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Fertility

You may not have thought much about your fertility in the past or, if you are planning a pregnancy, maybe you've thought about it a lot. Here are some ways that can help you to protect your fertility whether you are planning on getting pregnant soon or someday in the future.

 

Top 10 tips to protect your fertility

1. Your age matters...

Age plays a role in your fertility. As men and women age, fertility decreases. 

For women: 

  • Ovaries become less able to release eggs and you have a smaller number of eggs left.104
  • Your eggs are not as healthy.4
  • You are more likely to have health conditions that can cause fertility problems.104
  • You are more likely to have a miscarriage.410
  • You are more likely to experience complications in pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.10
  • The chance of having a child with chromosomal or developmental problems increases, particularly after age 40.10
 

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For men:

  • Semen volume and motility (ability to move) decreases.9
  • Sperm structure and DNA can become abnormal and/or damaged.9
  • You and your partner may find it takes longer to conceive (get pregnant).9
  • The chance of having a child with chromosomal or developmental problems increases, particularly if you are in your mid-to-late 40’s.9

2. Stop smoking

Smoking affects more than just your baby. Women who smoke are at an increased risk of infertility. It may take longer to get pregnant and you have an increased chance of having pregnancy complications like high blood pressure, miscarriage and stillbirth. 2

Men who smoke also experience a decrease in fertility as smoking affects sperm health (i.e. decreased sperm count, motility problems, and damaged sperm DNA).9

If you need help quitting, talk to your healthcare provider or contact:

3. Maintain a healthy weight

  • Healthcare providers use Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine how your weight may impact your health.
  • Being overweight and obese can affect fertility in both men and women. 6Men who are obese are more likely to have poor sperm quality and are at a higher risk of infertility.9  Women who are overweight and obese are also at a higher risk of having fertility problems, especially related to menstrual and ovulation irregularities.11
  • Being underweight can also affect fertility in both men and women. 6 A low BMI (18.5 or less) may affect sperm production and quality in men as well as ovulation and menstruation in women. 9
  • Here are some tips to help you get started.

4. Get tested for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs)

  • Most STIs are easily treated, but if left untreated some STIs can cause serious illness, or even permanent damage such as infertility. 5
  • If you are sexually active you should get tested for STIs with each new sexual partner.
  • Visit your healthcare provider or the STI Clinic at the Middlesex London Health Unit.

5. Drink less alcohol

  • Drinking alcohol can impact your fertility.6
  • To reduce your long-term health risks follow the Canadian Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.
  • If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the safest choice is no alcohol at all.
  • Also be aware of the dangers of recreational drug use (i.e. marijuana, cocaine) on reproductive health. Recreational drugs are associated with increased infertility in both men and women.9
  • If you are concerned about your drinking or drug use and want help to stop, talk to your healthcare provider or contact Addiction Services Thames Valley.

6. Know what you are exposed to

  • Before you get pregnant make sure to reduce the environmental health risks in your home, workplace and all the places you spend time. Contact with many toxins may make it difficult to get pregnant or may cause complications during pregnancy. 1
  • Find out more about how to Create a Healthy Home Environment.

7. Get active

  • Being physically fit has many health benefits including: stronger muscles and bones, less disease, improved mental health and more energy.3
  • Physical activity can also help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Follow the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines to get started.
  • Sometimes if you are exercising a lot or are training for a sporting event, like a marathon, you may stop having regular periods which affects your ability to get pregnant.4

8. Check your stress

  • Over time, stress can impact your hormones and cause changes to your menstrual cycle and sperm production, making it harder to get pregnant. These effects are short term and reversible.4
  • Everyone reacts to stress differently. If you need help managing your stress, talk to your healthcare provider, a counsellor, psychologist or social worker. Your workplace may be able to help through an Employee Assistance Program.

9. Eat well

  • There is not enough evidence to recommend a specific diet to boost fertility however, healthy eating before and during pregnancy will help you and your baby get the best possible start.
  • Health Canada recommends that all women who could become pregnant should take a multivitamin containing 0.4 mg of Folic Acid every day.7
  • Limit your caffeine intake to 300 mg a day or less.12 High caffeine intake can result in decreased fertility in women as well as an increased risk of miscarriage.9
  • For more information about healthy food choices see the Canada's Food Guide.

10. Visit your dentist

  • Your oral health is an important part of your overall health.
  • Take good care of your teeth and visit your dentist regularly for check-ups.
  • If you can, get your dental work done before you get pregnant.
  • There is a link between high levels of bacteria in the mouth due to poor oral hygiene and the incidence of pre-term and low birth weight babies.8

Infertility

Sometimes you can follow all the advice and still have difficulty getting pregnant. There is not one definition for the term "infertility". Usually it is defined as the inability to conceive (get pregnant) after one year of unprotected sex, or after six months if you are over the age of 35. There are many reasons why men and women could be faced with fertility challenges. Sometimes there is no explanation.

You should see a doctor if:

  • you are 35 or younger and have not become pregnant after one year of trying.
  • you are older than 35 and have not become pregnant after six months of trying.
 
Date of creation: January 9, 2013
Last modified on: April 18, 2019
 
 

References

1Best Start Resource Centre. (2011). Health Before Pregnancy Workbook. Retrieved from
http://beststart.org/resources/rep_health/Health_Before_pregnancy_2011_FULL.pdf
2Health Canada. (2012). Risks of smoking Retrieved from
http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/health-sante/tobacco-tabac/risks-risques-eng.php
3Public Health Agency of Canada. (2012). Benefits of Physical Activity Retrieved from
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/pa-ap/02paap-eng.php
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Infertility FAQs Retrieved from
http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/#e
5Public Health Agency of Canada. (2010). Canadian Guidelines on Sexually Transmitted Infections Retrieved from
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/std-mts/sti-its/cgsti-ldcits/section-1-eng.php
6Healthy Canadians. (2013). Fertility Retrieved from
http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/health-sante/pregnancy-grossesse/fert-eng.php
7Public Health Agency of Canada (2008) Why all women who could become pregnant should be taking Folic Acid. Retrieved from
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fa-af/
8Canadian Dental Association. Gum disease Retrieved from
http://www.cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/complications/diseases/
9Sharma, R., Biedenharn, K., Fedor, J., Agarwal, A. (2013). Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endrocrinology 11(66).
10American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (2014). Does my age affect my fertility? American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Retrieved from
http://reproductivefacts.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/Does_my_age_affect_my_fertilty-FINAL_8-13-14.pdf
11American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (2014). Weight and fertility. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Retrieved from
http://reproductivefacts.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/weightfertility.pdf
1213 Health Canada. (2012). Caffeine in Food. Retrieved from
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/addit/caf/food-caf-aliments-eng.php