Impact of lifestyle and weight

If you want to give yourself the best chance of achieving the dream of starting a family, it pays to get fit for fertility. 

An unhealthy weight – in either partner – can have a significant impact on the ability to conceive. Obesity can cause problems from conception right through to delivery and beyond. Being overweight or obese not only reduces the chance of a couple conceiving naturally, but also means fertility treatment, such as IVF, is less likely to be successful. 

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Genea Fertility Specialist Dr Natasha Andreadis on the impact of lifestyle on conception

The main effect of weight on fertility in women is failure to ovulate. In men, obesity can lower sperm counts by up to 50%. Overweight men are also more likely to suffer erectile dysfunction and have a higher rate of DNA fragmentation in sperm.

However, fertility is improved with a relatively modest degree of weight loss or gain. Around 90% of obese women will resume ovulation if they lose less than 5% of their body weight.

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Lifestyle changes recommended before trying for a baby

no smoking imageSmoking is toxic to human eggs and has long lasting negative effects even after a woman stops. Smoking can also impact sperm health.
Reduce alcohol imageWhile the exact number of alcoholic drinks needed to affect fertility is unclear, the best advice remains to reduce alcohol consumption to one or two glasses a day or cut it out altogether. There is no hard or fast rule with caffeine but it’s recommended to consume no more than two cups of coffee a day.
Boost vitamins imageFolate is recommended for all women as it reduces the risk of neural tube defects (eg spina bifida). Many woman are also deficient in vitamin D and iodine - both are also considered an essential part of a woman’s preconception care. It’s recommended those wanting to conceive add prenatal vitamins to their diet three months before starting to try.

How can Genea Oxford help?

Calculate your BMI

In both men and women a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5-24.9 is considered normal weight. It is recommended couples aim for a BMI of less than 30 before trying to conceive.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, an unhealthy weight (too high or too low) in both men and women can affect fertility whether you are trying naturally or through assisted conception.

It’s recommended that couples aim for a BMI of less than 30 before trying to conceive.

It’s essential that women take folate, it is recommended for its benefits in reducing the risk of neural tube defects.

Stress can affect ovulation. Consider any strategies that reduce anxiety and help you remain positive.

Exercise is great for the body and an important part of a healthy lifestyle, there is no evidence that you need to reduce normal levels of exercise however 

excessive exercise can have an impact on hormone levels.