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Monday, January 30, 2017

6 Ways to Boost Your Fertility

It's an aspect of our health that most of us take for granted: Have sex, get pregnant, right? In reality, even minor stressors can throw your body out of whack. If you're trying to conceive, these simple health moves can help protect your fertility.

Eat Well

Here's good news: Staying well nourished boosts your odds of conceiving! Make sure to include enough protein, iron, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D in your diet, because deficiencies in these nutrients have been linked to lengthened menstrual cycles (and therefore less frequent ovulation) and a higher risk of early miscarriage. Ask your doctor if you should take a daily multivitamin supplement. And be sure to eat protein-rich foods, such as meat, fish, low-fat dairy products, eggs, and beans.

Think Before Drinking

A growing body of research has linked alcohol consumption with a decreased ability to get pregnant (it can also harm a developing fetus). Alcohol alters estrogen levels, which may interfere with egg implantation, although pouring an occasional glass of Pinot with your dinner is unlikely to harm fertility. You should also consider cutting back on caffeine while you try to conceive and during your pregnancy. Although study results have been mixed, research suggests that caffeine affects female hormone levels and may affect how long it takes to get pregnant. The bottom line: If you're thinking about getting pregnant, be a teetotaler and limit your daily java fix to 200 mg of caffeine per day. (That's about one to two cups or 12 ounces of coffee.)

Watch Your Weight

Aside from the other risks it poses to your health, excess body fat can lead to an overproduction of certain hormones that disrupt ovulation. Your cycles may be less regular, you may ovulate less often, and you lower your chances of getting pregnant. On the flip side, too little body fat means your body may not produce enough hormones to ovulate each month or to sustain a pregnancy if you do conceive. Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight. Just don't overdo it, says Christopher Williams, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, and author of The Fastest Way to Get Pregnant Naturally. Talk to your doctor or midwife about your workout routine before trying to get pregnant.

Steer Clear of Pesticides

Many pesticides and herbicides -- chemicals used to kill insects and weeds that threaten crops -- decrease male fertility and may affect female fertility by inhibiting ovarian function and disrupting the menstrual cycle. Most of the studies done to date deal with how occupational exposure affects fertility, but a study published in the March 2015 issue of Human Reproduction is the first to show how eating fruits and vegetables with pesticides can affect sperm count. The study revealed that men who ate the most pesticide-treated foods had both a lower sperm count and lower-quality sperm. So if you're looking to get pregnant, it's always a good idea to eat organic fruits and vegetables, wash those with residues carefully, and avoid applying pesticides to your lawn or garden.

Watch Workplace Issues

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), radiation, nitrous oxide, jet fuel, and certain common industrial chemicals can disrupt menstrual cycles and decrease fertility. Needless to say, be careful if you have a job working with hazardous chemicals. Rotating work shifts can also affect fertility: One study of nearly 120,000 women found that those who work rotating shifts had an 80 percent higher rate of fertility problems than those who worked steady day shifts. (Straight night shifts were better than rotating shifts, too.) So remember to maximize your fertility by asking for a steady shift, if possible, and always use personal protective gear if you work in environments with certain chemicals.

Kick Butt (Cigarettes, That Is)

As if you needed another reason to quit smoking: Cigarette toxins not only damage a woman's eggs, interfering with the fertilization and implantation process, but also cause the ovaries to age. That means that the ovaries of a 35-year-old smoker function as though they belonged to a 42-year-old and are therefore less fertile, says Robert Barbieri, M.D., head of obstetrics and gynecology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, and coauthor of 6 Steps to Increased Fertility. "Smoking does permanent damage to your fertility, but when you cut out cigarettes, you get some ovarian function back."

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