If you know me, you know that I hate the word infertility. I believe that everyone who walks through my doors is fertile and can have the family they desire.
Yet, fertility is often taken for granted. It’s precious. It declines over time, and there are some well studied factors, nine that I highlight here, that put it at risk. This topic is so important to me that I dedicated a show to it.
1. Your DNA
Fertility is so much more than hormones. It’s why in addition to checking hormones I recommend an ultrasound, review of your fertility family history, gynecological history, and a DNA check. All of these help paint a more complete picture.
As a society, we focus a lot on external factors that can contribute to disease, like nutrition, exercise, and stress. DNA testing provides clarity around something that we tend to ignore, namely the mutations inside of our bodies that can cause disease. Science can be a powerful tool. Use it!
2. Unhealthy BMI
Your fertility isn’t skin deep. However, your body mass index (BMI) can impact your chances of getting pregnant.
A BMI that’s too high or too low can cause issues.
A BMI < 19 can lead to problems ovulating and problems with building up a good uterine lining for implantation to occur.
The same is true for a BMI > 30. Irregular ovulation, and abnormal thickening of lining make it harder for the embryo to stick and grow.
A simple BMI calculator tool online, like this one, can help determine your BMI.
A healthy BMI range will set the stage for the safest pregnancy, lowest risk of miscarriage, preterm labor, pre-eclampsia, and diabetes. Find out what yours is so you can make adjustments and plan accordingly for the best chance at a healthy conception.
3. Abnormal Sleep Patterns
It’s no secret that sleep is important. Yet did you know it can impact your fertility? Crazy, right?
Melatonin levels rise after 9PM and peak before midnight.
This means it’s ideal to be asleep by 10–11PM every night and aim to get 7–8 hours of sleep per night. (I know, easier than it sounds.)
When men don’t get adequate sleep it can affect testosterone levels and sperm quality.
There are scientific reasons why getting enough sleep can improve your fertility. Get your sleep!
Fibroids are benign growths and difficult to detect without a pelvic ultrasound.
There are a few signs you can watch for: heavy bleeding, painful periods, and a swelling in the lower abdomen. Sometimes fibroids are the culprit to miscarriage. My recommendation before pregnancy is to get a pelvic ultrasound. Make it part of your fertility screening.
Endometriosis is the growth of tissue that is normally found in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) in a location outside of the uterine cavity. It can occur on the ovaries, surface of the uterus, on the intestine, or on or in other organs. — OnHealth, What is Endometriosis?
It can take a woman even 6 years before they get accurately diagnosed with endometriosis. It’s a condition 1 in 10 women have and it can cause unbearable pelvic pain which can even lead some women to get a hysterectomy like celebrity Lena Dunham recently did.
So if you have been told there are women in your family with endometriosis, have symptoms, or a cyst on your ovary please be sure to get seen by an endometriosis specialist.
How might endometriosis impact your fertility?
It can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes and it can also decrease egg quality. Both may affect your ability to carry a pregnancy to full term.
This isn’t meant to scare you. It’s meant to inform you to act. If you think you may have endometriosis please be proactive. Getting an early diagnosis can help minimize the progression of the disease and subsequent threat to your fertility.
If you’re interested in learning more this is a great resource chock full of videos.
6. Blocked Fallopian Tubes
There’s a reason why you should always put a condom on it. And that’s because STDs can cause infertility. IVF was invented for women with blocked tubes. So if you know you had chlamydia or PID or even endometriosis (yes it can block tubes too) be sure to get your fallopian tubes checked. As your doctor about the HSG test. Don’t waste a year of trying only to find out you wasted a year on your life.
7. Abnormal Semen Parameters
Every pregnancy is 50% egg and 50% sperm. Suffice to say, guys need to have a fertility screening too.
We also don’t hear enough about the benefits of sperm freezing. Yet, we should! It’s cheap and easy and therefore accessible to all men. A cup and a movie and boom — it’s done! In all seriousness, sperm quality (just like egg quality) decreases over time.
If you have one testicle, had a hernia repair, have chronic medical problems like diabetes or just want to know how fast your swimmers are swimming, get checked! You can get advanced sperm testing done easily to look at sperm genes. Get informed about your swimmers. Oh and a sperm life cycle is about 2 months so getting them drunk and stoned isn’t good practice for preparing for pregnancy.
8. Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases have been well-studied as fertility threatening conditions.
The link between auto immune diseases like lupus and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and conditions which threaten fertility like early menopause, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and diabetes is well documented.
So if you have an autoimmune diagnosis please know that there is a possible link to fertility issues.
What should you do? Make sure you’ve had a fertility screening because some of these conditions are associated with miscarriages. Getting checked early could shorten your path to pregnancy and decrease the number of alternate routes/detours you’ll be taking before your much deserved live birth.
9. Reproductive Toxins
I joke when I go to the grocery story and say, “I’m allergic to paper.” There’s a very good reason to say that. Why? Receipt paper is coated in BPA and BPA has been shown to cause fertility issues. Now that I’m done having kids, I still am allergic. Why? because it’s also connected to cancers. Aluminum cans are lined with it. Reproductive toxins are in your cosmetics too.
My quick tips: stay away from receipt paper, foods from aluminum cans, plastic bottles and containers that have not been labeled as BPA-free.
If you’re hungry for more information I suggest the following links.
- Articles written by my friend Dr. Shahine: BPA and your fertility and Phthalates and your Reproductive Health.
- BPA’s effects on male fertility.
- BPA’s effects on reproductive health.
If you’re informed then you become better prepared to make decisions about your health, and fertility.
We get screenings for cervical cancer and breast cancer, why not fertility?
We need to make fertility screening part of our routine too. Fertility is important. It’s precious and we need to protect it and understand it.