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Do things like coffee, alcohol and smoking really affect fertility?

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Some things such as smoking, alcohol and drugs can have a profound effect on fertility and on the developing fetus. It is well worth addressing lifestyle issues if you’re trying to conceive as these can increase your chances of success as well as improving your own health and that of your potential baby. Even though some lifestyle modifications can sound like minor issues they can all affect the way your body responds to fertility treatments and making changes can help you achieve your goal.

Too much caffeine is known to affect fertility. In research studies it has been shown to increase the time it takes to get pregnant naturally and reduce IVF success rates. High caffeine intake in early pregnancy has also been linked to a small increase in the rate of spontaneous miscarriage. So how much is too much? Ideally caffeine intake should be less than 200mg daily, roughly equivalent to 1-2 coffees or cola/energy drinks, or 2-3 teas. If you’re having trouble cutting back on caffeine you can try things like alternating with decaf; try filling your coffee jar with half normal coffee and half decaf and stir, then each coffee will have half the amount of caffeine; or try alternating with herbal or fruit teas. If you do decide to use herbal teas, choose a number of different ones that you like and alternate them. This will keep the amount of each herb to a minimum and help you avoid reaching a medicinal dose.

Alcohol consumption is associated with decreased fertility in both males and females, and with increased risk of miscarriage. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is also damaging to the developing fetus, and is associated with physical and developmental problems in children. Women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant should not consume any alcohol. Men should follow safe drinking guidelines which stipulate a maximum of two standard drinks daily and several alcohol free days each week. Sometimes drinking alcohol is more about interacting with a social group and ‘fitting in’ than the alcohol itself. There are a range of non-alcoholic wines, beers and ciders on the market, so try taking some of these along to your next social gathering. Most people won’t notice that you’re drinking anything different.

Smoking is directly linked to decreased fertility in both males and females. Babies of smokers also experience higher incidence of a wide range of health problems. Giving up smoking is one of the greatest health gifts you can give yourself and your potential child. There are a range of stop smoking programs and products on the market. It’s worthwhile exploring the options to see what might suit you as an individual. Hypnotherapy can be a useful tool for some people.

Research studies on the effect of stress on fertility have returned conflicting results. Some studies have shown an effect while others haven’t. Whether or not stress has a direct impact on fertility, most couples experiencing fertility difficulties will also experience increased stress levels. Repromed counsellors have extensive therapeutic experience and specialised skills in the field of infertility, and this counselling is provided for both individuals and couples. Therapies such as acupuncture, massage and yoga can also help address generalised stress levels.

A number of drugs negatively impact on male fertility. These drugs include recreational/illicit drugs, anabolic steroids (sometimes taken by body builders), blood pressure drugs, antidepressants and cancer chemotherapy treatments. If you are taking any of these drugs or medications you should talk to your fertility Specialist who will be able to advise you.

If you would like assistance addressing lifestyle factors during your fertility treatment, including hypnotherapy for quitting smoking, Repromed recommend you contact Well2. You can call Well2 for more information or to make an appointment on (08) 8362 6622

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