In a survey of married women, the CDC found that 1.5 million women in the US (6%) are infertile (source: National Survey of Family Growth, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2006-2010). Twenty-five percent of infertile couples have more than one factor that contributes to their infertility. And although women frequently tend to feel the burden more, infertility affects men and women equally.
There are many factors that can affect infertility, but there are a number things you can do (or should stop doing) to help increase your chances of conceiving before you try more invasive and costly procedures.
1. Stop or cut back on caffeine. Several studies have shown that caffeine increases the length of time it takes to conceive. One study showed that women who drank more than one cup of coffee a day were half as likely to become pregnant per cycle as compared to women who consumed less. Another study in patients undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) demonstrated that women who consumed even modest amounts of caffeine (50 mg) were likely to have decreased live birth rates. This includes tea and soda.
2. No alcohol. If you already have trouble ovulating, this is especially important. Even one drink a day can decrease fertility by 30% and 2 drinks doubles that. Alcohol increases the hormone prolactin, which inhibits the two hormones (FSH and GnRH) necessary for ovulation.
3. Don’t take melatonin. If you are using this supplement to help you sleep, stop. It can also raise prolactin levels and cause temporary infertility.
4. Take vitamins. Start taking a good prenatal with 800 mcg of folate.
5. Check your iron levels. A simple blood test can tell you if your ferritin levels are adequate for conception. Although a ferritin level of 9 shows that you have enough iron to prevent anemia, you can be infertile with ferritin levels below 40 ng per ml.
6. Have your thyroid levels tested. Sub-clinical hypothyroidism can sometimes cause infertility and miscarriages, so it is important to be tested and treated if necessary. The good news is that once treated, fertility is restored quickly once the patient’s thyroid function is normal.
Scientists and fertility doctors are noticing a drop in sperm count and sperm motility (sperm movement), which make it harder for couples to have babies. There are many reasons including stress, obesity, pesticides and even plastics (BPA). Here are some suggestions to help with sperm motility.
1. Vitamin C. Taking 500 mg of vitamin C twice a day has shown to help infertility in about 20% of infertile men. Vitamin C has a positive effect on sperm count and motility.
2. Astragalus. This herb can help two-fold. First, it is an adaptogen, which means it helps your body deal with stress, and second, it can help increase sperm count by about 50%.
3. Selenium. Take a good quality multivitamin that has 200 mcg of selenium, which can also help with fertility.
Photo from here, with thanks.