Factors Effecting Fertility
There are a number of lifestyle and environmental factors that can effect fertility. Patients should evaluate these factors in their lives for their own health, their impact on fertility treatment and for the health of their children.
Smoking continues to be a lifestyle behavior of 30-35% of men and women that are trying actively to achieve pregnancy. Documented studies have shown that smoking can cause abnormal sperm morphology, decreased motility and count, and abnormal hormone levels in the male. Studies related to smoking among females have been linked to tubal abnormalities, alterations in the immune system, menstrual cycle abnormalities, and lower estrogen levels. Women who smoke tend to have miscarriages, preterm births, and low birth weight babies. Babies born to women who smoke have a higher risk of upper respiratory infections, colds, and ear infections. The also have a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Second hand smoke is also harmful to the baby.
Alcohol use remains the third leading cause of mental retardation in our society. Alcohol use among couples trying to achieve pregnancy is definitely under-reported. Sixty percent of our population consumes alcohol with half of those drinking regularly. Primary studies have been done on males and the specific information regarding a clear association with conception rates and alcohol consumption is limited in human studies. The prenatal effects of chronic alcohol consumption are horrific in relation to potential damage to the unborn, and 5-10% of all pregnancies are at risk for some type of fetal alcohol effects. Each year more than 50,000 babies are born with some degree of alcohol-related physical or mental birth defects.
Recreational drug use, such as marijuana and cocaine, may cause ovulatory problems and effect hormonal levels in males and females. These drugs are also associated with miscarriage, premature delivery, and low birth weight babies. Cocaine use during pregnancy can lead to addiction in the baby, irreversible brain damage, or death of the infant.
Occupational and environmental risk assessment is also important when assessing reproductive health. Couples may come into contact with many toxic exposures, such as lead, gases, solvents, radiation, and harmful chemicals, in their everyday work setting. Most often, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations will be protective of these exposures, but couples are encouraged to use protective measures such as gloves, masks and proper ventilation when necessary. Environmental assessment of exposures should include both the workplace and the home. Exposures in the home can come from household cleaners, pesticides, painting and automotive supplies, and some craft and hobby elements. Careful ventilation and protective measures are also important at home.
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