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Quiz: How Can I Protect My Fertility?

Many men and women are practicing birth control without even knowing it. They want to have children, but their lifestyle stands in the way. Fortunately, many people can greatly improve their chances of becoming parents by taking a few simple steps. How much do you know about the effects of lifestyle on fertility? Take this quiz to find out.

1. Which of these can threaten the fertility of both men and women?

a. Smoking

b. Certain prescription medications

c. Heavy drinking

d. All of the above

2. Some sexually transmitted infections commonly cause infertility in men and women.

True

False

3. Smoking while pregnant puts you at higher risk for which of the following complications?

a. Miscarriage

b. Premature delivery

c. Stillbirth

d. All of the above

4. For women, obesity, insulin resistance, and infertility often go hand in hand.

True

False

5. Medical science can help every woman to have a biological child, no matter how old she is.

True

False

6. Which of these is LEAST LIKELY to lower a man's sperm count?

a. A long soak in a hot tub

b. Daily, rugged mountain biking

c. Wearing briefs and tight pants

d. Running more than 10 miles a week

7. Relaxation exercises can help couples conceive.

True

False

Maybe

8. If you've been trying to conceive for a year or more without any luck, what's the best course of action?

a. Give up -- kids aren't in the cards.

b. Keep trying -- it's probably only a matter of time.

c. Take another look at your lifestyle -- you're probably doing something wrong.

d. Schedule a doctor's appointment for both of you -- there may be a simple solution to your problem.

Answers

1. Which of these can threaten the fertility of both men and women?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

If you see children in your future, you should be careful about what you put in your body now. Avoiding cigarettes is extremely important, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Smoking can lower a man's sperm count and affect the sperms ability to swim. It can also interfere with every aspect of female fertility, from ovulation to the growth of an embryo. For men and women, moderate drinking is unlikely to affect sperm count in men or fertility in women, but heavy drinking by either partner may put the brakes on plans for a family. (In fact, women trying to get pregnant should not drink at all, since alcohol can harm a developing embryo before you even know you are pregnant.) Since some prescription medicines can cause temporary infertility, ask your doctor if you should change any of your medication. Men, in particular, should avoid using recreational drugs such as steroids, marijuana, and cocaine, all of which can hamper sperm production as well as lower sperm count and motility.

2. Sexually transmitted infections commonly cause infertility in men and women.

The correct answer is: True.

Sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea are common causes of infertility in men and women. Unfortunately, these diseases often have no symptoms. To protect your fertility, use a latex condom whenever you have oral, vaginal, or anal sex. If you don't always have safe sex, get tested regularly for STDs.

3. Smoking while pregnant puts you at higher risk for which of the following complications?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

Smoking during pregnancy is a leading cause of underweight babies, who are at a higher risk of developing serious illnesses and or being stillborn. The carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke partially blocks a fetus's oxygen supply, making it harder for him to grow. Babies who are born too small often have underdeveloped lungs and other health problems.

4. For women, obesity, insulin resistance, and infertility often go hand in hand.

The correct answer is: True

Extra pounds and body mass index appear to have little effect on sperm count, but the stakes are high for prospective moms. According to the Mayo Clinic, a woman whose body mass index is too high (greater than 25.0) may have trouble conceiving. Part of the reason is that an increase in abdominal fat is associated with a drop in sensitivity to insulin (insulin resistance) and an increase in insulin production, which wreaks havoc on sex hormones. Obese women are also less likely to ovulate and more likely to suffer miscarriage than lean women of the same age, according to Nature Medicine. So if you're obese or overweight, consider talking with your doctor about losing some weight or checking for a possible hormonal imbalance. But thinner isn't always better. If a woman's body mass index is too low (below 18.5), her fertility could once again be at risk. Women suffering from anorexia, for example, rarely ovulate or menstruate. So if you're underweight and trying to get pregnant, you may want to consult with your doctor as well.

5. Medical science can help every woman to have a biological child, no matter how old she is.

The correct answer is: False

Sadly, when it comes to women, medicine cant undo all the effects of aging. Women's fertility begins to decline by age 27 (although this decrease isn't clinically significant), and drops significantly after age 35. Although many women in their late 30s and early 40s become pregnant naturally -- and others through assisted reproductive technologies -- the ability to conceive a biological child depends on whether a woman still has viable or "good" eggs, which varies from woman to woman. For those who are not producing viable eggs, the only option for a pregnancy at this time is egg donation. Since many women (and men) are unaware of how dramatically aging affects fertility, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine has launched a campaign to publicize the fact that women in their 20s and early 30s are the most likely to conceive. However, women in their mid-forties or older may still be good candidates for a donor egg pregnancy.

6. Which of these is LEAST LIKELY to lower a man's sperm count?

The correct answer is: c. Wearing briefs and tight pants

Believe it or not, researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook recently put this piece of conventional wisdom to the test. After taking scrotal temperature readings of 97 heroic volunteers, the researchers found no connection between a man's underwear preference and his fertility. In contrast, a long soak in a hot tub or sauna can undoubtedly overheat the testicles and lower sperm count. In addition, grueling mountain-biking (2 hours a day, 6 days a week) is also associated with lower sperm counts and abnormalities of the scrotum, according to a recent study, which speculated that the higher scrotal temperatures during rugged biking depress sperm production. As reported in the journal Nature Medicine, sitting still for hours may turn out to have the same effect. Finally, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, running more than 10 miles every week can throw hormones out of balance and lower fertility in both men and women.

7. Relaxation exercises may help a woman get pregnant.

The correct answer is: c. Maybe

According to Resolve, a national infertility organization, very few couples can just "relax" their way to parenthood. However, a 2010 study in Fertility and Sterility suggested that healthy women trying to get pregnant may have lower odds of doing so in any month if they are stressed. The work reported the first association between high levels of a biological market for stress and reduced odds that a women would conceive during the days in her monthly cycle when she was fertile. The researchers recommended that couples trying to conceive add relaxation exercise to their list of to-dos.

8. If you've been trying to conceive for a year or more without any luck, what's the best course of action?

The correct answer is: d. Schedule a doctor's appointment for both of you -- there may be a simple solution to your problem.

Getting medical help is the single most important step an infertile couple can take -- each partner should undergo a thorough evaluation by a fertility specialist. Your infertility may have a specific and correctable cause.

References

Buck Louis et al. Stress reduces conception probabilities across the fertile window: evidence in support of relaxation. Fertility and Sterility, 2010.

Centers for Disease Control. About BMI for Adults. January 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html

Sharpe RM and S Franks. Environment, lifestyle and infertility -- an intergenerational issue. Nature Cell biology and Nature Medicine. October 1, 2002. 8 (S1), s23-s28

American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Patient fact sheet: Exercise, weight, and fertility.

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. Infertility myths and facts.

The Effects of Lifestyle on Fertility: Patient Services Fact Sheet. Fertility and Endocrine Center. University of Washington Medical Center.

Frauscher, F., et al. Comparison between sonographic findings in the scrotum and hormonal and semen profiles in extreme mountain bikers. 88th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Chicago. Dec.2, 2002.

Mayo Clinic. Infertility. December 2005. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infertility/DS00310

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