Guest Post by Carla DiGirolamo, MD
As a fertility doctor, “Is there anything else I can be doing to increase my chances of getting pregnant?” is one of the most common questions my patients ask, as we are navigating their journey to parenthood. We will often analyze outcomes of multiple treatment cycles, sometimes years of day 3 hormonal values, and results from the most cutting-edge testing. We make a plan we are excited about and at the end of the visit I’m typically asked about what else they can do. The answer lies in an often overlooked, understated, and even taken-for-granted part of the fertility equation and that is the foundation of our overall health and wellness.
When I meet a patient for the first time, we spend a significant portion of time discussing lifestyle habits as part of their complete medical history as there is abundant literature that discusses the various ways that the impact of lifestyle habits can both positively and negatively impact on fertility:
- Evidence suggests that infertility, conception rates, miscarriage rates, and pregnancy complications are increased in overweight and obese women.
- A Women’s Health Initiative observational study shows that active smoking and secondhand smoke exposure are associated with an increased risk of infertility and the onset of natural menopause before age 50.
- A review in Men’s Health showed that tobacco use correlates with semen parameters, sperm quality and function.
- In women undergoing fertility treatment, alcohol consumption has been associated with lower egg yield during IVF, lower pregnancy rates, and an increased risk of miscarriage.
So why do patients (and providers too!) roll their eyes when we suggest that they “eat well” and get some “exercise”? Because it’s hard. Because it often requires lifestyle change, time commitment and straying outside of your comfort zone. Not exactly an exciting prospect when you are already battling with the stress of infertility in the middle of a pandemic. I get it!
The good news is that many times just small modifications can make a real difference in moving in the direction of your healthier self without overhauling your entire existence.
Here are a few tips to consider. And remember, it’s about progress, not perfection.
- Take 3-4 days and keep a food and beverage log. Be honest. You will likely see areas where you can improve on what you are eating or drinking. Pick one manageable goal per week to improve upon. MyFitnessPal is a great free app for this purpose.
- In addition to a food and beverage log, also consider recreational substances like tobacco, alcohol and marijuana and ways to reduce intake. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Find a way to increase movement – walking, running, biking, stair climbing for 30 min, 3-4 times per week. You can find ways to move more wherever you are.
- Engage a coach. There is no better time to have someone in your corner to keep you motivated and on track to reach your goals.
- Prioritize self-care and stress relief. Take a minimum of 15 minutes every day to do some yoga, read a book, meditate – any activity that you enjoy and will help relieve stress.
Just like the fertility journey, the journey to the healthiest version of yourself can be daunting and frustrating at times. But the destination is well worth the trek. Know that through every step of this journey you are not alone. We are a community of patients, providers and professionals who have your back every step of the way.
Dr. Carla DiGirolamo is a Board-Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility specialist with 15 years of experience, currently practicing at Boston IVF in Waltham, MA. Dr. DiGirolamo is also a certified Nutrition and Fitness Coach specializing in helping women in all phases of their life achieve the healthiest version of themselves. For questions, Dr. DiGirolamo can be reached directly at [email protected]