Fertility issues affect 10–15% of U.S. couples, and the impact on their physical and emotional well-being can be profound.1
Many things contribute to infertility. Most of them, such as hereditary factors or illnesses, are beyond anyone’s control. But fortunately there are lifestyle changes you can make to increase your odds.
Health, well-being, and fertility: it’s all connected.
Your everyday choices matter—from what you eat to how much you move and how much sleep you get. Here are some areas of your well-being that play a role in fertility:
- Nutrition. For both men and women, weight and nutrition affect the odds of conceiving a child. For example, being overweight or underweight can decrease fertility. So can a diet high in trans fats, added sugar, or refined carbohydrates. For men, a diet high in red or processed meats can reduce fertility, while for women it’s a diet high in any kind of meat. On the other hand, a Mediterranean-style diet—high in plant-based foods like vegetables, beans, and whole grains—has been shown to improve fertility for both sexes. Some research suggests antioxidants may increase male fertility and a multivitamin may be beneficial for women’s fertility.2,3
- Exercise. Moderate exercise can improve fertility for both men and women. But some types of exercise are better than others. For example, cycling more than five hours per week can reduce sperm counts in men. For women, excessive exercise can contribute to reduced fertility.1
- Sleep. Poor sleep can cause changes in your body’s hormone levels, including those related to fertility. When you don’t get enough sleep, or you’re a night owl who stays up very late, it can have a negative impact on fertility. Some research suggests that women who do overnight shift work are more likely to have menstrual irregularities and fertility problems. Interrupted sleep is also associated with lower sperm counts in men.4
- Smoking, alcohol, and caffeine. Smoking is bad for every system in your body, and fertility is no different: cigarette smoking decreases fertility for both women and men. Drinking high amounts of alcohol can also decrease fertility. And perhaps surprisingly, so can high amounts of caffeine.1
- Stress. Research hasn’t shown a direct link between stress and lower fertility, but there is no doubt that fertility issues can be a major cause of stress. For people who have fertility treatments, anxiety and depression are common.5
What you can do to boost your fertility.
- Improve your nutrition and manage your weight—one option to consider is a Mediterranean-style diet.
- Get regular, moderate-intensity exercise.
- Stop or cut down on smoking, alcohol, and caffeine.
- Make sleep a priority and explore ways to get better rest.
- Take steps to manage stress—through meditation, focused breathing, or by talking with a counselor or joining a support group.
- See your doctor to figure out possible causes and solutions for infertility.
If you’re facing fertility issues or any issue that affects your health and happiness, you don’t have to do it alone. Your MOBE Guide and Pharmacist are here to offer one-to-one guidance at every step of your health journey. Using a whole-person approach, they’ll help you connect the dots between nutrition, sleep, movement, and emotional well-being. Get started today.
1. Rakesh Sharma, et al., "Lifestyle Factors and Reproductive Health: Taking Control of Your Fertility,” Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 11 (2013): 66, https://doi.org/10.1186/1477-7827-11-66.
2. Kinga Skoracka, et al., “Female Fertility and the Nutritional Approach: The Most Essential Aspects,” Advances in Nutrition 12, no. 6 (2021): 2372-2386, https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmab068.
3. Mahmoud Benatta, et al., “The Impact of Nutrition and Lifestyle on Male Fertility,” Arch Ital Urol Androl 92, no. 2 (2020), https://doi.org/10.4081/aiua.2020.2.121.
4. Natalie Auger, et al., “In the Arms of Morpheus: Meta-Analysis of Sleep and Fertility,” Fertility and Sterility 115, no. 3 (2021): 596-598, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2020.12.030.
5. Mark Trolice, “Stress and Infertility—Is It a Proven Cause and Effect?” Medscape, March 2, 2022, accessed April 27, 2022, https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/969496.