Our surroundings, whether we recognize it or not, are always affecting our health. Occupational factors are a large part of this, especially if you are a Woman who is very dedicated to her job.
When it comes to preparing for an Assisted Reproductive Technique (ART), there is a lot of investment that goes in to the preparation and process (emotionally, physically, and financially). A lot of the factors that determine the success rates of the these fertility treatments are outside of your hands, but there are also a lot of factors that you, in fact, are in control of. Some of the most obvious ones are diet, stress, and exercise. However, when it comes to exercise, there is always a discussion that arises regarding what kind of exercise is best when waiting & preparing for your procedure.
As research in the reproductive health field grows, we continue to learn more every day about what else may be done to help improve fertility success rates from ART procedures. While a healthy amount of exercise should always be considered when trying to improve overall health, there is a slightly different approach to when considering IVF, ICSI, or IUI preparation.
OCCUPATIONAL FACTOR: HEAVY LIFTING
A recent scientific study was published that reviewed the effects of heavy lifting on fertility outcomes. This single study found that Women who have to regularly lift heavy objects as a part of their job had, on average, one less oocyte when compared to Women who did not need to do heavy lifting. The inverse relationship between heavy lifting and total oocytes was stronger in Women above the age of 37 and with a Body-mass-index above 25.0 (above the recommended healthy range). The limitation of this study is that this does not prove causation, but simply an observation.
This may not necessarily mean that exercise with weight training may have the same effect, in fact, one would expect that the increased insulin sensitivity from weight training would be beneficial in Women with a higher BMI or who may have Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or glucose intolerance. However, it is a word of caution for those preparing for a fertility procedure. As long as there is no strong contraindication to exercise, I usually recommend moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise, such as the elliptical, in the prenatal period.
There are also additional studies cited by the authors of the above study that showed a 34% increase in prevalence of irregular cycles and a 43% increase in the median duration of time to pregnancy in Women who had to lift heavy objects > 15 times at work, when compared to Women who did no heavy lifting.
OCCUPATIONAL FACTOR: SHIFT-WORK
Women who worked rotating evening and/or night shifts were observed to have, on average, 2.3 less mature oocytes when compared to Women who did not have to work rotating evening/night shifts. The authors hypothesized that the shift work affects the circadian rhythm, which can also affect fertility. However, this is still a hot topic up for debate. A recently published meta-analysis showed no correlation between working night shifts and fertility outcomes. Seeing this discrepancy in the research, it will be interesting to see what future studies reveal.
Mínguez-Alarcón, L., Souter, I., Williams, P. L., Ford, J. B., Hauser, R., Chavarro, J. E., & Gaskins, A. J. (2017). Occupational factors and markers of ovarian reserve and response among women at a fertility centre. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. doi:10.1136/oemed-2016-103953
This article is in no way a replacement for medical advice or medical care, it is advised that anyone concerned about their Health should speak with their Naturopathic Doctor or Primary Care Provider.