by Dr Agilan Arjunan , Fertility Specialist , KL Fertility Centre (Malaysia)
“ The word fitness is synonymous with healthy lifestyle . What about fertility fitness ? ”
Fitness is part of our lifestyle. This concept is widely accepted thanks to our health educational efforts. Fitness and healthy lifestyle is commonly associated with prevention of lifestyle related diseases. Many healthcare campaigns over the years have proven effective in reducing the disease burden in our society. Despite all these efforts , how many of us are aware of fertility fitness ?
What is fertility fitness
Fertility is the state of being fertile . Fertile is the ability of every men and women to produce offsprings or children. Fitness is a condition of being physically fit and healthy.
Therefore, fertility fitness is a condition where a man and woman is physically fit and healthy to produce children.
Fertility fitness also encompass ‘emotional fitness’ to be ready and able to embrace parenthood.
Why fertility fitness
It is a well known fact that fertility rate is declining . This fact is true for both men and women. In other words, the rate of male and female infertility is rising in the last 10 years.
All of us might agree that prevention is better than cure. This is true for health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. We take care of our food and physical fitness to ‘avoid’ developing those conditions.
However, when it comes to fertility health , we tend to pay attention to it when we are facing difficulty conceiving (infertility). We prefer to ‘treat’ infertility rather than ‘prevent’ infertility.
You may ask , “If I pay attention to fertility fitness ,can I avoid infertility ?” .
The answer is “ You may ” .
Back to the example above,we pay attention to diet and general fitness to prevent diabetes and high blood pressure even though it’s not 100% guaranteed that these conditions can be prevented. Yet, general fitness is practiced as a preventive strategy.
Fertility health and fitness should be viewed with the same mindset. Infertility can be prevented if we try.
When to start fertility fitness
Efforts to built your fertility fitness should start today ! Fertility fitness is built over time. The earlier you start , the better the fertility fitness level will be. The best time to begin caring for fertility fitness would be in your teenage years. You do not have to wait till you are married or ready as a couple to start a family. Start now. Building fertility fitness is like nurturing a plant, it takes time to grow.
Who should start fertility fitness
The answer on your mind is most probably the women, right? You are incorrect. Fertility fitness is for both men and women.
In the last 5- 10 years, male infertility is on the rise. The prevalence of male infertility as a sole or contributing cause to infertility is estimated in the range of 40 % – 50 % . This means in nearly half of the couples, the male partner is the reason for the couple’s predicament. Thus, it is equally important for the men to start looking at his fertility health in a different perspective.
The old saying “ Men can reproduce as long as he can live” is not true anymore. In recent years, even a young man can face difficulty fathering a child.
How to start fertility fitness
I hope you have understood the importance of taking charge of your fertility fitness. But how do you achieve fertility fitness ?
Let me give you some tips to get started.
Change of mindset
This initial step of changing your mindset is very crucial. The mindset change that I am talking about is a conscious decision that fertility fitness can be built. You need to start thinking of “preventing” infertility . Prevention is better than cure is also applicable to fertility health.
You should set a target to achieve. The “target” for fertility fitness will depend on your current fertility status. For instance, if you are young and just out of college, your “target” should be to nurture and maintain your fertility health. If your are a couple facing infertility issues, your “target” should be to improve your fertility fitness in order to achieve a natural pregnancy or to have the best outcome from fertility treatments.
Different goals will guide your method and timeline of each step to achieve your optimal fertility fitness.
Setting a fertility goal is not an easy task but with the right mindset , it is achievable.
Change of diet
We have heard this phrase , “ Eat well , live well”. When it comes to fertility fitness, this phrase is as important.
Food is the “fertiliser” for our body , including the growing ovum (female egg) and sperm.
A woman is born with all her eggs. She ovulates one egg per menstrual cycle from a cohort of eggs. These cohort takes months ( about 2- 3months) to develop and to be ready to enter the menstrual cycle.
A sperm goes through a similar ( 2-3 months ) sperm production cycle. Thus, healthy food is vital to fuel these processes.
Change of lifestyle
Your lifestyle changes should reflect your desire to start a family. A clear example of how an ‘unhealthy lifestyle’ affects fertility fitness is smoking and alcohol abuse. Among smokers, the toxins in the cigarette smoke makes the testicular environment hostile for sperm production and maturation. Even after stoping cigarette smoking, the effect can be long lasting. Alcohol abuse causes the same effect which reduces sperm production.
Furthermore,you should start paying more attention to small things such as your sleep-wake pattern ,your general fitness and your relationship with your partner. These factors on its own may appear “small” , but when combined , their affect is enormous.
Fertility fitness is about both physical and mental fitness to achieve parenthood. Stress
affects your mental portion of fertility fitness. Stress halts and brakes a couple’s path towards parenthood. Scientifically speaking, stress reduces your libido and chances to get pregnant naturally.
Complementary therapy can also be included in your regime to achieve your fertility fitness. Regardless where you are in terms of your fertility journey, these ancient wisdom of Eastern medicine will surely help. Examples are such as yoga classes which focuses on fertility and traditional Chinese medicine.
Proactive in seeking information and treatment
To achieve your optimal fertility fitness, the first step starts within you. You have to be proactive to seek out the appropriate information pertaining to your own fertility needs. In the current information age, information is available if one decides to seek it.
One size fits all principle may not apply when it comes to fertility fitness.
Your method may not suit another couple and vice versa.
Last but not least, fertility fitness is acquired and everybody can learn to achieve it .