Every one in ten couples is facing infertility. In terms of gender, on an average out of ten infertile couples, three face female-related infertility issues, three face male-related fertility issues, and remaining are because of either both are infertile or unexplained reasons. As per the latest studies, it can be assumed that in most infertile couples, lifestyle plays a primary or secondary role. This observation has attracted everyone's attention.
Let's revise what we mean by infertility. Infertility means when a couple cannot get pregnant even after having unprotected sex for more than a year (if younger than 40) or six months (if 40 or older). Infertility can be caused by biological, genetic, lifestyle, or other factors. From all these factors, the most curable and easily treatable factor is a lifestyle. Individuals need to make only a few changes in their daily activities, and their infertility will be treated.
What Are Lifestyle Factors
The factors like the age at which a couple has started making efforts for pregnancy, their nutrition intake, current weight, exercise schedule, psychological stress, exposure to radiations, and other different factors can affect fertility. Substance abuse has been a significant cause of infertility due to lifestyle factors. There's a surge in individuals smoking, drinking, having drugs, and other materials, which can cause infertility. Caffeine consumption (only if too high) can negatively affect fertility. Presently, medical experts are finding more and more ways in which lifestyle can impact, and the degree of its impact on an individual's fertility.
It's a universal fact that as humans age, their body processes tend to undergo some difficulties and irregularities. In modern times, couples are delaying pregnancy because of different reasons, which is turning to be against them. It is also being observed that because of genetic, evolutionary, or other natural reasons, individuals (especially girls) are getting sexually mature earlier, and they lose fertility earlier too.
Fertility is at a peak during the early thirties, but today, individuals delay their family plans and give careers more important than marriage. The age also leads to the rise of chromosomal abnormalities, hormonal abnormalities, and other natural complexities, which can play a part in infertility.
Nutrition, as we all know, plays a key part in body development and everyday health. Today people aren't much thoughtful regarding what they eat. Some foods negatively affect fertility, while some might be neutral, but their overconsumption leads to lesser intake of fertility-positive food. Here also, maintaining a balanced diet, whether veg or non-veg, is essential.
Also, in males and females, it differs which type of nutrients is better for them. For males, having a diet rich in carbohydrates, fiber, and folate and consuming fruit and vegetables can significantly improve their semen quality. For females, replacing carbohydrates with animal protein has shown to be more beneficial. Simultaneously, consuming the desired amount of proteins and fats (not more or less) has proved to be advantageous for fertility.
3. Weight & Obesity
Eating habits of an individual also decide their weight and BMI index. BMI index is considered normal, if it is between 18.5 & 24.9, below this underweight, above 24.9 till 30 is overweight, and above 30 is obese. Obesity & underweight both can result in infertility or pregnancy issues. Bodyweight also results in cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The developed nations have recorded a rising number of obese citizens, and the same case is in India, even when we are a developing nation. This is because of a fat-rich diet and less physical exercise. Obesity hampers sperm production and even menstrual in women, which results in infertility.
Especially for men, a healthy amount of exercise, i.e., at least three times a week for one hour, can result in improved sperm results. Even parameters like sperm count, concentration, motility, and more, all seem to have been increased by nominal to significant levels because of exercise. In females, it has been noted that exercise results as a protective layer for fertility and even helps in maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Exercise results in better blood circulation, healthy breathing, desired heart rate, decreased stress, and good metabolism. While it has several direct and indirect effects on fertility, it shall also be noted that our body's energy demands also need to be appropriately maintained. When energy demand exceeds the energy produced by the dietary intake, it is called a negative energy balance. This can lead to fatigue, stress, menstrual abnormalities, decreased sperm quality, and more complexities. So a balance in diet and exercise shall be there.
5. Psychological effects
Stress, anxiety, depression, loss of libido, and other behavior patterns that affect your desire to have coitus can lead to infertility by causing irregular menstrual, erectile dysfunction, and more. The stress can be physical, social, or psychological. Even getting termed infertile can also have severe psychological effects on some individuals. For males managing psychological effects can influence their sperm concentration, motility, and morphology.
In females, physical stress has turned out to be more commonly faced by them, especially for working women who also cater to domestic demands. The psychological stress and depression are also a primary cause for many females. It is important to consider that females need to be diagnosed and given equal treatment & counseling opportunities. On the other hand, even males shall not give into taboo or societal pressures, and report anxiety or sexual stress. This turmoil of being confined even after acknowledging one's condition only worsens such psychological conditions.
No addiction is suitable for a healthy life. In the case of infertility, smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs, and caffeine are among the most impactful addictions.
- Till now, no direct cause for infertility by smoking hasn't been established. But it has been observed that many individuals who have been termed infertile have a habit of smoking. Also, because of toxic chemicals released in one's body due to smoke and tobacco, the same is advised to be prohibited during pregnancy as well.
- Consuming alcohol affects sperm morphology in males and altered hormone production in females. Other than this, heavy drinkers have been observed to be diagnosed with decreased libido and unable to conceive (in females).
- Recreational drugs alter hormone production; in males, it is testosterone, while in the female, it is luteinizing hormone. The same can also result in stillbirth and miscarriage. Other than this, drugs have highly impactful psychological effects as well. This can lead to loss of libido, issues in the central nervous system, and more.
- Caffeine, only in very high content, mostly because of its addictions, can cause such severe conditions. The effect of the same in males has been diagnosed much, but in females, it causes problems in conception and results in spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, and miscarriages.
Lifestyle factors include age, nutrition, weight, exercise, psychological stress, and addictions can cause various troubles for conception and pregnancy. There are many more factors like exposure to radiation, environment, and more, but all this is treatable with simple lifestyle modifications. Also, the earlier you are conscious of your choices and their impacts on fertility, the better. The other small yet impactful factors like clothing choice, wet heat, and lubricants may also impact a couple's fertility. Lastly, if a couple isn't able to conceive even after having unprotected sex for a year (below 40) or six months (40 or more), they shall visit a fertility doctor.