About 15 per cent of adults around the world experience male or female infertility, and many of them turn to advanced assisted reproductive technologies, such as IVF, to help fulfil their dreams of parenthood.

More than eight million babies have been born from IVF, and the number is increasing significantly as infertility levels escalate in populations globally with many individuals and couples choosing to allow their peak fertility years to pass by for career or lifestyle reasons.

When confronted with infertility, which is defined as the failure to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse, or the inability to carry pregnancies to a live birth, many believe IVF is their only hope of having the babies they so desire.

But a major conference on human reproduction in Hong Kong has heard that simple changes in lifestyle could significantly enhance the chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby for people on IVF programs.

Mark D. Hornstein, Professor of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School in the United States and Director of the Reproductive Endocrinology Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, delivered compelling evidence that smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, dietary decisions and exercise can have a major impact on fertility.

Speaking at the 9th Congress of the Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction (ASPIRE) 2019 Congress in Hong Kong, Professor Hornstein delivered powerful take home messages to 1,700 fertility specialists about how they could counsel patients on lifestyle choices.

Presenting outcomes from studies around the world, he said cigarette smoking reduced IVF pregnancies by about 50 per cent and increased miscarriages two fold.

Even women who do not use tobacco, but are subjected to second hand smoke, experience reduced success rates in IVF.

Professor Hornstein said there was clear evidence of more miscarriages in the first cycle of IVF among daily drinkers of alcohol compared to social drinkers and non-drinkers.

“A study of 2,500 couples attending three Boston IVF clinics found that women who consumed four of more standard alcoholic drinks a month before undertaking their first IVF cycle experienced a 16 per cent reduction in live birth rates,” he said.

“It also showed that if a woman and her male partner both drank four or more alcoholic drinks a month before the first cycle of IVF, there was a 21 per cent reduction in live birth rates.”

Studies have also indicated that above moderate caffeine consumption can contribute to miscarriage rates in IVF while a Mediterranean diet with high intakes of vegetables, olive oil, fish and legumes may improve pregnancy rates.

He provided further data showing that men participating in IVF programs who undertook moderate to vigorous regular exercise had higher sperm concentrations than less active men.

“So there is a lot that patients turning to assisted reproduction can do to improve IVF outcomes,” Professor Hornstein said.

“The data that I have presented at the ASPIRE Congress can be a potent motivator of behavioural change.

“It is vitally important that fertility specialists counsel patients on modifiable lifestyle risk factors.”

The ASPIRE 2019 Congress at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre attracted 1,700 fertility scientists, clinicians, embryologists, nurses and counsellors from 50 countries to address latest scientific and clinical advances in assisted reproduction.

To arrange an interview with Professor Mark Hornstein, please contact Trevor Gill, ASPIRE 2019 Congress Media Relations, on 0418 821948 or by e-mail at lighthousepr@adelaide.on.net