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How your lifestyle can affect your fertility

Find out how the kind of lifestyle you and your partner have can affect your fertility.
The way in which you and your partner live your day-to-day lives can have a significant on impact on how fertile you both are. Whether you're having trouble conceiving or have only just begun trying for a baby, here's what you need to know.

Pay attention to your health

Both you and your partner's fertility will benefit from a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index - a measure of your weight in relation to your height). This means exercising regularly and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. Some studies show that calcium can increase fertility in women, so make sure you're getting plenty of milk, cheese, and yoghurt in your diet.

It's also said that zinc can increase sperm count in men, and though it's difficult to find zinc-rich foods other than oysters, your partner could always take a zinc vitamin supplement to help up his fertility. Omega 3 fatty acids can also help improve sperm motility and can be found in oily fish.

Remember the importance of folic acid in your diet when trying to get pregnant - this will help the development of your baby once you do conceive.

Stay relaxed

It's easier said than done when you have a busy life, but it's really important for both you and your partner to take time to rest and relax when you're trying to conceive. High levels of stress are linked to decreasing sperm counts in men, as well as making it more difficult for women to successfully conceive.

Try not to get stressed if it's taking you longer than you'd expected to conceive- it's usually recommended that you try for at least 12 months before considering going to see a doctor. It's worth taking some time off and unwinding - perhaps you and your partner could take a break together.

Quit smoking

It's another thing that's easier said than done, but if you or your partner smoke, your chances of conceiving could be less. According to the BMA (British Medical Association), women who smoke have up to 40% less chance of conceiving per cycle. Smoking has been shown to lower sperm count and motility (how fast sperm can move) as well as reducing the amount of oestrogen you produce. As oestrogen is an essential hormone for fertilisation, your chances of getting pregnant may be hindered.

What's more if you continue to smoke when you do conceive, the health of your unborn baby could be compromised. Passive smoking also has a detrimental effect on your chances of conceiving, so try to avoid being around people who smoke while you're trying to get pregnant.

Cut down on alcohol and caffeine

Drinking alcohol can have a negative effect on both your fertility and your partner's, so it's worth cutting it out of your lifestyle while trying to conceive and during the early stages of pregnancy - or at least cutting down on your alcohol consumption. Some research shows that recreational drugs can have an impact on both male and female fertility. Excessive caffeine, too, may decrease fertility so it's worth cutting down on this stimulant when trying to get pregnant - though 1 or 2 cups a day aren't likely to do any harm.

Be aware of your environment

Prolonged exposure to environmental toxins such as some pesticides and solvents like turpentine have been linked to a reduction in sperm count, which is far from ideal when you're trying for a baby. As such, if your partner is regularly exposed to chemical substances as part of his work make sure he always wears protective clothing.

Excessive heat may also adversely affect sperm count, as sperm needs to be kept cool in order to function properly. Therefore it's often recommended that men wear loose-fitting, cotton boxer shorts rather than tight briefs made of synthetic material as this helps to keep things cooler in the trouser department.

Likewise, some studies have suggested that working with a laptop resting directly on your lap can raise sperm temperature and may therefore decrease sperm count. If your partner's work involves sitting down for long periods at a time, make sure he gets up and walks around every now and then to keep everything at an optimum temperature.

Finally, even if you and your partner do follow all these tips, it's still a good idea to have a pre-conception health check-up with your GP. By doing so you can make sure that both your health and your partner's health is in tip-top condition.

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