium which is important for male reproductive health.
-Aim for the right BMI: Being either underweight or overweight can have a negative impact on fertility for both men and women. If you are actively trying for a baby, or even just trying to boost your fertility health for the future, it is a good idea to calculate your body mass index (BMI). Aim for a healthy weight; a BMI of between 20 and 24.9 is ideal. For women, maintaining a healthy weight will help regulate your menstrual cycle and increase your chances of conceiving. You should also be aware of your mid-abdominal fat. Excess fat in this area can disrupt hormones and interfere with the functionality of the reproductive glands. The key message to achieve this is to engage in regular exercise and maintain a healthy diet
-Exercise the right way: Avoid vigorous exercise - especially if you are actively trying for a baby. For men, over exercising can potentially overheat the testicles, which need to be kept at a cooler temperature to produce sperm in the right way. Over exercising and being underweight can play havoc with your reproductive health. For example, underweight women can often experience problems with irregular periods, which affects ovulation. The exercise you engage in should be enjoyable, and also should also be a stress reliever for you. Stress can also have a negative impact on fertility. So if you and your partner are trying for a baby, exercise such as yoga, swimming, dancing or walking is ideal.
-Become informed: Become aware of the link between age and fertility, this is especially important for women. Fertility is age related and everyone should be aware of how their fertility changes. Women's fertility rate begins to decline from age 30. Research has shown that there is a more pronounced decline at 35 and then a sharp decline from age 40. Men's sperm can also start declining in quantity and quality from 40 on. The reason it is good to be aware of this is so you can take charge of planning for your future. If you are certain you want to have a baby, but are not ready right now, you can avail of a simple and straightforward fertility assessment. This will inform you of whether you are in top fertility health, or whether you might need to take some early steps to address an issue.
*Mary McAuliffe is a fertility nurse specialist and Head of Clinical Services at leading fertility and IVF clinic, the Cork Fertility Centre.
[Posted: Wed 04/05/2016]