During May and June, we celebrate mothers and fathers. But for some couples, achieving parenthood can become a frustrating challenge.
In fact, more than 6 million couples in the United States struggle with infertility. Some have never been pregnant while others have a child and are surprised to have difficulty conceiving a second time. The positive news is that the vast majority of couples experiencing problems conceiving are able to overcome their infertility through lifestyle modifications and increasingly successful medical interventions.
Several simple lifestyle and dietary adjustments can improve fertility in both women and men. Eliminating tobacco and fitness supplements and herbs, limiting alcohol and caffeine, moderating exercise, eating a fertility friendly diet and achieving a healthy weight all can improve the likelihood of conception.
Tobacco contains toxins that damage the egg and sperm. Tobacco users have a 60% higher incidence of infertility. Women who smoke have a significantly higher chance of having a low birth weight baby or stillbirth. Alcohol intake even in moderate amounts, results in a 50% reduction in conception rates. And no amount of alcohol intake during pregnancy is acceptable or safe. Certain herbal medications can damage the genetic material within the sperm and inhibit the egg’s ability to fertilize. Excess caffeine can decrease fertility as well as increase miscarriage rates.
Obesity increases the time to conception two to three fold and being underweight or too lean decreases the chances for conception four fold. Eating a balanced diet with whole grains, complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, proteins and healthy fats enhances fertility. For women with a low or normal weight, whole milk rather than skim and even an occasional bowl of ice cream can increase fertility.
If these measures do not result in a pregnancy, for women younger than 35 who have been without prevention for a year or older than 35 without contraception for six months, seeing a fertility specialist sooner rather than later can identify a problem that can be addressed, resulting in a healthy successful pregnancy.
Dr. Sandy Goodman is a reproductive endocrine/infertility specialist at The Reproductive Medicine Group, which has offices in Tampa, Brandon and Clearwater. For IVF success rates, visit www.sart.org. For more information about The Reproductive Medicine Group, visit www.floridafertility.com.