If you’re trying to get pregnant and find that it’s taking longer than you think it should, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 10 percent of women have difficulty getting or staying pregnant. If you’re actively trying to conceive or thinking about it in the near future, you’ve probably heard a number of things that you should do, such as eating well and taking prenatal vitamins.
What you may not have heard about are what to avoid—factors and habits that may actually reduce your chances of conceiving. Here’s our short list:
- Too much exercise. Getting exercise is a good thing, right? It is, but up to a point, especially if you’re trying to get pregnant. High levels of physical activity—more than an hour or two a day, over the course of a week —can upset the balance of your hormones, most notably progesterone, which is important in stimulating and regulating ovulation.
- Poor dental health. While this one may seem like a stretch, periodontal disease and gingivitis can create problems throughout your body, including difficulties getting pregnant. Both men and women with gum disease are more likely to have fertility issues, as it’s linked to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis in women and low sperm count and erectile dysfunction in men. So if you’re thinking about becoming pregnant and don’t floss, now is the time to start!
- Late night screen time. Your phone, computer or tablet throws off as much artificial light as some lamps that are used to treat seasonal affective disorder. This is fine, but exposure to this kind of light late at night over time can reduce the amount of melatonin that your body produces. Melatonin is a hormone that helps you feel drowsy, fall asleep, sets your internal clock and is important for reproductive health. Upsetting your internal clock may affect your cycle, your ability to conceive and may even disturb the internal clock of a developing fetus.
- Your weight. Both being overweight or being underweight can increase your risk for infertility, but for different reasons. Estrogen is produced in your ovaries and in your body’s adipose (fat) tissue. Having a lot of adipose tissue can raise your levels of estrogen to the point that it disrupts ovulation. In addition, high amounts of adipose tissue increase your risk of developing PCOS. In contrast, being thin and not having enough adipose tissue can cause your body to stop making enough estrogen, cause menstrual irregularities and also disrupt ovulation.
- Phthalates. These are chemicals that are well-known hormone disruptors. That means that exposure to high levels can upset the balance of hormones and affect fertility in both men and women. Phthalates are found in vinyl flooring, rubber hoses, adhesives and some personal care items such as soaps, shampoo and hair spray. In addition, the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging found in a sample of 30 brands of boxed macaroni and cheese, that 29 of them were positive for phthalates. So if you’re trying to get pregnant, become a label reader and go easy on the boxed mac and cheese.
- This one may seem obvious, but it needs to be said. Smoking doubles the rate of infertility in both women and men. In addition, if you smoke, your success rate of getting pregnant through IVF also decreases, and your chances for miscarriage go up.
- While scientists aren’t clear on the impact of occasional or social drinking, heavy drinking when you’re trying to get pregnant can be a problem. According to the Mayo clinic, drinking a lot of alcohol is connected to a higher probability of ovulation difficulties.
- STD’s. Sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can damage your fallopian tubes when undetected or untreated over time. Blocked fallopian tubes make it difficult for conception to occur and can raise your risk for a tubal pregnancy, which can be a life-threatening condition.
The bottom line is there are a number of things that can affect your reproductive health. Sometimes seemingly unrelated—and unknown—factors may be playing a role in your ability to conceive. At BodaHealth our philosophy is to look at those seemingly unrelated factors to help our patients achieve their health goals. If you’d like more information about our fertility services, please contact us today.
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Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.