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Optimizing natural fertility in couples planning pregnancy

Mark D Hornstein, MD
William E Gibbons, MD
Robert S Schenken, MD
Section Editor
Robert L Barbieri, MD
Deputy Editor
Kristen Eckler, MD, FACOG


Health care providers are frequently consulted by couples concerned about their fertility potential. Some couples seek this information even before attempting pregnancy or meeting criteria for subfertility. These couples are especially motivated to listen to advice concerning the impact of lifestyle factors on fertility, as well as their general health.

Epidemiologic studies suggest that some lifestyle factors have small, cumulative effects that prolong the duration of time before achieving pregnancy [1]. Conversely, modifications of these factors appear to improve fertility potential, although this has not been evaluated by randomized trials [2-4].

The impact of lifestyle on fertility, and the implications of these findings for a couple planning pregnancy, will be reviewed here. The evaluation and treatment of subfertile couples are discussed separately. (See "Overview of infertility".)


The following discussion reviews basic terminology and questions about the reproductive process.

Terminology — The following terms are used when discussing fertility:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 17, 2017.
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