What are some lifestyle habits that can optimize female fertility?
Although fertility factors such as ovarian reserve, ovulation, tubal factor, male factor, uterine factor, endometriosis, and pelvic adhesions may be significant in a given case and it is important to evaluate and treat such factors, lifestyle habits can idealize outcomes.
Body mass index (BMI): BMI is calculated based on weight and height. Women with a BMI between 19 -24.9 are considered to have a normal BMI. A pre-pregnancy BMI of 25-39, considered overweight or obese, is associated with a prolonged time to pregnancy as is a pre-pregnancy BMI of less than 19. Having a BMI in the ideal weight range will optimize fertility and pregnancy outcomes. There are many BMI calculators that are available online.
Intake of foods with high mercury content: A diet that is rich in mercury, which is found in some seafood, has been associated with a decrease in fertility. Therefore, fertility is optimized by the minimization or elimination of foods that have high mercury levels.
Caffeine intake: Some studies have shown that caffeine intake of > 500 mg per day (which is the equivalent of 5 cups of coffee per day) can adversely affect fertility and some studies have shown that a caffeine intake of >300 mg per day (3 cups of coffee) is independently associated with miscarriage risk. Moderate caffeine intake, such as one to two cups of coffee a day, is fine.
Alcohol intake: High alcohol intake should be avoided while a woman is trying to conceive. Studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake, such as one to two drinks per day, is not associated with lower fertility rates; however, alcohol consumption should be ceased when pregnant because of its association with birth defects and fetal alcohol syndrome, which is not dose-dependent.
No smoking: Smoking decreases pregnancy rates and increases miscarriage rates so women who smoke cigarettes should stop smoking not only for their overall health status but also to improve fertility and pregnancy outcomes. Studies have shown that by-products of cigarette smoking, such as cotinine, have been detected in the follicular fluid of women undergoing oocyte retrieval for IVF.