Impact of lifestyle and weight
If you want to give yourself the best chance of achieving the dream of starting a family, it pays to get fit for fertility.
An unhealthy weight – in either partner – can have a significant impact on the ability to conceive. Obesity can cause problems from conception right through to delivery and beyond. Being overweight or obese not only reduces the chance of a couple conceiving naturally, but also means fertility treatment, such as IVF, is less likely to be successful.
The main effect of weight on fertility in women is failure to ovulate. In men, obesity can lower sperm counts by up to 50%. Overweight men are also more likely to suffer erectile dysfunction and have a higher rate of DNA fragmentation in sperm.
However, fertility is improved with a relatively modest degree of weight loss or gain. Around 90% of obese women will resume ovulation if they lose less than 5% of their body weight.
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Lifestyle changes recommended before trying for a baby
Smoking is toxic to human eggs and has long lasting negative effects even after a woman stops. Smoking can also impact sperm health.
Reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption
While the exact number of alcoholic drinks needed to affect fertility is unclear, the best advice remains to reduce alcohol consumption to one or two glasses a day or cut it out altogether. There is no hard or fast rule with caffeine but it’s recommended to consume no more than two cups of coffee a day.
Boost those vitamins
Folate is recommended for all women as it reduces the risk of neural tube defects (eg spina bifida). Many woman are also deficient in vitamin D and iodine - both are also considered an essential part of a woman’s preconception care. It’s recommended those wanting to conceive add prenatal vitamins to their diet three months before starting to try.