Your partner’s lifestyle choices and
changes may increase your chances of pregnancy. They may provide your
growing baby a healthy start in life when you do get pregnant.
Fertility Food Facts
Foods Beneficial to Fertility
• Grains and seeds
• Nuts, such as cashews and almonds
• Vitamin-C-rich organic fruits and vegetables, grown without pesticides
• Dark, green, leafy vegetables
• Total of 6 to 8 ounces a day
of chicken, meat or fish, including red meat and cooked oysters (but
keep total weekly fish intake to 12 ounces or less)
• Calcium-rich foods, such as yogurt, cheese and milk
• Fortified breakfast cereals
Foods that May Contribute to Infertility
• Chips, cookies and crackers made with partially hydrogenated oils
• Fruits and vegetables commercially grown with pesticides
• Fried foods
• High-meat diet
Use of tobacco products can affect sperm
production. Smoking one or two packs of cigarettes a day may cause
sperm to move slowly and be misshapen. Second-hand and third-hand smoke
can also affect a man’s fertility.
Smoking marijuana can damage sperm and
lower the number of sperm produced. It takes up to several months to
rid the body of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), even after a person quits
Alcohol use can lower testosterone levels
and contribute to erectile dysfunction. One study showed men who
reported drinking heavily around the time of conception increased their
partner’s risk of miscarriage. Alcohol can cause chromosomal
abnormalities in sperm cells.
A man who is too thin or too heavy may
have a lower sperm count. Men who are too thin may be malnourished. Men
who are too heavy may have lower testosterone levels.
Long-term exposure to solvents in
water-based paint has been shown to affect a man’s sperm. The culprit
is glycol ether. Use of anabolic steroids and nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory medications may slow or reduce sperm production. Even
antibiotics can affect sperm production.
Limit time in the hot tub. The scrotum is
a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body, so soaking a long time
in hot spa water may affect sperm.
About 10% of American men who are trying
to achieve a pregnancy with their partner experience some sort of
fertility problem. However, many men don’t know they have a problem.
A low sperm count may be caused by
infection, hormone problems, certain medications or undescended
testicles. Your partner’s doctor can explore these conditions with him.
One of the most common situations is a varicocele,
a collection of enlarged veins in the scrotum that leads to lower sperm
production. Another problem is an obstruction in the ducts that carry
sperm from the testes. Often, both of these can be taken care of with
microsurgical techniques. Taking care of these problems can improve a
man’s sperm count and increase your chances of achieving pregnancy as a
3. Treatments for Infertility
If your doctor suggests a fertility workup
for you and your partner, it helps to understand what’s involved. For
your partner, a physical and semen analysis may be done and a detailed
medical history may be taken.
More is involved in testing you. You are
asked for a detailed medical history, and you will probably have a
pelvic exam. Blood work may be done to check hormone levels. A vaginal
ultrasound to examine your ovaries and uterus may also be done. If your
doctor wants to check your Fallopian tubes, a hysterosalpingogram (HSG)
may be performed.
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)
A test that may be done before pregnancy is called preimplantation genetic diagnosis
(PGD). It’s a type of genetic test and is often done if a woman has
in-vitro fertilization (IVF). With IVF, an embryo is created outside
the womb (in vitro) by mixing together an egg and a sperm, then the resulting embryo is implanted in the woman’s uterus.
With PGD, a few cells from the embryo are removed and tested before
the embryo is implanted. The test is done to identify genes responsible
for some severe hereditary diseases. The technique has been used to
diagnose various disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome,
Duchenne muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, Tay-Sachs disease, sickle-cell
disease and Turner syndrome.
The goal with PGD is to select healthy
embryos for implantation to avoid serious genetic disease. Using this
test, a normal embryo can be implanted in the uterus.
After test results
are back for you both, you meet with your doctor to discuss results.
Then together with your doctor, you examine options for care and/or
treatment, if it is necessary for either of you.
4. Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)
Assisted reproductive technologies (ART)
can often help a couple achieve pregnancy. ART account for more births
today and include the following techniques:
• ovarian stimulation
• in-vitro fertilization
Ovarian stimulation is used to
stimulate ovaries to produce an egg. Several different medications are
used for this purpose. One of the more common ones is clomiphene
(Clomid); it is used most often in women who aren’t ovulating and may
result in controlled ovarian hyperstimulation. The chance of twin
fetuses is somewhat less with clomiphene than with other fertility
medicine, but an increased chance still exists.
A complication that may occur is ovarian
hyperstimulation syndrome. It is usually mild but can be severe.
Ovaries become enlarged and the abdomen becomes distended. Severity can
range from moderate discomfort to life-threatening ovarian enlargement
and fluid shifts.
The use of fertility drugs can result in superovulation,
which results in multiple eggs and increases the chance of multiple
pregnancies. A large percentage of births resulting from
assisted-reproductive techniques are multiples.
In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is
the process in which eggs are placed in a medium and sperm are added
for fertilization. The zygote produced is then placed inside the uterus
in an attempt to result in pregnancy.
Assisted-reproductive techniques account
for nearly 65% of all multiple births today. Twins are more common if
more than one embryo is inserted. This results when several fertilized
eggs are inserted into a woman’s uterus in hopes at least one will
implant. Today, many experts recommend transferring only one embryo
because it improves the live-birth rate and decreases costs.
Fertility treatments are expensive and
can cost up to $15,000 for each attempt at conception. Often, fertility
treatments are not covered by health insurance.