Fertility Information

Health & Fitness

Are good health and fitness a better indicator of fertility than age?

Many women think that if they exercise, feel healthy, and are still menstruating, they are still fertile. This isn’t generally the case, as a woman’s eggs are as old as she is – and older eggs have more problems becoming fertilized – no matter how young a woman feels or how fit and healthy she is. Men’s fertility declines with age too, whether or not a man stays healthy and fit.

What does play a role in fertility is obesity and extreme thinness – the American Society for Reproductive Medicine says that approximately 12% of infertility cases are a result of weighing too much or too little. That said, if you are trying to get pregnant, having a healthy weight, and a good level of overall health and fitness will be a bonus in terms of your mental and physical health and well-being. This will also increase the likelihood of a healthier pregnancy if you’re able to get pregnant.

What is the relationship between weight and fertility?

Obesity and extreme thinness can affect a woman’s chances of conceiving. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says that approximately 12% of infertility cases are a result of weighing too much or too little. For instance, research suggests that women who are obese are less likely to achieve a pregnancy and live birth than non-obese women. Although more research is needed, it appears that the male partner’s weight (i.e. obesity) may also have an impact on a couple’s ability to become pregnant as well. The first form of treatment for obesity related infertility is weight loss and lifestyle changes (e.g., increasing exercise). If this doesn’t result in a pregnancy, fertility treatments can be pursued although there is some evidence that IVF is less successful in women who are obese.

Women who are extremely thin may stop menstruating (also called amenorrhea), which means that their body isn’t developing mature eggs for conceiving, making it difficult to become pregnant. Treatment for amenorrhea includes dietary changes including an increase in fat or calorie intake, hormonal supplements, and reduction in exercise.

If you are concerned about how your weight may impact your chances of conceiving, see your medical professional.

What lifestyle factors can impact men’s fertility?

According to The National Infertility Association, approximately 35% of all infertility cases are attributable to fertility issues experienced by men. There are numerous documented causes of male factor infertility, many of which are beyond men’s control (e.g., structural anomalies, endocrine or hormonal problems, genetic diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, viruses such as mumps). However, in some cases lifestyle choices may contribute to male factor infertility.

For example, since testosterone treatments can suppress the production of hormones that are necessary for sperm production, men who receive testosterone injections may be at increased risk for infertility. The use of anabolic steroids also has been known to negatively affect men’s fertility. It has also been suggested that laptop use may be implicated in damaging sperm because the heat from computers raises the temperature around a man’s testicles. In addition, spending time in environments that are over 100 degrees (e.g., hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms) for longer than 30 minutes a day may interfere with sperm production.

Diet has also been implicated as an important factor in men’s fertility. For example, some researchers have found that men who eat higher amounts of dairy products are more likely to have poorer quality sperm. In addition, being significantly under- or overweight may have a negative impact on the quality of a man’s sperm. Reduced fertility has also been linked to smoking, drinking alcohol, and using recreational drugs.

If you are interested in becoming a father, talk with your doctor or fertility specialist about lifestyle factors that may affect your fertility.