Inflammation and fertility are two topics that are often talked about separately, but there may be a connection between the two. Inflammation has been linked with decreased fertility in both men and women, so it’s important to understand the inflammation process and how it can impact your ability to conceive. Keep reading to learn more about the possible connection between inflammation and fertility, and what you can do to protect your fertility.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a response of the body to infection, injury, or irritation. The inflammation process helps to remove harmful stimuli and begin the healing process. However, inflammation can also lead to tissue damage and decreased fertility.
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is a short-term response to an irritant or injury. It typically lasts for a few days and involves the release of immune system chemicals known as cytokines. Cytokines help to remove the irritant or injury and promote healing.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a long-term inflammation response that can last for months or even years. Chronic inflammation is often associated with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
While inflammation is a normal and necessary response of the body, chronic inflammation can have a negative impact on your reproductive health.
Can Inflammation Cause Fertility Problems?
While inflammation is a normal and necessary response of the body, chronic inflammation can have a negative impact on fertility. The inflammation process can damage reproductive organs and tissues, and it has been linked with decreased sperm count and quality in men. In women, inflammation can damage the lining of the uterus, making it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant.
Additionally, inflammation can lead to the release of harmful substances known as free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells, including sperm and egg cells. This damage can make it difficult for a healthy pregnancy to occur.
Prolonged inflammation can also disrupt hormone levels, which can impact fertility. Inflammation has been linked with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can interfere with ovulation in women and decrease sperm count in men.
How Inflammation Affects Fertility
There are several ways in which inflammation can affect fertility:
- PCOS: Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that can cause inflammation and fertility problems. Women with PCOS often have higher levels of inflammation-promoting cytokines, which can damage the ovaries and interfere with ovulation.
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus. This can cause inflammation and scarring, which can make it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus.
- Ovulation Disorders: Inflammation can interfere with the release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation), which can make it difficult to become pregnant.
- Uterine Fibroids: Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that can develop in the uterus. They are often associated with inflammation, and they can cause fertility problems by interfering with implantation or by blocking the fallopian tubes.
- Male Factor Infertility: Inflammation can also lead to fertility problems in men. Chronic inflammation has been linked with decreased sperm count and quality, and it may also damage the DNA of sperm cells.
- Unexplained Infertility: In some cases, inflammation may be the cause of unexplained infertility. Unexplained infertility is a diagnosis given to couples who have been trying to conceive for 12 months or more without success. While there are many possible causes of unexplained infertility, inflammation may be one factor that contributes to this condition.
- Recurrent Miscarriage: Recurrent miscarriage is defined as three or more consecutive pregnancy losses. Inflammation has been linked with recurrent miscarriage, and it may contribute to this condition by damaging the lining of the uterus or by causing inflammation in the placenta.
- Recurrent Early Pregnancy Loss: Recurrent early pregnancy loss (REPL) is defined as three or more consecutive losses occurring before 20 weeks of gestation. inflammation has been linked with REPL, and it may contribute to this condition by damaging the lining of the uterus or by causing inflammation in the placenta.
- Premature Ovarian Failure: Premature ovarian failure (POF) is a condition in which the ovaries stop functioning before the age of 40. Inflammation has been linked with POF, and it may contribute to this condition by damaging the ovaries.
- Recurrent Implantation Failure: Recurrent implantation failure (RIF) is a condition in which an embryo fails to implant in the uterus, and it is easier to track during In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycles. Inflammation has been linked with RIF, and it may contribute to this condition by damaging the lining of the uterus or by causing inflammation in the placenta.
- Poor Egg Quality: Poor egg quality is a condition in which the eggs are of poor quality, and they are less likely to be fertilized or to result in a healthy pregnancy. Inflammation has been linked with poor egg quality.
How to Reduce Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
If you’re trying to conceive, it’s important to take steps to decrease inflammation. Some ways to reduce inflammation include:
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet: Diet is one of the most easily controlled factors when it comes to enhancing fertility. Ensure your diet is rich in fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains and low in inflammation-promoting foods such as processed foods, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. Get a good balance of healthy fats.
- Exercising regularly: Exercise can help to reduce inflammation. However, it’s important to avoid excessive exercise, as this can actually increase inflammation.
- Managing stress: Stress can contribute to inflammation. Try to manage stress with relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.
- Supplements: There are several supplements that may help to reduce inflammation. These include omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, vitamin D, and green tea extract.
- Avoiding Smoking: Smoking is a major contributor to inflammation. If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your fertility.
- Avoiding Alcohol: Alcohol can also contribute to inflammation. If you’re trying to conceive, it’s best to avoid alcohol entirely.
While inflammation is a normal immune response, chronic inflammation can lead to fertility problems. If you’re trying to conceive, it’s important to take steps to reduce inflammation.
Reducing inflammation is important for fertility, as it can help to improve implantation rates, increase egg quality, and decrease the risk of miscarriage. inflammation can also cause fertility problems in men by decreasing sperm count and quality.
If you’re trying to conceive, talk to your doctor about your health concerns and ways to reduce inflammation. Specialists in reproductive medicine may order specific fertility pathology tests.