To What Extent Do Bad Habits Affect Fertility?

By Vasilis Kellaris
IVF Obstetrician/Gynecologist, Scientific Associate of Institute of Life MITERA

Although hereditary factors and age play a major role in a couple’s fertility, the role of external factors related to everyday life and the modern lifestyle cannot be disregarded. Fertility and conception are the result of many environmental components and sometimes it is difficult to get a clear overview as to the effect of each one, due to their interaction and the adverse impact of each one in general.

  • It is a well-known fact that bad habits, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and bad nutrition, affect a couple’s fertility. The problems associated with sperm quality and testosterone production may possibly also affect female fertility, as well as the effectiveness of assisted reproduction methods.
  • Recent studies have shown that, apart from various other health problems, excess or very low weight is associated with anovulatory infertility, especially in women who engage in intense physical exercise. In addition, obesity also affects the levels of male hormones associated with reproduction.
  • Careful with medications and treatments. They should be prescribed by a doctor, given that many active substances (e.g. antibiotics) affect fertility.
  • Stress creates a vicious cycle when it comes to fertility problems. It has been proven to have a negative impact on fertility, while, on the other hand, an infertility diagnosis creates additional stress, which further hinders conception.
  • Sexual behavior may pose a threat to fertility if it favors sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Untreated infections may cause pelvic inflammatory disease, with subsequent infertility. Similarly for men, STDs have been linked to architecture disruption and obstruction of the ducts that carry sperm.
  • Every day we come into contact with many toxic agents, such as non-ionizing radiation (mobile phones), toxins and pollutants (plastics, cleaning solutions, heavy metals, pesticides, environmental pollutants), which seem to have an impact on fertility. Special attention also needs to be paid to risk factors at work, which can be summed up as natural (radiation, high temperatures), biological (viruses, germs) and toxic (lead, mercury).

Although the levels of each factor separately may not exceed the safety limits, their combined action may be quite harmful.

Simple prevention measures

Prevention is key in this case as well. It is up to us to improve everyday habits and correct the bad ones. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a comprehensive approach that aims at health in general, while it can also increase the chance of successful conception and a smooth pregnancy, with a pleasant outcome.

Modification of lifestyle habits may include:

  • Quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol.
  • Maintaining or reaching a stable weight.
  • Exercising in moderation, for women.
  • Taking medication in moderation.
  • Following proper nutrition (preferably the Mediterranean diet).
  • Managing stress.
  • Using condoms.
  • Reducing or eliminating exposure to toxic substances using suitable protective measures, or replacing them with safer alternatives if possible (e.g. detergents).
  • Avoiding areas with increased pollutants.
  • Reducing mobile phone use.