1. Reduce caffeine intake
High doses of caffeine increase free radicals in the human body, which may in turn affect sperm quality. Some studies suggest that even 1 cup of coffee a day might reduce a woman’s ability to get pregnant by 50%. Caffeine can also be found in chocolate, tea and cola drinks.
2. Reduce alcohol consumption
Alcohol consumption might reduce fertility even by 50%. Women who have less than 5 alcohol units per week have twice as many chances of getting pregnant as women who consume more than 5 alcohol units per week. Too much alcohol might also cause a miscarriage.
In men, alcohol is responsible for low count and motility and increased percentage of abnormal sperm. It also disrupts the absorption of vitamins (Vitamins E and C) and other nutrients, such as zinc.
3. Drink lots of water
You should drink 6-8 glasses of water every day, as well as fresh juices (the cups of coffee or tea do not count). In this way, you help your body detoxify.
4. Follow a healthy and balanced diet
A slight change in your diet could help you boost your fertility. If you want to get pregnant, you should go on a healthy diet at least 3 months before you start trying. Omega -3 and omega -6 oils are good for you because they balance hormones. They can be found in nuts, seeds and fatty fishes.
It is a good idea to replace conventional produce with organic ones. Pseudo-estrogens from pesticides and fertilisers may affect the body’s hormonal balance. You should also eat more fresh vegetables and replace white bread with whole wheat.
Certain vitamins and nutrients are essential for couples trying to conceive.
• Folic acid: it prevents spina bifida in embryos. Its use is recommended before and while you are pregnant.
• Vitamins B: folic acid is one of the B-complex vitamins. All of them are necessary for normal DNA function, especially B6 for women and B12 for men (helps increase sperm count).
• Zinc: it is essential for normal function of reproductive hormones in men and women. Zinc deficiency causes damages in the chromosomes. In men, a reduction of dietary zinc leads to sperm count decrease.
• Selenium: an anti-oxidant that protects chromosomes from free radicals. Damages in chromosomes cause miscarriages or birth defects.
• Essential fatty acids: they are necessary for normal function of the hormones, as well as for sperm count and quality.
• Vitamins C and E: major anti-oxidants, especially for men. They protect DNA from free radicals.
• L-arginin and L- carnitin: essential amino acids for sperm production and sperm quality (count, motility).
• Vitamin A: essential anti-oxidant. In many studies, it has been shown that Vitamin A deficiency causes eye defects in embryos. However, during pregnancy it should not be taken in the form of retinol.
5. Watch your weight
When a woman’s body fat drops below a certain level, she stops ovulating. On the other hand, excessive body fat in the abdominal area might create problems in ovulation, because of its effect on reproductive hormones. Other studies in men also suggest that overweight men might have low levels of testosterone, which in turn might affect sperm production.
6. Quit smoking
Smoking is not good for you or your ovaries. Tobacco harms the oocytes and it has been shown that a woman who is a heavy smoker will reach menopause up to 5 years earlier. This is especially important in older women trying to conceive. In a recent study, researchers showed that, if the mother smokes during the 1st trimester of pregnancy, the cells that will develop into oocytes or sperm are reduced. That might cause fertility problems later on in the embryo’s life.
In men, smoking is considered ‘toxic’ for the sperm, as it affects sperm count and motility, while the percentage of abnormal forms is also elevated.
Within the framework of a recent study, researchers analysed the effect of smoking on certain proteins responsible for proper DNA form in sperm. In smokers, this protein is reduced, which is thought to cause fertility problems such as low fertilisation rate (even after in-vitro fertilisation) or recurrent miscarriage.
This study is particularly interesting because 1 out of 10 men are thought to suffer from fertility problems. Also, in Greece, there is a high percentage of smokers. In the past, sperm analysis constituted the ‘golden standard’ for male infertility. Now we know that some sperm samples that look normal might show high percentage of DNA fragmentation. This can be tested with DFI (DNA – Fragmentation Index).
The best advice would be to quit smoking. Of course, this might be very difficult for some people. Couples who smoke and are trying for a baby should reduce smoking and start taking anti-oxidants.
7. Watch out for painkillers
When taken during ovulation, painkillers such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory painkillers (Ponstan, Voltaren etc) might interfere with normal hormonal function and therefore reduce your chances of getting pregnant during the specific cycle.
8. Men, take good care of your scrotum
The ideal temperature for sperm production is 1 degree lower than body temperature. Increased temperature of the testicles might affect male fertility. Men should prefer underwear that let the body ‘breathe’.
9. Don’t forget your checkup
Make sure you don’t skip your checkup for sexually transmitted diseases, such as Chlamydia, that can cause infection and tubal obstruction.
Before you become pregnant, it is important to be as fit as possible. Exercise makes you feel physically stronger, as well as more relaxed. It will help your body deal with pregnancy more efficiently.