You must understand that difficulties in conception or issues with fertility could arise from several factors. The little things we usually ignore play a very important role in our reproductive health.
Fertility related issues are not new but have definitely become more prevalent in recent years. Contemporary factors have a role to play in that.
This is the age of cut-throat competition. Stress has become a part and parcel of our lives. From work deadlines to EMIs, innumerable things keep us stressed. However, we seldom consider its impact on our reproductive health.
Did you know, excessive stress can impact a woman’s fertility, egg production, quality and growth? In men, it affects sperm quality, sperm production and sperm motility. Even stressing about not getting pregnant might come in the way of successful conception.
These days the desire to excel is so strong that almost everything could be sacrificed for it. Coupled with that, high costs of living and family pressure, usually lead to work-life balance being the first casualty. Late working hours, late night shifts and sleep deprivation all become part of everyday life. All these factors play a crucial role in fertility potential.
Did you know sleep deprivation can raise the stress hormones in your body to an alarming level?
Most people think that if they can compensate for the loss of hours of sleep at night by sleeping during the day, they would be fine. But sleeping during the day proves to be counterproductive as it means making the body do something against its very nature.
Unhealthy eating habits add an extra burden to your reproductive health. These days most people have food on the go. They have no fixed meal timings. They don’t pay attention to the nutrition in the food. These are crucial things that eventually affect your fertility.
Avoiding chemical exposure is impossible these days. Most people think that polluted air is only harmful to their lungs. They are grossly mistaken. Several studies have reported that mere exposure to moderately higher levels of air pollution can lower your fertility levels by 25%.
The problem is that our miseries with chemical exposure don't end with air pollution. We are also exposed to many more chemicals through our diet, daily & personal care products and cosmetics. These chemicals leach into our bloodstream and eventually affect our reproductive health.
It is important to note that many beauty products have chemicals known as endocrine disruptors. These chemicals interfere with the normal functioning of various glands that secrete hormones. Hence, even these chemicals can be the cause of irregular periods, birth defects, and infertility. Personal care products have chemicals like parabens, benzophenones, bisphenols, and phthalates that may raise the risk of endometriosis.
It is a good idea to check whether the products on your dressing table and in your bathroom contain any of these chemicals and to opt for cleaner, organic options wherever possible.
A few decades back, preservatives were unknown to our system. Most of us ate fresh food as packaging and refrigeration were not available to the masses. However, all that has changed with the advent of packaged food. Although they increase the shelf-life of food products, the preservatives used in them affect your overall health and even your fertility.
Almost every packaged food product has hormone disruptor chemicals as preservatives. These are mixed and sprayed on the food products to increase their shelf-life.
Even the priciest items on the supermarket shelves like oily fish, fatty meat, canned food and packaged snacks are loaded with preservatives. Whenever possible, it is always better to avoid processed or pre-packaged food.
Did you know, India is the world’s biggest consumer of antibiotics? You might have been prescribed antibiotics for cough, cold and fever several times in the past. It is a commonly used class of drugs for treating bacterial or viral infections.
While antibiotics are extremely effective against infection causing bacteria & viruses, their unregulated use is not recommended. If consumed indiscriminately, they can lead to antibiotic resistance.
This resistance can come not only from the direct consumption of antibiotic medication but also indirectly through consumption of poultry. Antibiotics are excessively used in poultry farms as growth promoters as they help the chicken gain mass much faster. Therefore, knowingly or unknowingly, you might be consuming way more antibiotics than can be assimilated by your body.
With more and more Indian women stepping up to complete their education and enter the workforce, it is natural that they should prioritise their career in their 20s and early 30s. This is a healthy trend for the economy and helps our society move towards a more progressive and equal future.
A natural outcome of this is that women are choosing to start a family at an age when their chances of conceiving naturally have already dropped. We as a society must always remember that they have every right to make this choice and should not allow our conditioning and bias to judge them for prioritising their career or financial independence. However, if they plan to conceive in their 30s, the chances of coming up against fertility issues will always be higher.
Age: As we have already discussed, age is a determining factor. As you age, your childbearing potential goes down. Women are most fertile till they reach 24. At this point, an average woman has a 1 in 4 chance of getting pregnant during a single menstrual cycle. Between 25-30, the fertility rate goes down by 10%. Women still have an 86% chance of conceiving after trying for a year.
Between 30-35, the chances of conceiving are at 75%. However, it is important to note that after 37, the fertility rate declines considerably. The eggs also have a tendency to become chromosomally abnormal.
Alcohol Consumption: Drinking alcohol frequently or in reasonably high quantities is not good for health, for both men and women. It can also affect fertility in both sexes. It is recommended to completely stop alcohol consumption if you are trying to conceive.
In men, regular drinking can lead to reduced sperm count, size, shape, and motility. It also decreases testosterone and sperm production is considerably reduced.
Tobacco Consumption: Both first-hand and second-hand smoke can reduce your fertility levels. Smoking can bring down sperm count and motility in men. In women, tobacco smoke affects ovum quality and the overall ovulation process.
Sleep Disruption: Did you know that sleeping for less than 7 hours at night might lower your pregnancy potential by 15%? Sleeping by 10 at night and waking up before 7 is recommended when you are trying to conceive. Sleep disruption affects your hormones. It is for this reason that working late at night or staying up till late watching shows or scrolling on your phone is not recommended for overall well being and especially if you are planning to start a family.
Diet and Nutrition: A healthy, balanced diet containing the right mix of macro and micronutrients is very important to ensure that your fertility potential and overall health levels are well maintained.
Weight: Obesity can make it harder for you to conceive. It is usually accompanied by factors like insulin resistance, diabetes, heart problems, thyroid and PCOS. This can cause several hormonal challenges and conception failures become common. Losing even a few kgs can greatly raise your fertility potential.
Caffeine: Caffeine in coffee helps us feel alert and awake, especially when we are multitasking or having a hectic day at work. However, several cups of coffee daily can adversely affect our hormonal balance and prove to be detrimental to your conception efforts.
Antibiotics: We have no control over many antibiotics that come into our bodies through our diet. We should also consciously take antibiotics only when it is absolutely necessary.
Hormonal Pills: We may not realise it, but we are also highly exposed to hormonal stimulants. As we discussed, many endocrine disruptor chemicals enter our bodies through our food and personal care products. We can also get them through prolonged medication.
Treatment of endometriosis involves a medication called Danazol which is a synthetic steroid. Even treatment of PCOS and irregular periods involves a full course of contraceptive pills. Such medicines, when consumed for prolonged periods of time, can greatly affect your fertility levels.
Preservatives: Exposure to preservatives is harmful but exposure to them can be easily managed by eating freshly cooked meals prepared using fresh ingredients.
Previous Pregnancies: A history of previously failed pregnancies can hurt your fertility levels. If you have had unfortunate miscarriages or similar problems, you need to be extra cautious.
Gynaecological Disorders: PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, etc., are some common gynaecological issues that can affect your pregnancy efforts. Suppose your periods are irregular, or you have other such symptoms. In that case, they must be addressed immediately to make your efforts successful.
Timing of Intercourse: This is one of the most important factors contributing to successful conception. You must know your ovulation period. Intercourse during the window of ovulation can help you conceive. Having intercourse throughout the month will yield no result. You must understand that the ovulation window is very short, and the sperm must reach the ovum during this period. Hence, accurate ovulation analysis is very important. It can be easily done through ovulation strips.
Frequency of Intercourse: Last but not least, the frequency of intercourse during the optimum window is very important. During your ovulation window, you must try to have as much intercourse with your partner as possible. It will increase the chances of a healthy sperm mating with the ovum.
Fertility issues can arise due to a combination of reasons, some of which are in our control while others are a result of the environment we live in. If we understand this, it allows us to take charge of those aspects of our life that can be changed or improved to give us a better chance at increasing our fertility levels.