Improving Your Fertility: Dos and Don'ts

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Overcoming infertility through reproductive medicine is a team effort. Certainly patients should seek out the very best fertility medicine. Additionally, patients need to make sure they are doing their part to ensure that their lifestyle gives them the best chance of conceiving. I've taken the liberty of jotting down a list of several "Dos" and "Don'ts" which I hope will be helpful. This list doesn't cover everything by any stretch--if you are wondering about your particular lifestyle habits and how they influence your fertility, leave a comment.

Smoking -- Avoid it completely. If you are a smoker, quit immediately. This applies to both men and women.

Alcohol & Caffeine -- In moderation, having a glass or two of wine per week or a cup of coffee for a morning "pick-me-up" will not have notable adverse effects on fertility if you are trying to conceive. This applies to both men and women. If you are pregnant, then you should avoid both alcohol and caffeine completely.

Stress -- Minimizing stress is always a good thing but I understand that it is easier said than done. Without question, infertility can bring on extreme stress and feelings of isolation. Studies have shown that some patients increase their chances to conceive by practicing relaxation techniques and stress reduction lifestyle changes. Women who join support groups also respond more favorably to infertility treatments. Where I practice, we offer Mind/Body Weekend workshops that offer stress reduction workshops.

Exercise -- For women, moderate exercise is fine but do avoid rigorous activities. Excessive exercise will send blood flow preferentially to your striated muscles and potentially decrease the flow to the ovaries and uterus. If you are a marathon runner, you'll need to stop. Exercise and fertility is less of an issue for men although sperm counts can be adversely affected by excessive efforts such as long distance biking and running marathons.

Acupuncture -- It doesn't hurt. We do know that acupuncture improves blood flow, and, for the woman, increased blood flow to the reproductive system is ideal. There is at least one published study demonstrating improvement in IVF success during cycles in which acupuncture was used as an adjunct.

Hot Tubs/Laptops -- For the male partner, avoiding extreme heat helps optimize living conditions for sperm. As such, men trying to conceive should avoid hottubs. If you can't stay out of the tub, turn the temperature down to 99 degrees.Also, don't take the term "laptop" computer so literally. Laptop computers emit heat and should not be placed directly on the lap for extended periods of time.

Boxers vs. Briefs -- This is the age old question. Are boxers better than briefs for improving fertility? Frankly, it doesn't make much of a difference.
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About the Author

Dr. Herbert is a fertility expert and an innovator in the field.

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