For more than 20 years, Dr. Rachel A. McConnell, assistant professor for the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, has been in practice. Time and time again, she has listened as her OB/GYN patients trust untruths about what increases – and decreases – fertility for women trying to conceive.
So what are these beliefs? Here are some patient statements:
“Age is not a problem because I exercise and eat healthy.”
“I am going to stop smoking when I become pregnant; it is not a problem right now.”
“I am overweight, but that is not the problem; I just have irregular periods sometimes.”
“My partner does not have a problem; he already has children.”
Sounds familiar? If you are a couple trying to conceive, it might be tempting to believe some of these reports. But they – and others like it – are not accurate. In reality, what some consider fact is in actuality fiction. Certain elements, like those mentioned above, can hurt or increase fertility – and you probably don’t even know it.
Separating Fact from Fiction
So how does Dr. McConnell respond? “I educate each patient about their particular situation, and we discuss how it may contribute to their infertility,” she says.
When discussing “particular situations,” Dr. McConnell counsels prospective parents about behaviors that, for an average person, can – and probably will – cause some medical risk. But she warns that for those trying to conceive, what may seem like common daily activities can create an even higher percentage of complications as their fertility decreases.
Misconceptions about fertility are so rampant that Women’s Health recently published an article called “17 Weird Things That Can Mess with Your Fertility.” The blog provides information on common fertility fallacies so those “trying to get pregnant can learn what lifestyle changes might be in stock.”
“CWRC will educate you with the causes of infertility and explain how your particular health history may be causing your infertility.”
The article lists common factors that can impair fertility, such as medications, junk food, stress, poor oral health, folic acid deficiencies, and smoking. However, it also sights the more bizarre behaviors that can decrease fertility, such as artificial nighttime light exposure, lubricants, and phthalates – a group of synthetic chemicals used in plastics and some cosmetics.
Are These Findings Substantiated?
Dr. McConnell agrees with the article’s findings, especially one in particular if you want to increase fertility. “Smoking is discouraged for both men and women who are trying to conceive. Smoking has been shown to accelerate the onset of menopause; therefore, it is plausible that it can delay conception. Also, some studies have shown that it takes almost twice as long for smokers to conceive with IVF compared to nonsmokers.” She adds, “As far as the male is concerned, abnormalities are seen in semen and sperm tests of smokers, but conclusive evidence of it causing male infertility has not been noted.”
Another important factor for fertile health is a woman’s weight. “Both underweight and overweight women may have difficulty conceiving due to inadequate or no ovulation,” explains Dr. McConnell. “Women who are overweight have too much estrogen, and women who are underweight have too little estrogen. Hormones must be balanced to have regular periods so ovulation can occur.”
So what can a woman do to increase fertility? Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and do things to decrease stress levels, such as arts and crafts or meditation. And if you are currently looking for ways to boost your fertility, you should stay active, take multivitamins (preferably prenatal vitamins), use an ovulation predictor kit to help determine your most fertile time, and avoid excessive intake of caffeine and alcohol.
If you find this issue confusing – or have trouble understanding the many complicated issues that arise in reproductive health – don’t worry. You’re not alone. The Center for Women’s Reproductive Care (CWRC) is here to help.
“CWRC will educate you with the causes of infertility and explain how your particular health history may be causing your infertility,” says Dr. McConnell. “Also, CWRC offers comprehensive testing for infertility and provides cutting-edge treatments for your infertility needs.”