Learn when - and where - you should seek help with your fertility
Eating a healthy diet in the three months preceding conception attempts can help protect sperm DNA, promote egg sperm health and encourage and support a healthy libido in men and ovulation in women.
There is evidence that both female and male fertility are decreased by being either significantly overweight (obese) or underweight. It is recommended that people aiming to conceive naturally or with ART maintain a healthy body weight (BMI between 20 and 25).
Obesity in men is associated with infertility by causing impaired semen quality, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction.
In women obesity decreases fertility and may be associated with conditions such as PCOS, and can also impact pregnancy health. During pregnancy, being overweight or obese are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, premature births, stillbirths and perinatal mortality. The babies of overweight mothers are more likely to be obese and suffer cardiovascular disease and diabetes as adults. Thus, women with a BMI of more than 32 must lose weight in order to become eligible for publicly funded fertility treatment in New Zealand.
A 6-month group programme for overweight infertile women, which provided dietary and exercise advice alongside support to make healthy changes, was shown to be effective (1). The women had an average weight loss of 5kg and most of the women who did not ovulate resumed spontaneous ovulation.
Low body weight can prevent normal ovulation and may also reflect a poor nutritional status which can ultimately affect the health of the pregnancy and baby: Low maternal weight before pregnancy and poor weight gain during pregnancy are known to result in an increased chance of pre-term delivery and low birth weight infants.
(1) Kidd, S.A., Eskenazi, B., and Wyrobek, A.J.”, Effects of male age on semen quality and fertility: a review of the literature.” Fert. Steril. (2001) 75 (2): 237–48
Police Officer Verity reflects on the challenges of her fertility journey
Good preconception health can improve chances of conception, a healthy pregnancy and healthy child
Maturation of the sperm and egg takes 3–4 months, therefore preconception health should be in place for this long
Recent studies report a world-wide decline in sperm number and quality over the past 50 years, although this seems to have leveled off in NZ over the past 15-20 years
Men and women should follow a healthy, balanced diet – a Mediterranean-style diet has been shown to be ideal for fertility
Avoid (or reduce) alcohol and caffeine consumption
Women should supplement with folic acid and iodine - most women need a folic acid supplement to achieve the levels known to reduce the chance of gross abnormalities such as spina bifida
Avoid recreational drugs and nicotine
Exercise extreme caution when self-prescribing any medication or fertility device
Maintain a healthy weight
These factors are equally important for women and men
Moderate exercise – too much or too little can be detrimental to your fertility
Men should avoid increased testicular heat
Avoid environmental toxicity as far as possible – in your home and work
Proactively manage stress and prioritise self-care
These lifestyle factors can also impact success of IVF