Infertility affects millions of people of reproductive age worldwide. As per estimates, between 48 million couples and 186 million individuals deal with infertility globally. In India, approximately 27.5 million couples actively attempting to conceive suffer from infertility, according to a study.
Globally, 39 percent of adults over 18 years are overweight and 13 percent are obese, and worldwide, obesity has tripled since the 1970s. Obesity has become the number one lifestyle-related risk factor for diseases like High Blood pressure, Diabetes, Heart disease and Infertility. The adipose tissue through the production of many factors, such as leptin, free fatty acids (FFA), and cytokines may affect hormonal balance required for good fertility.
There are increased difficulties in egg production, irregular menstrual cycles, increased incidence of miscarriages and pregnancy complications in women with higher Body Mass Index.
Polycystic Ovarian Disease is associated with increased weight gain and is the most common cause of infertility in women.
In the male reproductive system, problems in the ejection of semen, absence or low levels of sperm, or abnormal shape (morphology) and movement (motility) of the sperm are found to be increased in men with higher BMIs. Almost 40 percent of the couples suffering from infertility have issues with the male factors.
Late marriages and couples trying for pregnancy in their late thirties and forties contribute to lower rates of fertility. The negative effects of faulty diet and sedentary lifestyle cause the hormonal imbalances leading to infertility.
It is important to understand that infertility affects both men and women equally. The ability and the ease to get pregnant is not completely inherited.
There are multiple environmental, genetic and acquired factors which leads to declining fertility in the present reproductive age groups that is between 25 to 34 years.
Some lifestyle-related infertility causes which can be modified are:
1. Poor lifestyle
Various factors such as late working hours, graveyard shifts, irregular sleeping time, sleep pattern disturbances, as well as stress and anxiety affects the rhythm of our biological clock. Club that with sedentary lifestyle and lack of regular exercise, which cause obesity, hormonal disorders, and irregular periods. Obesity damages sperms by causing female: male hormone imbalanced ratio, heat generated by sitting for long hours at work affects the sperms; wearing tight undergarments, jeans for long hours has a definite detrimental effect. Hot working conditions also add on to this.
2. Poor dietary choice
Eating more frozen, instant and packaged food items with preservatives, more refined sugar and carbohydrates, and less of fibre rich diet, millets, fruits and veggies, can be detrimental. High sugary foods and bakery products, and lack of probiotics in packaged and preserved stuff alters the balance in the normal vaginal bacterial flora which is very essential in preventing vaginal, cervical and uterine infections. Sperm quality is directly influenced by dietary habits. In women, a poor diet can also result in ovulation dysfunction and delayed periods, which can lead to infertility.
Irregular food timings also play a part in affecting the BMI.
3. Lack of knowledge
Lack of education in sexual and reproductive health during adolescence can lead to sexually transmitted diseases causing irreversible infertility because of tubal problems. Also, lack of knowledge about fertile window is very common. People tend to not have sex when it is actually required due to work shifts or because of living in different places related to jobs. People travel often for business and official meetings, and these are not without implications.
4. Tendency to prioritize career
People have a tendency to seek financial stability by postponing marriage and childbirth. Indian women are six years ahead in reproductive aging compared to European women. The average menopausal age of Indian women is 47 years but for European women it is 51 years. So, the reproductive life is shorter and we see many women with low AMH (Anti Mullerian Hormone) in our day-to-day practice. Early menarche in girls has further aggravated the problem as their reproductive lives start early and end early. So the biological age (ovarian age) is different from our chronological age for many women.
5. Exposure to environmental pollution
This has caused polycystic ovary syndrome in many women and has also reduced the quantity and quality of sperms. Excess usage of plastics has caused damage to various parts of our body. The early onset menarche or precocious puberty before 10 years in girls, is said to be a by-product of exposure to air pollution and food adulteration.
6. Smoking and drinking
Smoking and consumption of alcohol, as well as electromagnetic radiation from gadgets can reduce the sperm count drastically and damages the DNA of the sperm.
Women smokers experience a faster decline in their ovarian reserve, that is the number of follicles reduces, AMH levels falls and may land up in premature menopause.
The solutions for these reasons are self-explanatory. Counselling before starting sexual life, safe contraception counselling, seeking prenatal advice can go a long way in reducing these issues and restore the fertility in many couples. The young generation should be aware of these factors which endanger their fertility and seek proper counselling while planning for pregnancy. Seek a doctor’s advice at the earliest.