Lifestyle and Reproductive Health among Women prior to Conception

Abstract: Health and lifestyle is of great importance when women intend to become pregnant, as well as during pregnancy. It is crucial that people seeking for infertility are aware of which lifestyle changes they can undertake to enhance the likelihood of treatment success. The overall aim of this project was to investigate the extent to which women comply with recommendations for lifestyle changes during the time they try to conceive and during early pregnancy and the impact of lifestyle risk factors on treatment results in sub-fertile women. Lifestyle factors and mental health at baseline and lifestyle changes women made while they were trying to conceive were assessed by a study-specific questionnaire. Both pregnant women and non-pregnant sub-fertile women in the mid-Sweden region were included. The level of pregnancy planning was associated with planning behavior. Only one-third of all pregnant women took folic acid one month prior to conception, 17% used tobacco daily and 11% used alcohol weekly three months before conception. In the sub-fertile non-pregnant women cohort, 13.2% used tobacco daily, 13.6% drank more than three cups of coffee per day, and 11.6% consumed more than two glasses of alcohol weekly. Among sub-fertile women, one-third were overweight or obese. Pregnant women who conceived with Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) reported lower rates of anxiety and depression symptoms compared to sub-fertile women. They also showed no difference in depression and anxiety symptoms compared to women who conceived naturally. Among sub-fertile women undergoing their first IVF treatment cycle, an independent as well as a cumulative effect of smoking and BMI on the number of aspirated oocytes and the proportion of mature oocytes was observed, especially among women with low ovarian reserve. In conclusion, approximately half of the women in our studies retained habits with negative effects on fertility. This is worrying because the harmful consequences of negative lifestyle factors are well established. These negative lifestyle factors are easy to detect and adjust at an early stage in the assessment process and might allow for optimization of fertility treatment and pregnancy outcomes.