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For some couples getting pregnant is as easy as eating cake.

For others, the world of reproductive technology becomes the only hope for conception.

In between, however, are a growing number of couples playing the fertility "waiting game." Some may not yet be ready to turn to infertility treatments to help them get pregnant, while others may have failed to discover their problem even in a high-tech arena.

It is for this group that many physicians are now looking to the everyday factors that might make a difference in how quickly and easily you succeed in getting pregnant.

"Sometimes everything looks good from a treatment standpoint, but still women don't get pregnant -- so we have begun looking at other factors that might play a role," says Margareta D. Pisarska, MD, co-director of Center for Reproductive Medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and editor-in-chief of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine News.


How Smoking Effects Fertility & Getting Pregnant

Among the most important lifestyle factors, say doctors, is smoking. While most folks are aware that cigarettes and pregnancy don't mix, fertility experts say fewer seem to realize the impact that smoking has on fertility.

"It can dramatically reduce both male fertility and female fertility and it really impacts conception rates," says Frederick Licciardi, MD, associate director of reproductive endocrinology at NYU Medical Center and associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine.
In one study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, sperm counts averaged 17% lower in smokers. More recently, a Polish study showed smoking dramatically lowered sperm count  and disrupted the health of sperm. In women, Pisarska says smokers not only have a higher rate of infertility. overall, but also those who do get pregnant take a much longer time to conceive.

"We also know that smokers undergoing fertility treatments usually require much higher doses of fertility medication than nonsmokers," says Pisarska.

But it's not just the smoke from your own cigarettes that matters. In a study recently published in Human Reproduction doctors showed that secondhand smoke also reduced the pregnancy rates in women undergoing fertility treatments.

The good news: Reduce your exposure to cigarette smoke and you may get pregnant faster and easier! In one study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, doctors found that men who stopped smoking experienced a rise in sperm count of up to 800%!


How Stress Affects Fertility

Although the links between stress and fertility are slightly less clear, increasingly doctors say it exists.

"There's no large data showing an obvious direct link, but that said, we are seeing more and more smaller studies that indicate stress-reduction techniques do have an effect on fertility, and I believe it's only a matter of time before someone puts all the pieces together and sees the overall impact of stress on the reproductive system," says fertility expert says Allen Morgan, MD, director of Shore Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Lakewood, N.J.

In a study under way by Morgan and his colleagues, women undergoing high-tech infertility treatments are being treated to a relaxing foot and leg massage just prior to embryo transfer. The results so far, he says, are promising.

Even more encouraging are the findings of Harvard University stress expert Alice Domar, PhD. She reports that a number of women undergoing stress-reducing therapies to help them deal with the frustrations of infertility actually got pregnant -- simply by learning how to relax.


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by Colette Bouchez
Fertility, Infertility, Fertility Treatments, Enhance Fertility, Get Pregnant Fast
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