We go to great lengths to provide the best environment for your eggs, sperm and embryos, but probably the most important efforts towards their quality can be made by you.
A number of factors have been shown to reduce the quality of eggs and sperm. These types of cells are created over a prolonged period of time, so changing your lifestyle to help your chances of conception must be considered as a long term investment.
Smoking reduces a woman’s AMH value, is detrimental to a man’s sperm quality (increased sperm DNA damage) and has been shown to reduce fertilisation and development potential, resulting in lower pregnancy rates. Smoking other substances can also have a detrimental effect on fertility. There are local services available to help you quit, click here for more information.
Excess alcohol affects sperm function.
Excessive body weight causes:
There is also evidence to suggest that men with a high BMI, and therefore body weight, are more likely to have no sperm or low numbers of sperm compared to men of healthy weight.
Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. The occurrence of birth defects in newborns in Brazil, with the possible link to Zika virus, was declared a Public Health Emergency by the World Health Organisation on 1 February 2016. The risk of introduction and circulation of Zika virus in Scotland is very low since the mosquito does not occur here, but it is accepted that travel-related cases may present in Scotland in future.
The areas currently considered at risk are:
Central/ South America
Whilst the situation is still evolving, and given the potentially significant consequences for a pregnancy if Zika virus is transmitted, the following recommendations have been made:
A FEMALE traveller, symptomatic or asymptomatic, should not try to conceive naturally, donate gametes or proceed with fertility treatment for 28 days.
A MALE traveller, symptomatic or asymptomatic, should not try to conceive naturally, donate gametes or proceed with fertility treatment for 6 months.
Anyone who has had a known Zika virus infection should not try to conceive naturally, donate gametes or proceed with fertility treatment for 6 months.
Women who are pregnant are advised to postpone non-essential travel to countries with active ZIKA transmission until the proposed link between Zika virus and adverse pregnancy outcomes has been fully clarified.
For further information, please see the following websites:
ecdc.europa.eu – List of Zika virus affected countries, updated daily
www.rcog.org.uk – Interim clinical guidelines on Zika virus infection in pregnancy
britishfertilitysociety.org.uk – Zika virus, fertility treatment & gamete donation
www.hps.scot.nhs.uk – HPS Zika Virus Situation Report
It must be said that good quality scientific studies on diet and infertility are lacking. However, foods with antioxidant properties, such as fruit and vegetables, are likely to be beneficial to both eggs and sperm as they protect against oxidative stress which can be harmful. Avoid foods containing trans fats like hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine, and try to eat unsaturated fats such as oily fish and nuts. It’s common sense to eat a wide variety of healthy foods as part of your lifestyle connected to fertility.
There are many “well-woman” and “well-man” vitamin supplements that can be bought over the counter at a chemist. They contain anti-oxidants, vitamins, zinc, selenium, and Omega 3, and can be helpful, especially for men with lower sperm function.
Moderate and regular exercise can improve the activity of important enzymes, which influence many of the body’s functions including reproduction. If you take any supplementary drugs or substances as part of your exercise regime, be sure to seek advice about their affects on your fertility. Intense exercise, and other potential sources of excessive heat, such as hot baths or saunas, and tight underwear, are best avoided by men hoping to use their own sperm.
Folic acid, if taken before becoming pregnant and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, will reduce the risk of developmental abnormalities. You need to take folic acid 400 micrograms (400 µg) every day in addition to what you get from your diet until 12 weeks’ gestation. Folic acid can be bought in chemists, many supermarkets and in health food stores.
Similarly, Vitamin D (10µg/day), is beneficial to both the pregnant woman and her developing baby.
Check the labels and information leaflets with any over-the-counter medication you take regularly – some everyday medications are advised against when you’re trying to have a baby.