There are many lifestyle factors that have been proven to influence or enhance your chances of getting pregnant, both before and during fertility treatment. It is important to know that when you have been referred for fertility treatment, often the cause of your reduced fertility is out of your control. But there are some factors you can focus on that can have a positive impact. The below factors are equally important for men and women to follow. Remember it takes 100-120 days for eggs and sperm to mature, so what you do in the 4 months prior to conception has an impact.
Follow a Mediterranean style diet
A Mediterranean dietary pattern has been proven to improve the chances of getting pregnant in people trying to conceive both with and without IVF. A Mediterranean diet is all about an abundance of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and olive oil. It features fish and poultry more so than red meat. A bonus is that a Mediterranean style diet is likely to have benefits for your health other than improving your fertility.
Get started with supplements
All women in New Zealand should supplement with folate or folic acid and iodine for at least three months prior to conceiving. A prenatal multi-vitamin is a good first step, other supplements are not recommended unless prescribed by your health care professional or you have a specific deficiency. Some women need a higher dose of folic acid because of their medical history, check with your healthcare professional if this applies to you.
Exercise for the body and mind
Exercise is useful as it can enhance fertility and help manage any stress you may be experiencing due to reduced fertility or subsequent treatment. Now is the time to find a type of movement that you enjoy. Try to include a range of activities regularly in your life, including some low impact activities e.g. walking, yoga and pilates.
Stimulants and drugs
Try and think of the time you are trying to conceive as your pregnancy training time. For the best chance it is recommended you:
- Quit smoking (click here to view out Repro Fact sheet on how smoking can affect your fertility)
- Don’t take recreational drugs
- Reduce caffeine to a moderate intake level
- Limit alcohol intake as much as possible
- Check with your doctor before starting new medications.
Studies have shown that some chemicals, known as EDC’s, can affect our fertility by interfering with the body’s normal endocrine (hormone) function. Click here to read more about EDC’s and some simple steps you can take to reduce your exposure.
Though it is not the only factor, research shows that excess or insufficient weight in men and women is a contributing factor in reduced fertility. Body Mass Index or BMI is often used in research studies, a BMI of 20-25kg/m2 has been shown to improve chances of conception both naturally and in people undergoing fertility treatment. It can feel quite overwhelming if your BMI is outside this range, but research shows if you are classified as overweight by your BMI, a smaller weight loss of 5% of your body weight can improve your fertility. This is even if this does not bring your BMI into the range of 20-25kg/m2. The best place to start is to focus on the factors recommended above like a healthy diet, regular movement and limiting alcohol. To calculate your BMI, there is a great online calculator on the Heart Foundation website here.
Emotional support: We’re here to help
Fertility uncertainty and treatment can be stressful and caring for your emotional and physical wellbeing is crucial during this time. Our counselling team are on hand to help you and counselling sessions are included at no extra charge with all IVF/ ICSI treatments. To read more about our counselling services click here.
Read more from this nationwide Green Cross Health checklist click here.