Optimising your well-being in preparation for treatment

A healthy lifestyle can improve your fertility and can also increase your chances of successful treatment. There are some simple steps that can be taken to increase your chances of achieving a successful outcome.

  • Stop Smoking

The most important thing you can do if you smoke is - give up! Smoking cessation significantly improves chances for conception. Although long-term cigarette smoking can have an irreversible effect on ovarian function, if smoking is discontinued prior to the start of treatment, the harmful effect on treatment outcome can be reduced. Note: stopping smoking is essential if a referral for IVF is required. Useful support services include the NHS smoking helpline on 03001231044, the nursing staff at the Hewitt Centre, or your GP/practice nurse.

  • Achieve the correct body mass index

Weight can affect the fertility of both male and females. Women who have a normal body mass index (BMI) are more likely to conceive and to have a normal pregnancy than those who do not. It is important that you are both as near to your ideal BMI as possible. You should aim for a BMI of between 19 and 29.9 (ideally 21 to 25). If you wish to see a state registered dietician for individual advice, ask your GP or Practice Nurse to refer you to a community dietician. Note: a healthy BMI is essential if a referral for IVF is required.

You can check your BMI here using this helpful NHS calculator BMI calculator | Check your BMI - NHS | Please fill in your details (www.nhs.uk)

  • Maintain a healthy diet and take Folic Acid

It helps you to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. It ensures your body has sufficient vitamins and minerals – essential for men & women trying to conceive. It ensures your body has enough energy for all your daily activities.

  • Fruit and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals
  • Aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • If you are trying to lose weight, fruit makes an excellent snack or dessert
  • Choose fresh, frozen or tinned (avoid tinned fruit in syrup)

Take Folic Acid

 It is strongly recommended that women take 400mg of folic acid per day, 3 months before pregnancy and until 12 weeks after conception. Good dietary sources of folic acid include fortified breakfast cereals, fortified bread, sprouts, spinach, Bovril and oranges.

Do I need to take any other supplements?

Please seek advice from a pharmacist before taking any other vitamin supplements or herbal remedies.

Health & Wellbeing series | Fertility Network (fertilitynetworkuk.org)

  • Alcohol – sensible limits

Excessive alcohol reduces fertility & damages sperm. For general health purposes, the safe limits are up to 14 units per week for both men and women. It is better to have one to two units occasionally rather than saving them all up for one night. Following updated advice from the Department of Health, women should avoid alcohol completely pre-conceptually and in pregnancy, as no safe level of maternal drinking has been established. Furthermore, men trying for a baby should limit alcohol intake to no more than 6 units per week

  • Take Regular Exercise

Regular exercise improves physical fitness, helps you to lose weight and decreases stress levels. Aim for some form of aerobic exercise three times per week; i.e. any activity that increases your heart rate and breathing, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or sporting activities like football, tennis or squash. Even using stairs instead of using lifts/escalators and walking to the shops can make a difference and will improve your fitness.

  • Drink plenty of water

Our bodies need between 8 and 10 cups of fluid per day. Some studies suggest that excessive caffeine can reduce your fertility –Tea, Coffee, Cola and ‘energy’ drinks e.g. Red Bull are particularly high in caffeine – try caffeine free alternatives or drink water or squash. When you are having your treatment we will suggest that you cut down on caffeine by avoiding coffee and replacing some cups of tea with water.

  • Improve Sperm Quality

The normal activity of the sperm producing tubules in the testes can be affected by heat.  Intermittent overheating of the testes leads to a reduction in sperm production and/or a decrease in sperm activity (motility).  To improve your fertility you should: avoid hot baths, jacuzzis and saunas and change to having showers or lukewarm baths. You should also wear non-support, non-insulating cotton boxer shorts. Remember that sperm take 70 days to develop from their cells of origin, so any episode of testicular overheating could affect your fertility for over two months. Finally, there is also some evidence to suggest that taking zinc and vitamin E supplements may improve sperm quality.

The use of certain medications, including anabolic steroids or recreational drugs such as marijuana can affect your sperm quality.  If you are taking any medication please discuss this with the unit staff.

  • Looking after your mental health

We know from people undergoing fertility treatment that their experience can be stressful.   This is understandable; especially if a person/couple believe that their future happiness depends upon a successful treatment outcome.

People undergoing infertility treatment may experience

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue – constant lack of energy
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to concentrate for long periods
  • Mood swings
  • Depression

Here are some ways of coping positively with stress:

  • Yoga
  • Physical exercise – swimming, running etc.
  • Learning how to relax – using tapes/podcasts, music, books, acupuncture, for example.
  • Stress management courses – night school, information from GPs, libraries etc.
  • Support – building your own network using friends, family and counsellors


Counselling is available at the Hewitt Centre, before, during and after treatment. For further information or to arrange an appointment please contact the counselling service via 0151 702 4075 (Liverpool service) or 0151 702 4171 (Knutsford service).


Following investigation or treatment

If referral for IVF is required, an assessment will identify whether you meet your Clinical Commissioning Groups criteria for NHS funded treatment. Below is an example of some of the criteria that you will be assessed against-

  • Age
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Smoking status
  • Previous sterilisation or vasectomy
  • Previous children from current or previous relationships
  • Previous private cycles

 If you do not meet the criteria for NHS funded treatment you will be informed and your options for self-funded treatment will be discussed.