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Your Fertility in 2012 and Beyond


a blog by Laurence A. Jacobs, M.D., Fertility Centers of Illinois, January 15, 2012

In my last blog, I referenced how life is not a dress rehearsal, and the time is now to take control of your health and fertility in 2012. Your fertility doctor will do all he or she can to help you have a successful pregnancy and birth, but you need to do your part. Empower yourself — take control.

Here are some helpful suggestions and comments.

  • Smoking. You need to stop now! Numerous studies have clearly shown that cigarette smoking lowers sperm counts and motility, as well as sperm fertilizing function. Ovarian blood flow and egg quality is harmed by smoking. You are well aware that smoking is extremely harmful to fetal development. If you smoke, it’s time for you to quit! Period.
  • Nutrition. Eat healthier. You know what to avoid. Increasing one’s intake of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and limiting refined carbohydrates (white bread, cookies and cake), can improve fertility by balancing hormones and normalizing blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Obesity. If overweight, you need to try to lose weight. Even a 5 to 10 percent weight loss can have a dramatic benefit in improving your chances to conceive and, more importantly, have a healthy baby. Many studies have demonstrated that in obese women, especially those with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), as little as a 5 to 10 percent weight loss often is associated with resumption of ovulation and higher pregnancy rates with all fertility treatments. Fewer pregnancy complications and better perinatal outcomes are also seen. The problem of obesity can be solved, but requires motivation, counseling and behavior modification. On occasion, for the morbidly obese, medications and/or bariatric surgery may be necessary.

    In men, studies have demonstrated a dramatic increase in sperm DNA fragmentation in obese men, leading to a significant reduction in sperm quality. In addition, there may also be an increase in the miscarriage rate for men with high level fragmented DNA damage. Increased sperm DNA fragmentation due to oxidative stress may be due to several factors, including excessive exposure to heat and obesity. Bottom line – try to lose weight.

  • Exercise. If you hate to exercise, do it anyway. Moderate exercise will help you lose weight, and you will feel better. It clearly is one of the best methods to reduce stress.
  • Clinical education. Learn as much as you can about your fertility testing, diagnosis and treatment options. You will feel much more comfortable with your decisions and your care.
  • Financial education. Learn the fertility treatment costs and become familiar with your own insurance plan and available coverage. Avoid surprises. Talk to your Human Resources representative who is there to help you. You are ultimately responsible to know about your benefits. It’s a good idea to map out your fertility budget and agree to your financial resources ahead of spending.
  • Mental health Yoga, acupuncture and psychological services can all help to reduce stress and improve your mental well-being. Ask your fertility clinic about available resources.
  • Sexual and relationship health. During the infertility journey many couples become emotionally stale and “sexually dead." No wonder. Tons of stress, plus no one enjoys having boring, "scheduled intercourse on demand" based on an ovulation predictor kit! Try to remember why you fell in love to begin with. Make it your goal to rekindle your relationship and have intimate, meaningful sex. Make your partner’s happiness a priority. Don’t forget how to have fun and feel sexy. Try once again to start doing things together that you both enjoy. Successful relationships take work.
  • Spiritual health. There is a wide spectrum of religious faiths and beliefs. If you believe in a “higher power," try to reconnect. Your faith may help give you the added strength you need to continue this difficult and frustrating journey. Strive to find that inner peace.

I really don’t believe that the world is going to end in 2012 as the followers of the Mayan calendar predict, so if I’m right, you better get busy! This is it. Take back control over your life and your lifestyle issues. Try to find hope and comfort as you go through your life challenges … this will be one of the most difficult times in your life.

Remember, your fertility journey needs to be a team effort. You are not alone.

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