A pregnant pause

Fertility issues

A pregnant pause

A sedentary lifestyle is one of the major problems experienced by youngsters today. The harmful effects of this unhealthy lifestyle can affect a person’s capacity to reproduce, and can also increase the risk of diseases such as diabetes and malignancies.

The lifestyle patterns emerging today will have long-term effects on the general health of the population and also have a lasting impact on the socio-economic profile of the country, with a decline in fertility levels.

The factors that are causing a slump in fertility levels include excessive smoking, drinking alcohol, caffeine overload, hectic work schedules, poor eating habits, career demands causing postponement of plans to have a baby and an erratic sex life. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of how important these lifestyle choices can be for their future health and well-being.

Research shows that the deterioration in fertility levels may have alarming implications on the human race. A study published in the British Medical Journal has shown evidence of declining semen quality over the past 50 years. It showed a significant decrease in mean sperm count from 113 million/ml in 1940 to 66 million/ml in 1990, and in seminal volume from 3.4 to 2.75 ml. Reports from the Institute for Research in Reproduction, Mumbai also seems to agree with this declining trend of semen quality over the years.

Cause & effect
According to researchers, this decline in fertility is probably due to increased estrogenic influence in our day-to-day life. Dietary fads and increased consumption of dairy products cause the rise of estrogen levels in the body. Moreover, the prevalence of obesity results in greater conversion of androgen into estrogen, again causing a rise in estrogen levels in the body.

Chemicals, pesticides, combustion-end products and biodegradation-resistant chemicals contribute to the pool of exogenous estrogen. Apart from these exogenous and endogenous estrogens, the fast pace of modern life, stress, smoking, sexually-transmitted diseases and contraceptives have all contributed to the decline in fertility levels. Stress hormones have an impact on the hypothalamus gland, which produces reproductive hormones. Severely elevated levels of stress hormones can even shut down menstruation.

One interesting study reported a significantly higher incidence of pregnancy loss in women who experienced both high level of stress and prolonged menstrual cycles. Another reported that women with stressful jobs had shorter menstrual cycles than those with low-stress jobs. Moreover, too much or too little exercise can adversely affect hormonal balances for proper function of the ovaries or testes.

This can be treated with drugs, but the ideal first line of therapy is to perform a proper weight and exercise programme. Regular exercise can help prevent heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, back pain, osteoporosis, and can improve your mood and help you manage your stress better. Exercise and a healthy diet are shown to have beneficial effects on stress levels, weight and hormonal balance, which will help increase fertility levels.

(The author is a medical director of Milann.)

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