Optimizing your fertility

When planning to conceive, it is important to review your lifestyle, habits and anything that may impact your chances of achieving a pregnancy.

Infertility can affect anyone.

30% of the time it is related to sperm or issues with external reproductive organ anatomy
40% of the time it is related to ovulation, eggs, or internal reproductive organ anatomy
20% of the time it is a combination of both factors
10% of the time there is no explanation that can be determined.
Source: Government of Canada, healthycanadians.gc.ca

Folic Acid

If you are planning on getting pregnant it is important to ensure you are getting enough folic acid. In early pregnancy, folic acid helps the baby’s spine and brain to develop. Foods that are high in folate include dark green vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, oranges and fortified grain products. A multivitamin with 0.4mg of folic acid is recommended. If you have questions, please speak with your fertility care team.


Individuals who are either underweight or overweight have more difficulty getting pregnant. There is also an increased risk of miscarriage and pregnancy complications. Pregnancy complications could include high blood pressure, diabetes, increased incidence of cesarean delivery, and birth trauma in babies. It is recommended to maintain a healthy weight and balanced diet. If you need to lose weight, do this by avoiding fad diets and rather work towards a slow steady decrease in weight. Incorporate physical activity into your weight loss plan as well.


Smoking can have an effect on the number of eggs in the ovaries (ovarian reserve) and on sperm quality. Stopping smoking may lead to improvement in these factors. Smoking in pregnancy is also associated with complications including miscarriage, preterm delivery and low birthweight.


Excessive alcohol intake (defined as more than 8-10 drinks per week for the person providing the eggs and more than 12 drinks per week for the person providing sperm) can negatively impact your chances for success. All individuals trying to conceive should limit their alcohol intake. Once pregnant, the individual carrying the pregnancy should not drink any alcohol.


Although it is not clear what effects (if any) there are from caffeine on chances of pregnancy, the recommendation is that an individual planning to carry a pregnancy should limit their caffeine intake to under 3 cups of coffee per day.


Many drugs including cannabis and cocaine can affect ovulation and sperm counts. Cannabis stays in the body for over 2 weeks, so even using it once every two weeks can have a negative effect on fertility and should be avoided. Cocaine and other recreational drugs can also lead to pregnancy complications including miscarriage, birth defects and stillbirth.


The scrotum is designed for the testes to be in a cooler environment relative to body temperature and that is when sperm survive the best. Individuals who produce sperm and are hoping to start a family should avoid exposure to hot environments, for example hot tubs, saunas, etc. The effects on the sperm can last up to 3 months.


If you require lubricants while trying to conceive, please note that lubricants can have a detrimental effect on sperm. Some types of lubricants have less of an effect such as mineral oil, canola oil or lubricants specifically marketed for fertility. Speak to your health care provider for more information.

Well Being

Moving forward in the fertility journey potentially involves various layers. Along with the medical piece of the process, people might face social, ethical, emotional, religious, cultural, and legal challenges prior to, during, and following the journey. This combination of factors can affect one’s level of stress. Counselling involves balancing the medical issues with the possible psychological effects. Furthermore, many people regard counselling as valuable because it provides an outlet for communication and knowledge transfer. Specifically, counselling may help people consider the many potential implications that might arise through assisted reproduction.

Mount Sinai Fertility offers counselling to all patients by our social worker. If you would like to see a psychologist, our team can provide a list of psychologists in the GTA who work with fertility patients