Did you know that your health can contribute to improving your fertility? What is health?
The World Health Organization (WHO) definitions health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
This definition means health depends on your mindset, the state of your finances, your work, living conditions and more. Your state of mind affects your physical health, and your fertility depends on your health.
Did you know that being too thin or too fat affects your ability to get pregnant? Or that emotional stress, strenuous exercises, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, thyroid dysfunction and more affect hormone production? And in effect your fertility?
For some people, certain painkillers, alcohol, smoking, even caffeine could affect fertility? For some of these, there is no scientific proof, but there are scientific explanations, for instance, fat hormone, sex hormones, stress hormones all come from the same pathway!
Low body weight or rapid weight loss can lead to a decrease in a hormone produced in the brain which sends a message to the ovaries in women and testes in men to either produce eggs or sperms. During periods of extreme fasting, calorie intake is grossly decreased and may cause a disturbance in hormone levels. Excessive exercise, severe diarrhea, and emotional stress may also cause a change of hormones needed to maintain normal oestrogen levels. This abnormal level of oestrogen may disrupt your ovulation pattern: causing it to be irregular or to stop altogether and develop infertility
Depending on the degree of weight loss, the ovaries may still produce and release eggs, but the lining of the uterus may not be ready to receive a fertilized egg because of inadequate ovarian hormone production. In severe cases, ovulation does not occur, and menstrual cycles are irregular or absent.
In men, low weight or rapid weight loss also affect hormone production and may decrease fertility due to reduced sperm function or sperm count.
The preferred treatment for infertility due to low body weight would be to either gain weight or stop losing weight.
Excess weight on the other hand also affects fertility though not all obese women face ovulation issues. However, even among obese women who ovulate, the chances of conceiving are low. Excess body fat disrupts the menstrual cycle and hampers ovulation by elevating levels of insulin, which may cause the ovaries to overproduce male hormones and stop releasing eggs.
The oestrogen is produced mostly by the ovaries and in less significant amounts by the adrenal glands and fat cells. But, if a woman has excessive body fat, there will be an oversupply of oestrogen and testosterone. The high levels of oestrogen signal the brain to stop stimulating the development of follicles needed for the eggs to mature and develop, thus, ovulation does not occur.
The best treatment is reducing body weight by only 5-10%; this small loss can considerably improve ovulation and pregnancy rates.
It is important to make sure that glucose (blood sugar) levels in overweight patients are healthy before attempting pregnancy, and that particular metabolic causes of obesity are not present.
In addition to, decreased sperm count, when a man is extremely overweight, he will also have a reduced sex drive and erectile difficulties.
Obese patients who undergo significant weight loss may ovulate without the need for fertility medications. Ideal body weight results in the best outcome for fertility therapy and outcome for both mother and baby.
Ever wondered why female athletes take a break to begin a family?
Hard workouts reduce fertility, and the body may not have enough energy to support both hard workouts and maintain all the necessary hormonal mechanisms that enable fertilization.
If you like challenging workouts and also want to get pregnant; it may make sense to ease off a bit as you try. The adverse effects of hard training do not appear to be permanent.
Men who want to be dads soon shouldn’t sign up for the next Ironman. Recent findings show that male cyclists who ride for long hours daily have strangely shaped sperms. All the saddle time cause unfriendly friction and overheated testes.
Over time, the lack of estrogen due to extensive exercising can have long-term health consequences, such as osteoporosis, menopause-like effects, and eventually, increase the rate of heart attacks later in life.
Exercise regularly, adopt healthy eating habits to help drop excess kilos.
• Start slowly (even if it’s only 10 minutes per day) and gradually increase to 30-45 minutes a day.
• Walking, dancing, biking, swimming, gardening or your favourite sports
Uncontrolled emotional stress results in high cortisol and adrenaline in the blood. This increase would cause an imbalance of essential fertility hormones such as thyroid hormones, progesterone, oestrogen which affect egg quality, egg release (ovulation), implantation or survival of fertilized eggs. Addressing and resolving emotional stress improve pregnancy outcome. Positive coping, deep breathing exercises, meditations, gentle, relaxing massage, positive self-talk, sleep, mood.
Effects of stress on fertility
Advances in infertility treatments are such that for nearly every cause, there is a 60% to 70% chance that there is a medical fix.
Over the years, more causes of infertility have been attributed to unknown causes rather than blaming the woman. Even the stress of actually undergoing fertility treatments can also be so high it can stop even the most successful procedures from working.
Each woman should look into her life and try to find tiny spaces where she can give her body and her mind a respite from the stresses of everyday living.
Relax because it feels good, because it’s comfortable, and because when you do feel good, you’re healthier overall, and that can never be a bad thing for conception or overall health.
Improve your fertility by changing your mindset, educating yourself and modifying your lifestyle to help balance your hormones, improve your weight and your health. Improving your lifestyle has a rippling effect that in turn could lead to better quality eggs and sperm as well as eliminate some of those unknown factors that cause infertility. Lifestyle modifications isn’t a quick fix method, remember it takes 70 days to form new sperms, 90 days to form new eggs and 120 days to form new red cells so this is not a quick fix method. Please read the older articles on Common Causes of Infertility; and Diagnosing Infertility.
Did you know unknown causes of infertility make up almost 40% of the cases? For unknown causes of infertility, medical testing cannot explain the problem. These causes could be emotional and psychological. We should, therefore, focus less on the extremely expensive and invasive procedures currently available for fertility, and take feelings, mindset, and state of health into consideration. What role could mindset play?
Did you know that many women do not get pregnant because in their hearts they do not want to? They are afraid of the demands a child will make on them. Whenever a woman feels conflicted over childbirth, children or the restrictions children will impose once they arrive, infertility may result.
Conceiving a child is a receptive act, have you noticed how excessive focus on having a child does not usually lead to a baby, rather when the focus changes for instance by adopting or vacationing a baby just happens? Well, this is because the excessive emphasis on the goal leads to premature maturation of the eggs in the ovaries and subsequent release of eggs that are not ready for fertilization.
A study of the relationships between husbands and wives who have fertility issues showed many of the women who had an aversion to intercourse, felt a marked sexual disharmony in their partnership. When these women found more suitable partners, they became pregnant; I am sure you have seen a lot of this happen, I saw a lot of this too. The presence of antibodies to sperms in the cervical mucous could also play a role.
Knowledge is power
Arm yourself with a lot of knowledge, positive self-talk, change your perceptions, regardless of what you have heard about your fertility. That label infertile is very damaging, and strikes at the heart of one’s self-concept and self-esteem, resulting in a punishing internal dialogue in women going through this experience. This negative internal dialogue is worse if your husband and your in-laws think you are the sole cause of infertility. Somehow, I believe people are becoming more aware, but this doesn’t stop many women feeling inadequate, guilty and to blame for the condition. The word infertility conjures up images of barren, dry, sterile land that cannot bear fruits. If you have given yourself this label, try replacing it with ‘I am lovable, loving and fertile with lots of love to give and receive’. Make this your mantra. Change how you perceive yourself – make it a process, not an event. Remember you are not alone.
Lifestyle management improves health, prevents and treat diseases. Living well improves general well-being, fertility, and longevity.
Extremes of weight that is extremely high or low, influence fertility adversely. Excess weight or obesity also leads to a higher incidence of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and complications of pregnancy. Excess weight also affects the outcome of fertility treatments.
Exercise is great for health and wellbeing but extreme; extensive use can lead to reduced sperm production in men and the cessation of ovulation in women by decreasing the brain message to the ovaries and testes. However, mild to moderate exercise will not affect fertility rather it may improve it in most couples. Running more than 25 kilometers per week is considered too much when trying to conceive.
Fertility stress link remains controversial, in conventional medicine, despite this opinion, failing to explore psychological factors could rob a woman of her chance of having a baby. Remember, stress affects the way the hypothalamus of the brain functions and this in turn cause hormone imbalance which affects ovulation. Proper stress handling can change the status of your fertility.
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Wishing you good health and happiness,