How unhealthy is fertility

Risk factors for fertility

Conceiving a child, getting pregnant: What seems so simple and natural can be complicated by many factors. In order to preserve your own fertility as much as possible, it is worth paying attention to avoidable risks.

Body and soul are exposed to a variety of health-endangering influences that can also affect fertility. These include, above all, environmental and stimulant toxins and various general illnesses that themselves or their drug treatment upset the hormone balance. Age also plays an important role.

Whether and to what extent external factors reduce the fertility of a woman or a man can often not be clarified with certainty in individual cases. Especially since some people live very unhealthily and are still fertile, while others take care of their health and are still confronted with a reduction in their fertility.

Often a sum of various factors is decisive for fertility disorders. If a person's fertility is already reduced for other reasons, external influences can lead to complete infertility. Conversely, reduced fertility can under certain circumstances improve by avoiding certain stresses.


Smoking has been shown to reduce fertility in women and men, reduce the chances of success of fertility treatments and harm the unborn child if pregnancy occurs.

The harmful effects of various ingredients in cigarette smoke are well documented. In women, smoking primarily affects ovarian functions and the hormonal cycle responsible for egg maturation. Compared to non-smokers, women smokers are also more prone to premature births, and their children have a higher risk of being born immature.

Overall, it is assumed that a daily consumption of 20 cigarettes doubles the waiting time for a desired pregnancy compared to non-smokers. Against this background, smokers' chances of success with artificial insemination also decrease. This is associated with longer and higher-dose hormonal treatments on average, while there are significantly fewer pregnancies and live births.

Men who smoke produce fewer sperm on average than non-smokers. In their semen, there are also more frequent elevated levels of cadmium and lead and a reduced concentration of antibodies such as vitamin C. Last but not least, genetic damage can be found in smokers' sperm. As with women who smoke, smokers' chances of success with artificial insemination are significantly reduced. This is especially true if both partners smoke.

Alcohol and drug use

It is not known at what threshold alcohol consumption affects fertility. Drinking alcohol now and then is unlikely to have a major impact on fertility. However, larger amounts of the cell toxin alcohol have been shown to damage general health and thus also the female and male reproductive organs. Drugs such as cannabis and LSD are also suspected of being able to reduce fertility because they change the hormonal balance.

Environmental pollutants

Pollutants in the environment such as lead, cadmium or mercury can also affect fertility. Above all, a high lead exposure can contribute to a disruption of the testicular functions. If you have to deal with such substances in your everyday work, a blood test can provide information about how high your exposure is.

Overall, research comes to contradicting statements with regard to possible fertility disorders caused by environmental toxins, for example in industrial workplaces. It is often not possible to determine which of the many different influences (metal vapors, heat, electromagnetic fields, etc.) is harmful to fertility.

The role of pesticides, organochlorine compounds or radioactive radiation is also unclear. Although the damaging effect on the human body above a certain level is undisputed, the direct influence on fertility for the individual can only rarely be demonstrated. Nevertheless, if you do not become pregnant, you should always also consider the conditions at the workplace of both partners.

General illnesses

Functional disorders of the thyroid gland, kidneys or liver, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, endometriosis and cancer can also reduce fertility by changing the hormonal balance or organ functions. In the event of medical treatment of these diseases, an existing desire to have children should therefore always be taken into account as far as possible.


Anyone who takes medication on a regular basis should speak to their doctor to find out whether the medication could affect fertility and whether other medications can be used while trying to have children. Some drugs, for example for high blood pressure, depression or tumor diseases, have a negative impact on fertility.


There are indications that conventional lubricants can endanger sperm's ability to fertilize - at least when they are brought together in a test tube. Incidentally, this also applies to saliva, if it is used as a natural lubricant during sex. If male fertility is (slightly) restricted anyway, you can instead use a lubricant as a precaution that has been specially developed for the time you want to have children. Such agents do not improve the ability of sperm to fertilize, but their use has so far not shown any negative effects on male sperm cells. It has not yet been scientifically proven whether they can increase the chances of conceiving.

Overweight and underweight

Very overweight women often have menstrual disorders due to hormonal imbalances. In overweight men, studies indicate an increased risk of impaired testicular function and decreased sperm production.

In underweight women it happens that they do not ovulate and the menstrual bleeding does not occur. The same applies to underweight men, whose testicular function can be restricted. If severely overweight or underweight women and men manage to lose weight or gain weight, their hormonal balance usually returns to normal. Doctors and counseling centers specializing in eating disorders offer support with weight problems.

Heavy physical stress

Extreme sporting exertion and heavy physical work, including frequent night shifts and lack of sleep, can upset the hormonal balance in women and men.

Women often react to severe physical stress with cycle disorders, such as competitive athletes who train particularly hard for a competition. If a desired pregnancy does not occur, it can have a positive effect to forego intensive training for a while. Moderate, regular exercise, on the other hand, keeps the body fit and thus has a positive effect on fertility.