When you realise how many factors have to line up for a successful pregnancy, it’s a wonder that humans are able to reproduce at all!
Both male and female fertility relies on a delicate balance of hormones, which can be influenced by food, toxins in the environment, emotions and stress, illnesses, physical activities, and even the outdoor temperature.
Men have a unique fertility cycle that needs appropriate attention.
The 3-month turnaround for increasing male fertility
- Sperms take around 3 months to develop in the testes before travelling through the tube of the epididymis where they mature over 2 to 10 days.
- During ejaculation, sperm are transported to the urethra where they combine with seminal fluid from seminal vesicles, prostate, and Cowper's glands.
- Therefore, any activity or environmental effect in the present, will show its effect in 3 months’ time.
Women can benefit from awareness of cycles and influence of external factors.
Don’t be hasty in opting for artificial fertilisation
- Trying to get pregnant is exciting yet emotional, and at times a traumatic journey. Couples who are going through this experience can be very vulnerable. In today’s instant-gratification world, not getting pregnant in 1–2 months may seem bad, but it’s not.
- Avoid getting emotional and rely on evidence before signing up for any big (or even small) purchases.
- There are innumerable websites, advertisements, and services that offer all sorts of amazing products that will apparently increase your fertility, and they tend to be expensive.
- It is possible that some of these products will help your fertility, but there are lots of proven, evidence-based, simple, and inexpensive things that you should try first.
6 Tips that apply equally to men & women
1. Quit smoking
There is solid evidence that smoking tobacco or marijuana has a bad effect on fertility.
- A large number of studies have found smoking to have an adverse effect on both male and female fertility.
- In women, cigarette smoking can disrupt egg maturation, follicle development ovulation rates, and fertilisation rates.
- Eggs exposed to nicotine have higher levels of chromosomal abnormalities.
- Female smokers also have increased rates of miscarriage and far lower chances of pregnancy through IVF.
- In men, smoking lowers sperm count and motility and has been found to increase the abnormalities in sperm shape and function.
2. Quit drinking
- Even relatively small amounts of alcohol consumption can have an adverse effect on both male and female fertility.
- Moderate to high levels of alcohol consumption in women is linked to increased miscarriage risks, hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian dysfunction, ovulation dysfunction, luteal phase defect, and abnormal development of the endometrial lining.
- Moderate to high levels of alcohol consumption in men is linked to abnormal liver function, raised estrogen levels (interfering with sperm development), and a significant drop in sperm count.
3. Reduce caffeine intake
- There are a number of studies that show direct links between high levels of daily caffeine consumption (more than 300mg a day) and low fertility in both males and females.
- Many fertility experts suggest that couples keen on getting pregnant should cut caffeine from their diet.
4. Adopt a healthy diet
- Stick to a balanced diet, i.e., one that uses a lot of fruits and vegetables (particularly green leafy vegetables and legumes), low-GI complex carbohydrates, and low-fat meat.
- If you can afford to buy organic produce, it’s worth the extra cost. There is evidence that the chemicals used in agricultural food production can impact fertility, although the amounts and extent of this are difficult to measure.
- Several studies suggest that dairy food (including low fat dairy) can promote fertility.
- Avoid fatty foods, highly processed foods, and foods that are high in sugar as these can throw hormone balance.
- Trans-fats are bad for fertility. They’re found in highly-processed foods such as chips cooked in fat, processed cereals, pastries, pies, some cakes, and even pizza.
- Fish has been an important part of a healthy diet but increasing levels of toxins and heavy metals in oceans can make fish a risky food choice when you are trying to maximise your fertility.
- Smaller fish like sardines and anchovies tend to have a lower risk of toxins and are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Larger fish like shark can be higher in heavy metals like mercury.
- Avoid soft drinks, or too much coffee and tea. It’s better to consume herbal teas and lots of water. Too much bottled juice can be problematic as it is high in fructose, which can interfere with the sensitivities of hormone balance.
5.Embrace a chemical-free lifestyle
- Switch from chemical cleaners to low-toxin, natural products.
- Throw out any non-organic makeup, shampoos, or soaps.
- Avoid using pesticide sprays—instead, try a fly swat and liberal doses of harmless pest-deterrents like lemon oil, citrus, and cloves.
- Studies say that exposure to phthalates—from cleaning products, some laundry detergents, personal care products like makeup, shampoo and soaps, and from plastics, paints, and some pesticide formulations—can reduce fertility.
6. Strike the right balance with physical exercise
- The human body is tuned like a musical instrument… not enough physical exercise can reduce fertility in both males and females but too much of it can have a negative effect!
- Research also shows that moderate activity can increase fertility.
In the end, it’s all about striking the right balance.