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Improving Fertility

Several factors impact not only your fertility, but your overall well being. 

12% of all infertility cases are a result of a woman either weighing too little or too much. The main ingredient in the body weight and fertility mix: estrogen—a sex hormone produced in fat cells. If a woman has too much body fat, the body produces too much estrogen and begins to react as if it is on birth control, limiting her odds of getting pregnant. A woman with too little body fat can’t produce enough estrogen and her reproductive cycle begins to shut down. Both under and overweight women have irregular cycles in which ovulation does not occur or is inadequate.

Cigarette smoking has a negative impact on the ability to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term. The effects of alcohol, marijuana and other recreational drugs are have not been clearly established. Nevertheless, such drug use generally should be discouraged for both men and women, particularly because they have well-documented harmful effects on the developing fetus.

Our philosophy at DIRM is a higher protein diet, consisting of at least 40% of protein at each meal will greatly improve the quality of oocytes (eggs), embryos and cycle outcome.

Our studies have shown success rates greatly increase with these nutrition modifications. This process takes about 2-3 months for noticeable changes to occur.

Smoking is a leading cause of death in women. Lung cancer causes more deaths in women than any other type of cancer, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Another smoking-related disease, heart disease, is currently the number one killer of women in the United States. Death occurs earlier in women who smoke. On average, female smokers die 12 years earlier than female nonsmokers.

With each puff of a cigarette, your body is exposed to more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds of these chemicals are toxic. About 70 are carcinogens. The chemicals in cigarette smoke move from your lungs to your blood. The blood in your arteries carries these chemicals to every organ in your body. When you smoke, it damages your body right away. Smoking even one cigarette is not safe.

When a woman smokes cigarettes during pregnancy, her fetus is exposed to many harmful chemicals. Nicotine is only one of 4,000 toxic chemicals that can pass from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow, so less oxygen and fewer nutrients reach the fetus. Nicotine also damages a fetus’s brain and lungs. This damage is permanent.

How can smoking during pregnancy put my fetus at risk?
Several problems are more likely to occur during pregnancy when a woman smokes. These problems may include preterm birth, which is birth that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Babies that are born too early may not be fully developed. They may be smaller than babies born to nonsmokers, and they are more likely to have colic (with uncontrollable crying). These babies are at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They also are more likely to develop asthma and obesity in childhood.

If you are smoking when you find out you are pregnant, you should stop. The American Lung Association offers information on how to quit on its website: www.lung.org. You also can contact 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a national network that can connect you to a counselor in your state.

ASRM tell us it is not clear how exactly stress impacts fertility. It is not known whether high levels of stress can prevent pregnancy or affect a woman’s chance of conceiving.

We do know that reducing stress provides a better quality of life during times of intense personal challenge.

What is stress?
Stress is often defined as an event that a person sees/feels is threatening. To protect itself, the body responds with a “fight or flight” response.

How can stress impact a fertility patient?
Sometimes, infertility patients respond to the stress of being unable to conceive by aggressively pursuing treatment and procedures. Other patients withdraw
and isolate from family, friends, and community. Neither of these extremes is ideal for patients who seek to treat their infertility and build a family.

How can I reduce my stress?
Having less stress in your life while pursuing fertility treatment may not, in and of itself, result in a pregnancy. However, developing better coping strategies to
manage stress related to an infertility diagnosis and treatment can help you feel more in control and improve your overall well-being.

It has been shown that stress does interfere with making rational and well-thought-out decisions. Reducing stress can allow patients to research, explore, and consider all the options available with a clearer mindset.

By reducing stress, the pros and cons of one treatment course over another can be more effectively weighed and considered.

Reduced stress is good for your health. While no one expects patients to approach fertility treatment stress-free, finding ways to minimize stress while pursuing
treatment can help. It is helpful for patients to look for ways to reduce the burden of infertility treatments and medical protocols.

There are many stress-reducing techniques; some of the more popular methods recommended to fertility patients are:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aerobic exercise (may be reduced during treatment)
  • Collaboration with experts in stress reduction
  • Guided imagery
  • Journaling
  • Listening to music
  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation
  • Mind-body groups
  • Mindfulness
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Self-help books
  • Support/educational groups
  • Visualization
  • Walking/hiking
  • Yoga

How can I help my friend/loved one?
Friends and loved ones are facing a challenge. Telling patients to be less stressed can make them feel more responsible for “causing” their own infertility and feel blamed. Telling someone to relax can cause greater stress. However, asking how couples/friends are doing and suggesting concrete and pragmatic ways to reduce
stress will enhance quality of life and give the patient back some sense of control. For many struggling with infertility, just having friends/loved ones available for listening is greatly appreciated.

The goal of stress reduction is to minimize, not eliminate stress, by finding the technique that serves the patient’s needs the best.

Did you know the amount of sleep you get every night may affect your chances of conceiving?  The quality of your sleep has an impact on your health, mood, hormones and fertility.  Women should be sleeping at least 8 hours per night to increase their chances of becoming pregnant.

Sleep does your body good!
Sleep helps regulate our hormones and repair damaged cells. Leptin is a hormone that links sleep and fertility. It affects ovulation, in order for leptin to be produced adequately, women need to get enough sleep.  If women are not getting enough sleep, their menstrual cycle may be disrupted.

Some other fertility hormones affected by sleep include progesterone, estrogen, LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone).

A cure for the moody blues
While it’s speculated that stress does not cause infertility, an infertility diagnosis can create tremendous stress that affects mood, sleep, and fertility.

When people are under chronic stress, their sleep habits are affected. Feelings of anxiety and depression can arise. Studies show that fertility patients diagnosed with anxiety and depression have lower rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF) success.

Cortisol levels are often affected by the stress of our daily hectic lives. High cortisol levels prevent us from relaxing and getting quality sleep.

To combat the negative effects of cortisol and stress, try acupuncture, yoga and/or psychotherapy. These interventions are aimed at reducing stress and have been shown to increase rates of conception among infertility patients.

Do you work the “infertility shift”?
If you work the night shift, you may have a much harder time getting pregnant. Findings show that night shift workers have irregular menstrual cycles that can cause problems with conception.

Why does this happen? Our bodies are run by an internal clock called the circadian rhythm. Regular patterns of light and dark help to keep our circadian rhythm functioning normally.

Night shift workers may run into problems with their circadian rhythm.

“The circadian rhythm controls the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and cortisol (a stress hormone),” Metzger explains. “Night shift workers are constantly shifting their circadian rhythm, resulting in the same type of ‘jet lag’ that we associate with traveling to and from different time zones.”

Let the sun shine in
Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD) is a form of depression that is triggered by a seasonal reduction of bright sunlight in certain areas of the globe. For some people, this lack of sunlight that often happens during winter can affect both moods and sleep habits.

To counteract SAD, many sleep doctors recommend daily sunlight exposure. Sleep doctors claim that one hour of daily sunlight, even received in small segments each day, can help to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms for a good night’s sleep.

Bright light may also affect fertility. Studies have shown that bright light corrects menstrual irregularities. Bright light may promote ovulation, although therapeutic use of bright light to restore fertility is still under investigation. A structure in the brain called the pineal gland is instrumental in regulating hormonal balances in our body based on our length of exposure to daylight.

Exposure to artificial light can inhibit good sleep. To reduce the negative health effects of artificial lights in your environment, turn off the TV and computer several hours before bed, and reduce the glare of electronic equipment in your bedroom at night, including your alarm clock.

Need more sleep and fertility tips?

  • Be consistent in your sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Don’t sleep in on the weekends, no matter how tired you feel.
  • If you do nap, stop. You may be getting too much sleep during the day, upsetting your sleep cycle.
  • Exercise daily, but not too close to bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes. Talk to your doctor to see if any of your medications interfere with your sleep.
  • Start a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath and have a light snack an hour or two before bedtime. Dim the lights and keep your bedroom around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If you still have trouble sleeping, see a sleep expert.

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