Get the Basics Right First
The number of couples experiencing fertility problems is increasing exponentially. The reason for this increase in fertility problems is directly related to certain lifestyle changes that have taken place in the last 30 years. These lifestyle issues include an increased incidence of time urgency perfectionism (TUP) stress, poor dietary habits and poor nutrition. Smoking and excessive alcohol have been shown to reduce infertility. Getting these lifestyle basics right will not only improve your fertility health but also your general health.Fertility requires the sperm and eggs to be very healthy. In conjunction with running a series of tests to determine your fertility, we recommend a few simple lifestyle changes which you can start making immediately. These may help boost your fertility naturally and will also assist with the effectiveness of the treatments that we will recommend for you.
Medfem Fertility Clinic offers world class advanced fertility treatments including laparoscopic fertility surgery and assisted reproduction including artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation, intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection, assisted hatching and pre-genetic embryo biopsy. However our philosophy at Medfem Fertility Clinic is to achieve a pregnancy as naturally as possible. This can be achieved by the infertile couple taking charge of their lifestyles. By improving your lifestyle you will go a long way to improving your fertility. Let’s look at factors which can influence the health of eggs and sperm. Some factors can be modified by changing behaviours; others can’t.
The links between being overweight or obese and an increased risk of chronic diseases are well known – we read about them all the time. What is less well known is that an unhealthy weight in either partner can also have a significant impact on your ability to conceive. An unhealthy weight in either partner can affect fertility and delay the time it takes for a woman to fall pregnant.
In addition being overweight not only reduces the chances of a couple conceiving naturally, but also means that treatments such as IVF can be less likely to succeed. So you may need to take control of your weight through diet and exercise in order to increase fertility. Obesity causes problems not only in conception, but right through to delivery and beyond. During pregnancy it can also lead to complications including gestational diabetes as well as an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects and obstetric complications. Obesity can also lead to delivery of the baby before 32 weeks which is quite premature.
The main effect of weight on fertility in women is due to a failure to ovulate – anovulation. There are also other more subtle metabolic effects due to elevated insulin. Women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25-30 are 50% more likely to have anovulatory infertility than women with a normal BMI. This rises to as much as 300% for women with a BMI over 30. Unfortunately, IVF success rates may be reduced by as much as 25% in obese patients and 50% in very obese patients. Such early delivery can lead to a marked increase of the chance of the newborn not surviving or having very significant health problems or permanent handicaps.
Fortunately, losing weight can help improve your chance of conceiving and minimise your risk of having complications if you do fall pregnant. Many overweight women will resume ovulation if they lose as little as 5% of their original weight and may continue to conceive naturally. So the good news is that weight loss itself can be an effective fertility treatment. Excess weight is a factor that should be attended to when you first start to attempt conception. If you do a brisk 30 minute walk every day and eliminate 200 calories from your food intake, you will lose a significant amount of weight. If you do require fertility treatments your chance of success will be higher. Your pregnancy will be less complicated and your health will be better for many years to come.
Likewise, being underweight can also harm a woman’s ability to conceive. If you are underweight it is recommended that you exercise with caution. Exercising heavily every day may interfere with the regularity of the menstrual period.
Always eat a well balanced diet which includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, grains, meat, poultry and seafood.
Exercise: Shaping up for conception
Exercise has only positive effects for the male. Overdoing it on the exercise front can have adverse effects on the woman though by reducing her ability to ovulate and conceive. When trying to conceive it is suggested that women partake in no more than a standard 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as a brisk walk) most days of the week. It is very possible that the stress on the body of greater degrees of exercise or high impact exercise may add together with the stress of infertility and produce an adverse effect.
Smoking has major adverse effects on both sperm and egg quality. With female smoking, natural fertility is decreased and the chance of successful pregnancy with IVF is decreased by 50%. Although one would assume that the effects would be lesser in degree, second-hand smoke has been found to have a similar effect on the outcome of IVF compared with smoking. The effect is not only on egg quality. Recipients of egg donation who smoke also have a significantly lower pregnancy rate. Female smoking also increases miscarriage. Exposure of infants and young children to second-hand smoke increases asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome.
Women who smoke are more likely to have difficulty conceiving, may not respond as well to infertility treatments, and are at increased risk of miscarriage, complications during the birth and of having a baby with a low birth weight.
In the male, smoking increases sperm DNA fragmentation, which can increase miscarriage and may help to explain why male smoking decreases IVF success by a third, even when a sperm is directly inserted into each egg. For men, smoking may affect the development and quality of sperm, decrease the sperm count and reduce the volume of semen. In addition there is a higher risk of impotence (erective dysfunction).
Alcohol also reduces fertility in both partners. As with most adverse life choices, the effects appear to be greater with the more advanced procedure of IVF. With the exception of couples just beginning to attempt conception, restricting or avoiding alcohol will give them the greatest chance of being successful. As drinking excessive amount of alcohol may affect sperm count and increase the risk for miscarriage and birth defects, it is recommended that both male and female partners take a conservative approach to alcohol while trying to become pregnant. You should have less than seven standards drinks in any week and no more than two standard drinks on any one day.
Caffeine intake does not appear to affect male fertility unless it is excessive (over 3 cups of caffeinated coffee per day). However, female fertility is influenced to a greater degree, with moderate amounts reducing fertility and any significant intake reducing the success with IVF. Caffeine should not be used by pregnant women as it has been associated with miscarriage.
It goes without saying that illegal drugs are detrimental when attempting to conceive. Cocaine and marijuana have been known to disrupt the menstrual cycle and ovulation process. Marijuana can also affect sperm count. Say no to all drugs.
Recent reports state that having a mobile phone in a front pants pocket may influence sperm quality through cell phone radiation. Rather keep your mobile phone elsewhere.
Time Urgency Perfectionism Stress
Controlling TUP stress – the infertile couple needs to carry out specific testing to see whether they have time urgency perfectionism stress. This can be assessed free of charge on the following website www.timeurgency.com. If a person has TUP stress then they can carry out the TUP stress management program online or at Medfem Fertility Clinic (facilitated by Mandy Rodrigues a clinical fertility psychologist).
The Impact of Age
The egg and sperm cells consist of:
- A cell A membrane which serves as a boundary between the cell and the outside environment
- Cytoplasm containing organelles
- A nucleus containing hereditary material (DNA)
Mitochondria, where cellular respiration takes place (the break down of sugars) to produce energy for the cell, is a process that uses oxygen and produces carbon dioxide and water. Mitochondria are now recognised as being central to tissue bioenergetics, as well as being involved in the ageing process. Age-dependent changes in mitochondria are characterised by a high rate of generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), a declining capacity for oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and decreased levels of cardiolipin, an essential phospholipid for normal mitochondrial function. If OXPHOS is not efficient then leakage of electrons leads to increased ROS. Mitochondria are therefore the main source of damaging free super-oxide radicals. The use of specific mitochondrial targeted anti-oxidants, Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Insulin Like Growth Factor (IGF), vitamins, aminoacid building blocks, vitamins and minerals all contribute to enhancing mitochondrial function, combating the ageing of cells and preventing ROS mediated tissue damage.
The sperm and egg cells are dependent on a continuous supply of hormones, carbohydrates, proteins, nutrients and micronutrients to create the perfect cell. To achieve the perfect egg and perfect sperm the couple is encouraged to control their TUP stress, eat a balanced diet and include Staminogro and Comega Vite in their daily nutrient intake.
Eating a balanced diet
A balanced diet must include three meals per day with two snacks per day in between meals. Try to avoid snacking in between these 5 eating times. Restrict the intake of junk foods including cool drinks, sweats, chocolates, potato crisps and excessive refined sugar. The amount of food eaten should be restricted to your daily calorie requirement. Start by decreasing your serving by say 10- 20 %. Don’t have a second helping until you have waited 10 minutes – you will usually not want it.
The following supplements should be taken by both the male and female continuously until the couple has achieved a 12 week pregnancy.
- StaminoGro – in a dosage of 4 tablets just before sleeping. StaminoGro is designed to be a human growth hormone releaser, vitamin and mineral complex in a slow release matrix and has been specifically formulated to act as a potent mitochondrial enhancer. This action can lead to rejuvenation of mitochondria throughout the body, and can lead to a reversal of cellular ageing and could prevent the production of damaging free radicals, with cellular rejuvenation being the possible end result. The clinical application at Medfem Fertility Clinic has lead to improved egg quality and sperm morphology and sperm DNA maturity.
- Comega Vite – in a dosage of 2 capsules just before sleeping. A combination of Omega 3 and 6 extra strength vegicaps has been clinically shown to have an effect on endometriosis.
The philosophy of optimising a couples lifestyle including managing time urgency perfectionism (TUP) stress, eating a balanced diet and the daily intake of both StaminoGro and Comega Vite has been shown to increase fertility rates. This philosophy will also improve your general health, improve your coping mechanisms, improve your relationships and reduce the chances of getting one or more of the so called dread diseases, including cancer, coronary artery disease, stroke and diabetes.
Frequency of intercourse is very important in attempting to conceive. The recommended frequency is every one to two days around the expected time of ovulation. Frequent ejaculation may also be helpful before IVF or ICSI by decreasing sperm DNA fragmentation. There is also some overlap between decreased fertility and decreased erectile function because increased blood flow, better lifestyle choices, and improved nutrition benefit both functions.
It is usually recommended for the female to remain lying down on her back for 15-20 minutes to maximise sperm migration.
It is also recommended not to use lubricants during intercourse as these may be detrimental to the sperm.
The common causes of infertility in the female include:
- Lack of ovulation or inadequate development of the egg – the most common reason being Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This condition is directly related to excessive stress, poor dietary habits and inadequate nutrient intake. The medical problems that are associated with PCOS include excessive levels of insulin (hyperinsulinemia, metabolic syndrome), an under-active thyroid (hypothyroisism), raised prolactin (hyper-prolactinemia) and low growth hormone levels. 80% of patients presenting to Medfem Fertility Clinic have underlying PCOS. Each of these medical problems is treatable with medication. In order to enhance the response to medical treatment TUPS stress should be managed, a balanced eating plan started and Staminogro and Comegovite nutrients should be taken daily (see detail below).
- Endometriosis – is found in 90% of patients presenting to Medfem Fertility Clinic. This is a condition where endometrial cells (the same cells that are found in the cavity of the uterus) grow in the abdominal cavity around the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. These cells create a poor environment for egg development, poor mucous in the cervix, a thickened egg capsule reducing the ability of a sperm to penetrate the egg, and a reduced chance of the embryo implanting.
The common causes of male infertility include:
- A reduced sperm count
- An increased number of abnormal sperm
- Increased levels of immature sperm
The ongoing research carried out at Medfem Fertility Clinic shows that TUP stress, poor dietary habit and inadequate nutrients intake play a decisive role in reducing male fertility.