By Carolyn Steber
If you’ve ever wondered if certain lifestyle choices can impact fertility, the answer is a resounding yes. It may not be the only factor involved, but “when it comes to lifestyle and boosting your fertility, there are both things to do and things not to do,” Marta Montenegro, a Florida-based nutrition fertility lifestyles specialist at IVFMD, tells Bustle. “There are, for example, at least five areas to consider when it comes to lifestyle,” including what you eat, how you handle stress, and how much you exercise.
“There are good things you can do for your reproductive system and the hormones that make it work properly, and also bad things,” Montenegro says. “And we are learning more and more about what these are with each new study. It’s important to note that many of these factors not only affect your fertility, but will have repercussions for your pregnancy as well.”
In other words, these habits, as well as those of your partner, can play an even bigger role than you think. “A healthy pregnancy begins with healthy parents,” Dr. Rink Murray, reproductive endocrinologist specialist, OB/GYN and co-founder of Tennessee Reproductive Medicine, tells Bustle. “Prioritizing health can help maximize the chances of getting pregnant and of having a healthy pregnancy.” Here are a few lifestyle habits that can make you more fertile, according to experts.
1. Getting Enough Omega-3
Getting enough omega-3 fatty acid through your diet is good for your reproductive system. “So if you’ve been eating non-animal sources of protein like walnuts, lentils, beans, chickpeas, sesame, flax, and pumpkin seeds, as well as grains quinoa and farro, you are already on the right track to maintaining your fertility,” Montenegro says.
2. Eating A Nutritious Diet
Your iron levels also play an important role in fertility. If you have beeneating iron-rich foods like spinach and lentils, Montenegro says you are also being good to your reproductive system. But that’s not the only nutrient you’ll want to think about. Eating a healthy diet overall is important, too, as it ensures you get other vital nutrients, like folic acid and vitamin B12, which studies have shown have positive effects on fertility.
3. Avoiding Excess Caffeine
While the occasional cup of coffee tends to be fine, drinking too much caffeine can be detrimental, when it comes to fertility. “It’s important to remember that this includes caffeine from any number of […] sources, such as soft drinks, tea, and chocolate,” Montenegro says. Caffeine can do a number on your reproductive system, which is why limiting your intake may be key.
4. Getting Plenty Of Sleep
Getting enough sleep can improve your overall health, while also potentially making you more fertile. “Good sleep is more important to fertility than many know,” Montenegro says. “This is not just about quantity of sleep, but also about quality.”
If you have a solid sleep schedule, and wake feeling refreshed, that’s a good sign. “Women who are fully rested are allowing for their reproductive hormones to function properly in keeping with the biological rhythms of the body’s natural 24-hour cycle,” Montenegro says. “Disrupt your sleep, and you disrupt this delicate hormonal balance and rhythm with negative results for your fertility.”
5. Doing Lighter Workouts
“If you’ve been doing a little exercise and physical activity, that’s good for fertility, too,” Montenegro says. “But you don’t want to overdo it. Those who have been doing low to moderate exercise have the right habits for boosted fertility. If you do too much exercise, too intensely, and too frequently you start to do more harm than good to your fertility.” While short bursts of activity may boost your fertility, for some people, doing more intense exercises can make it difficult to conceive.
6. Using Natural Cleaning Products
“Endocrine disruptors are substances that mimic hormones and alter the normal physiology of our hormones,” double board-certified physician Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen, MD, tells Bustle. “We see decline in fertility when there are endocrine disruptors present. Endocrine disruptors are found in plastics, pesticides, cleaning products, and in some processed food.” So if you’re using these things regularly, it may negatively impact your fertility.
Instead, it can help to eat and drink out of glassware, use natural cleaning products, buy organic foods whenever possible, and choose grass-fed dairy products, Dr. Salas-Whalen says. “It may sound banal but endocrine disruptors are real and truly affect the way our hormones work, specifically infertility.”
7. Finding Ways To Relieve Stress
While stress can’t always be avoided, if you regularly find ways to deal with it in a healthy way, it may have a positive effect on your fertility. “If you’ve been doing yoga or mindfulness exercises you are doing a big favor to your fertility,” Montenegro says. “That’s because chronic exposure to cortisol, the stress hormone, down-regulates ovulation.”
8. Avoiding Smoking
“Women who smoke or [having smoking partners] have lower monthly pregnancy rates,” Dr. Murray says. Which is why so many reproductive specialists advise women to either quit smoking, or avoid secondhand smoke.
“For women, smoking is known to have a negative impact on estrogen levels and can impair ovulation,” Dr. Murray says. “There has been a link found that chemicals in cigarette smoke can speed up the loss rate of eggs.”
9. Getting Enough Vitamin D
“Vitamin D is needed to help the body create sex hormones, which in turn affects ovulation and hormonal balance,” natural fertility specialist Hethir Rodriguez, tells Bustle. And this vitamin can be important during pregnancy, too.
“Vitamin D also supports healthy bone development in the fetus during pregnancy,” Rodriguez says. “This is [a vitamin] many people are taking regularly that is healthy and necessary during pregnancy as well.” Of course, fertility is a complex thing, and it’s not always easy to predict what will have a positive or negative effect on it. If you’re struggling to get pregnant, it might be necessary to speak with an expert, to help uncover other underlying issues. Lifestyle can play a big role in keeping you healthy, but it definitely isn’t the only thing to consider.