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Seven Simple Things to Avoid for Fertility

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a blog by Robyn Nazar, RN, BSN, June 2, 2011

Want to get pregnant but worried about your fertility? Here are seven common things to avoid that may help you boost your baby-making potential!

1. Smoking

If you’re a smoker I know you have heard this before: stop smoking. If you are struggling to quit, at least begin by reducing the amount of cigarettes you smoke per day. The nicotine and chemicals in cigarettes can interfere with hormone production, as well as transportation of the egg through the fallopian tube to the womb. In a recent study, couples who smoke were found to be twice as likely to have trouble conceiving than smoke-free couples. If you do quit smoking (yay for you!), then experts believe it will take around three months for your body to regain its full fertility potential.

2. BPA Plastics

Did you know that nearly all of us have measurable amounts of a dangerous plastic chemical called BPA in our blood? Because BPA is used so frequently in the processing, packaging and storage of the products that we consume, most of us are affected by it even though we are unaware. Studies have shown that high levels of BPA can interfere with embryo implantation in the womb, decrease sperm quality and quality, and even alter gene expressions of reproductive organs. Bottom line: BPA is not something you want in your body at any time — especially when you're trying to become pregnant. The good news is: After just three days of a BPA-free diet, studies show you can significantly reduce your levels. BPA can be found in solid plastic packaging, the lining of food and drink cans, and beverage containers. Try to eat a fresh-food diet (free of packaging or processing) and store leftovers in stainless steel or certified BPA-free containers.

3. Trans Fats

Trans fats are the fats that manufacturers use in processing some foods, including french fries, doughnuts, baked goods, margarine, shortenings, crackers, cookies, etc. Trans fats not only raise your risk for heart attack, stroke and diabetes, they can also affect your fertility. In one study researchers found that just 4 grams of trans fat per day can double your risk of ovulatory infertility. Now, an occasional basket of french fries isn't going to render you infertile, but frequent consumption can cause inflammation in your body that can interfere with normal reproduction function. Instead fill up on good fats such as olive oil, avocados, fish and nuts, which actually help fight off inflammation and keep your body healthy.

4. Red Meat

In a Harvard study, known as the “nurses' study” researchers followed almost 19,000 nurses over eight years. They found that those who ate the most red meat were 39 percent more likely to have difficulty conceiving than those who ate the least. Furthermore, those who had the highest intake of plant protein (grains, legumes, nuts, soy, etc.) were the most fertile. You don't have to go vegetarian, but make sure your diet is well-balanced with a variety of protein sources, including fish, eggs, poultry, and plants.

5. Too Much or Too Little Weight

As one of the most heavily studied infertility factors out there, weight has proven itself to be a major player in conception success. Body fat helps regulate estrogen levels. Therefore, having too much or too little fat stores can interfere with this hormone regulation. In addition, excess weight can also cause increased levels of inflammation throughout your body, which counteracts your body's efforts to conceive. So, if you’re trying to get pregnant, be sure to maintain your BMI within the normal parameters of 18.5-24.9.

6. Stress

Although this has become somewhat debatable, most experts still agree that stress and fertility do not mix. Stress can come in many forms including physical and emotional stress. For example, if you are not a regular runner, don't start training for a marathon now. That would be increasing your physical stress (not to excuse you from regular moderate exercise, though!). Physical stress can also come from working irregular hours, lack of sleep or even working night shifts. Emotional stress, on the other hand, may be much less noticeable. It can come from a job, relationship challenges or even anxiety about trying to conceive. No matter where your stress is coming from, reducing it may increase your chances of conception. Try incorporating lifestyle changes, joining a yoga or meditation class, or simply talking to a qualified medical professional.

7. Lack of Sleep

Chronic lack of sleep can cause a disruption in an important female fertility hormone called leptin. This hormone, also known for controlling weight and appetite, has been found to drop to low levels when a woman hasn't had enough sleep. Studies show that low leptin levels can prevent a woman from ovulating. Therefore, making sure that you get enough sleep is one way to help regulate your menstrual cycles and promote normal ovulation.

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