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Bay IVF - Advanced Reproductive Care                                Palo Alto  650-322-0500


Non-nutritional Factors and Reproductive Health

By Francis Polansky, M.D.

In the last month's blog, we reviewed the impact of dietary habits on one’s health and fertility potential.

This month’s blog will cover the non-nutritional, environmental issues.

The outcome of advanced reproductive treatments (IVF and related treatments) depends primarily on the quality of eggs and sperm and only secondarily on the performance of the reproductive center team. The egg and sperm reproductive capacity, in turn, can be greatly influenced by your lifestyle choices.

More comprehensive information about the impact of lifestyle on fertility can be found in Optimize Your Fertility.

Non-nutritional Factors and Reproductive Health


1. Exercise


Exercise has a significant impact on improving insulin sensitivity (decreasing insulin resistance).

Frequent and consistent exercise by both partners (if applicable) is critical for good reproductive health and is a part of your treatment at Bay IVF.

Exercise by both the male and the female partners is associated with improved egg and sperm function and IVF outcomes. In one study, exercise increased the pregnancy rate more than threefold.


2. Stress


"The majority of the research thus far does support the theory that the more distressed one is before an IVF cycle, the less likely one is to conceive."
— Alice Domar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology, Harvard Medical School

For a woman, the stress of infertility has been compared to having a diagnosis of cancer or HIV. Full-time employment, hostile mood, depression, and higher anxiety have been shown to correlate with retrieval of fewer eggs and IVF failure.

Stress shifts blood supply to the heart, brain, and muscles from “non-essential” organs, such as the ovary.

There are many stress-reducing techniques. Some of the more popular methods that have been shown to be associated with increased pregnancy rates are (in alphabetical order):

  • Psychotherapy
  • Self-help books
  • Support/educational groups
  • Taking on fewer tasks
  • Taking time off from work
  • Visualization
  • Walking/hiking
  • Yoga

If you do not have a counselor, please visit for a list of therapists that specialize in infertility, and most of whom have previously worked with Bay IVF patients.

3. Sperm Oxidative Stress


Sperm loses most of its antioxidant defenses during maturation by shedding its cytoplasm, making it acutely sensitive to oxidative stress. Sperm are primarily affected by oxidative stress during passage through the male collecting system.

Infrequent ejaculation, therefore, worsens exposure to oxidative stress. From the beginning of your treatment, the male partner should ejaculate by intercourse or masturbation at least every 2-4 days.


4. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)


Many everyday products release VOCs. It is very important to minimize your exposure (both partners) to VOCs:

  1. Consider sleeping with your bedroom windows wide open year round.

  2. Petroleum products: Avoid car exhaust fumes and solvents, use disposable gloves when filling up your car.

  3. The release of VOCs from plastics and building materials:

    • Do not drive a new car when trying to conceive.

    • Do not remodel your home or buy a newly constructed house.

    • Do not stay in the proximity of artificial turf sports fields.

  4. No exposure to cigarette smoke (both partners).

  5. Eliminate or minimize the use of perfumes and colognes (unscented deodorant is OK).

  6. Do not dry-clean your clothes.

  7. Eliminate air fresheners at home and in your car(s).


5. Fire Retardant Chemicals


There is evidence that flame retardants, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs), can reduce fertility. Try to minimize your exposure to flame retardants by using bedding and pajamas that are fire retardant free.

6. Mothballs


If used, you must eliminate mothballs from your household. Mothballs are a pesticide product that contains toxic fumigants either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene.

Naphthalene is considered to be a carcinogen. Exposure of humans to naphthalene is associated with the destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia), damage to the liver, and, in infants, neurological damage and death. Paradichlorobenzene is a carcinogen and may cause damage to the liver and kidneys.

Consider using mothball alternatives: cloves, cedar wood, and lavender.

7. Smoking


You must not smoke. Cigarette smoking, including passive, second-hand cigarette smoke exposure, has been shown to have a dramatic adverse effect on oocyte (egg) quality. There is an increased risk of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities in offspring among smokers.

8. Dental Hygiene


Periodontal disease has been linked to infertility, increase the likelihood of miscarriages, and poor sperm quality.

9. Acupuncture


It is OK to have acupuncture. For a list of acupuncturists, please see

10. Chinese Medicine


It is OK to use Chinese herbs as long as they are for strengthening your health only and do not have any male or female hormone-like effect.


October 2017


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