10 Ways to Optimize Your Lifestyle for Fertility

Dr. Sgarlata

By Dr. Carl Sgarlata, ORM’s Integrative Medicine specialist.

Infertility does not discriminate- one in eight couples in the U.S. are affected by this disease regardless of their race, sexuality, religion or socioeconomic status. Factors that can reduce one’s fertility equally affect both women and men and the lack of or inability to obtain insurance coverage only adds to the stress and disappointment that infertility can bring.

Preconception health is an essential part of the fertility journey and can have a significant impact on your chances of conceiving a healthy pregnancy. Here are the top 10 ways you can optimize your diet and lifestyle to receive the health benefits and prepare for pregnancy.

Top 10 Ways to Optimize Your Lifestyle for Fertility

  1. Plan ahead!

    It is important to have established a healthy lifestyle and to initiate environmental changes that will affect the health of the egg and sperm well in advance of a pregnancy. In women, eggs begin to mature starting as early as 6 months prior to ovulation and conception. Men create their sperm in cycles of 75-90 days.


  1. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider AND your dentist.

    dentist fertility optimizeBefore attempting pregnancy, you want to be in the best health possible. A visit to your provider will allow a review of any current medications or medical conditions. This also allows for the opportunity to discuss any screening tests or immunization you may require. In women, poor dental health may increase the risk of early labor and low birth weight.


  1. Ask about genetic carrier screening.

    Discuss your family medical and genetic history with your provider to determine if there are diseases that may run in your family. Testing for carrier status (mutations) for common genetic diseases may uncover the potential to pass along serious genetic disorders to your children.


  1. medication pregnancyAudit your medications.

    Talk to your doctor regarding all medications you are currently taking (both over the counter {OTC’s} and prescribed) to determine which are safe to take during pregnancy and which may need to be switched to a safer medication or discontinued. Keep your provider updated with any changes.


  1. Check your supplements.

    Just as prescription medications and OTC’s, you should always inform your healthcare provider of any supplement or herbal preparation you are taking.

Always know the dose and source of the supplements you take and keep your provider informed of what supplements you take. Always look for third-party independent certification of the supplements you use (such as NSF or USP).

Women: Start a prenatal vitamin with a minimum of 400mcg of folic acid 3 months prior to attempting conception. Ask if you would benefit from Co-Q10 supplementation to help aid egg quality.

Men: Supplements shown to improve sperm quality include: folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, Omega 3’s, vitamin B12, L-carnitine, selenium and zinc. Discuss with your provider if there supplements you might benefit from.


  1. Achieve a healthy weight.

    healthy weight An elevated weight or BMI (normal 18.5-24.9) can reduce fertility in both men and women.

Women: Unhealthy healthy weight is a risk factor for several pregnancy complications.

Men: A BMI greater than 35 has been associated with low sperm count and motility. In women, a BMI over 30 can increase the risk for ovulation disorders, pregnancy loss, and several pregnancy-related complications such as gestational diabetes and hypertension.


  1. Eat right.

    Healthy eating will not only improve egg and sperm quality, thereby improving fertility, but for women, it will also lead to a healthier pregnancy. Both men and women benefit from a fertility dietMediterranean-type diet plan.

General guidelines include:

    • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
    • Avoid skipping meals
    • Eat real, whole foods
    • Eat whole grains, legumes, and beans
    • Avoid processed foods/food products
    • Limit foods with sugars and simple starches.
    • Aim for at least 5 servings fruits and vegetable daily
    • Consume 8-12 ounces of fish weekly
    • Hydrate with filtered water (~ ten 8-ounce cups per day). Eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks.
    • Choose foods rich in monounsaturated fats – olive, canola, peanut, sesame and sunflower oils; avocados


  1. Modify your lifestyle.

    • sleep Move! Moderate exercise has been shown to improve both egg and sperm quality; inactivity has a detrimental effect. Thirty (30) minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week is recommended, as is strength training 2-3 times per week.
    • Sleep! Try to get more than 6 hours of sleep per night, preferably 8. Limit screen time and exercise prior to going to bed.
    • There are several other lifestyle factors with detrimental effects on fertility.
    • For women and men, avoid tobacco use, vaping, greater than 4 alcoholic drinks per week, and recreational drugs including cannabis products.
    • For women, avoid greater than 12 oz. of coffee daily, shift work, BMI below 20, excessive exercise and herbal products.
    • For men, avoid anabolic steroids and supplements, heat (saunas and hot tubs), using a laptop on lap, exposure to cell phones/Wi-Fi.
  1. Limit your environmental and chemical exposures.

    Daily, we are exposed to numerous chemicals and hormone-disrupting toxins. It is important to identify potential toxins and teratogens at home, work and travel. Examples include personal care products (lotions, cosmetics, makeup, soaps), plastics (phthalates and bisphenols), food and water and cleaning products.  Limit your exposure to all plastics – especially with food and beverage preparation and serving/storage. Reduce exposure to pesticides by eating organic produce (fruits and vegetables) and washing all produce before consuming.


  1. Manage your stress levels.

    Managing your stress is easier said than done, especially when struggling with infertility. You may feel the pressure of age or family expectations. Infertility may bring about feelings of emptiness, isolation or failure. Infertility can interfere with your physical well-being, quality of life your relationships with others.

fertility yogaResearch shows that dealing with infertility is a major life stress; however, stress is not the cause of infertility. Stress reduction techniques have been shown to help manage stress and may also increase your chances of a successful pregnancy. MBSR or similar mindfulness techniques have been well-studied and show benefit.

Take up activities such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, walking or deep breathing exercises. Unplug from electronic devices and social media. Take time for yourself.

Pursue healthy activities that you find relaxing.

Communicate with your partner, family, and friends. Discuss your hopes, dreams, fears, and concerns with people you trust and will be supportive.

For more information regarding fertility optimization, join us for a Preconception Health webinar (hosted quarterly) or schedule an appointment with an ORM Reproductive Physician.

prepare for pregnancy



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