Infertility as a result of chronic illness, antidepressants or weight problems is tragic, but unsurprising. Yet a woman’s reproductive health can be impeded by shockingly mundane things. Here are four things that can cause infertility… and what you can do to prevent them.
1) Artificial light exposure
It’s common knowledge that gazing at laptop or phone screens late at night suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone, which screws up your body clock. What isn’t common knowledge? The fact that it screws up your fertility just as much. Melatonin is produced in the reproductive tract, and it doesn’t only regulate your sleep cycle — it also protects your eggs from damaging free radicals during ovulation. There’s also evidence that late-night light exposure during pregnancy can cause sleep issues for the child later in life… so keep computer use to the daylight hours as this is one of the things that can cause infertility!
The physical effects of stress are your body’s natural response to danger — conserving resources for fight or flight — and as such, stressed women are less fertile. High levels of the stress hormone alpha-amylase have been shown to reduce a woman’s chance of conceiving by 29%, so if you’re thinking of conceiving, calm down. Treat yourself to a restorative yoga class, relaxing massage, or spa day, and practice aromatherapy, mindfulness and acupressure during the day to keep your stress levels nice and low.
3) Folic acid deficiency…
We all know that getting enough vitamins is a crucial part of eating healthily… and of course, they play a large part in fertility. The vitamin most essential to reproductive health is folic acid. So what the heck even is folic acid and why is it so necessary? Folic acid creates red blood cells, so it’s a must for mothers and developing embryos alike. Eggs, grains, spinach and sunflower seeds are all rich in folic acid, or you can take supplements — 400 micrograms a day is the perfect amount. This is one of the biggest things that can cause infertility!
4) … and vitamin D deficiency
Concerns about skin cancer from overexposure to the sun have led to many people covering up or slathering on the sunblock, and as a result vitamin D deficiency, a common cause of infertility, is on the rise. Although protecting yourself on sunny days is a good idea (especially if you’re fair skinned) catching a few rays will boost your vitamin D and your reproductive health at the same time. You can also get vitamin D from egg yolks, cheese and especially oily fish like fresh tuna, mackerel and salmon.
5) … and iron deficiency
Iron is absolutely crucial to ovulation, so much so that a woman may not release an egg at all if she is iron-deficient, making it one of the things that can cause infertility. This is an easy one to fix, though – many common foods are iron-rich, including dried fruits (plums, apricots, raisins), spinach, shellfish and (yay!) dark chocolate. You can also swap out white rice and white bread for wholegrains.
6) Bad dental hygiene
Bet you never saw this one coming! As incredible as it sounds, brushing your teeth really does help you to conceive. Studies on women undergoing fertility treatments also uncovered the fact that these women had poor oral hygiene, including high levels of gum bleeding and inflammation. The key to healthy gums lies in regular flossing, which strengthens them and makes them resistant to gum disease, as well as brushing. Book yourself in for an appointment at the hygienist’s, and in the meantime, break out the floss!
7) Cold hands and feet
Okay, always having freezing hands isn’t going to make you infertile… but it could indicate that you are. Constantly having cold hands and feet is a common indicator that your thyroid gland isn’t working properly, and hypothyroidism is a common cause of infertility due to its impact on ovulation and menstruation. If you can’t conceive and have this issue, you may be having problems with your thyroid gland.
Hailed as a vital weapon in the fight against aging, antioxidants (like vitamin C and E) are known for reducing the effects of free radicals on the body. Many anti-aging serums are antioxidant-based. But studies show that antioxidant supplements are one of the tthings that can cause infertility by showing a sharp drop, indicating that some free radicals are actually necessary for fertility.
Generic lubricant is pretty darn bad for sperm. Not only does it act as a barrier, impeding the sperm’s movement, it also kills them. And just because you’ve gone organic in your lube choice, doesn’t mean you’re safe. Olive oil is also known to damage and inhibit sperm, so invest in some sperm-friendly lubricant instead.
Too much can be as bad as too little. If a woman’s body fat drops below roughly 20%, menstruation stops and infertility occurs – the body simply does not have the resources to grow a child. Fat tissue produces oestrogen in and of itself, which is crucial to sex drive as well as fertility itself. Overexercising in men can also lower libido and sperm count. To optimise fertility, work out in moderation but don’t overdo it!