Black_Label_Beer_and_Marlboro_gold_cigarettesOne of the first things a couple usually wants to know when they come to visit us here at IVF Chelsea is the cause of their infertility.

Sometimes there is a very clear cause for infertility, such as a physical blockage in the fallopian tubes or a very low sperm count. In other cases, the reason for infertility cannot be found; this is known as “unexplained” infertility.

Generally, however, what the couple really wants to know is whether they themselves have done anything to contribute to their infertility and whether there is anything they can do to better their chances of conception. Here, we will attempt to answer those questions.

What lifestyle factors contribute to infertility?

We should begin by explaining that infertility is rarely anybody’s “fault”, and while the factors below may contribute to a fertility issue, they are unlikely to be the absolute cause of the problem.

However, there are a few lifestyle factors that can reduce your fertility, such as:

  • Smoking – smoking has been shown to reduce sperm count and to affect how receptive the uterus is to the egg
  • Alcohol – excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to reduced sperm count and motility, and women who are pregnant or trying to conceive are advised to cut out alcohol completely to reduce the risk of birth defects. Drinking to excess has also been shown to reduce libido in both male and female partners
  • Stress – raised stress levels tend to reduce libido, and a 2013 study by the Centre for Reproductive Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio found that “ Males who experienced more than two stressful life events before undergoing infertility treatment were more likely to be classified below WHO standards for sperm concentration, motility, and morphology.”
  • Sauna/steam room use – this one really only applies to men, but sperm are very sensitive to temperature and need to be kept cool, which is why the testicles are located on the outside of the body. Exposing yourself to very high temperatures on a regular basis can reduce sperm count.

What can we do to improve our fertility?

If you smoke or drink to excess then you do need to stop that if you want to conceive a child. If you are a man who regularly uses steam rooms and saunas then it is also advisable to stop doing that for a while.

Stress, however is not so easily solved. Try to participate in activities that relax you as frequently as possible – cutting down on alcohol consumption can help (and further aid your fertility goals), as can getting regular exercise and eating healthily.

Once again, though, it is important to remember that none of these factors alone is likely to have caused your infertility. Here at IVF Chelsea we will help to guide you through the process of diagnosing your particular fertility issue as gently as possible, before talking you through the options available to you in order to help you conceive.

In our next post, we will be looking in more detail at the physical problems that might cause infertility.