FertilityFor You

The Link between Inflammation and Fertility

By April 22, 2021No Comments

Could inflammation affect your fertility? A growing body of research suggests it can…

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury or illness. While it can sometimes be painful, it’s an essential process in tissue repair and immune protection. In response to stress — which may take the form of anything from injury to illness, eating an unhealthy diet, sleep deprivation or various forms of physiological or emotional stress — the body’s immune system responds by releasing various chemical regulators to restore the normal environment, or ‘homeostasis’.

So, that’s where and how inflammation can be a good thing. However, it’s not always desirable, especially when you’re looking to get pregnant. Why? Prolonged and/or excess inflammation can lead to insulin resistance, and many studies suggest it is linked to many conditions that may affect fertility, such as endometriosis, PCOS, pelvic inflammatory disease, implantation failure, early menopause (premature ovarian failure) and recurrent miscarriage.

How Inflammation affects Fertility

Elevated levels of inflammation and oxidative stress (an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body) negatively affect sperm and egg quality, reducing fertilisation and conception rate.

Studies have found that over 70% of females with unexplained infertility have high levels of inflammation and oxidative stress. And when it comes to men, it’s a similar story – increases in circulating markers of inflammation and oxidative stress are seen in male factor infertility. Why? They lead to DNA fragmentation, which is a key contributor to poor fertilisation rates, low rates of blastocyst formation and recurrent early pregnancy loss.

Detecting low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress are unfortunately not routine procedures in fertility pathology, so often the only sign of these underlying conditions may be poor egg quality, poor fertilisation rates, recurrent implantation failure or miscarriage.

How can we Reduce Inflammation and Oxidative Stress?

There are, thankfully, a number of ways that we can dampen chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Research has found that these can be highly effective in enhancing fertility and increasing pregnancy success.

1. Consume a Healthy Diet

Diet is among the most easily controlled factors that can manipulate the gut microbiota and influence inflammation. Modulators of inflammation include Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, but dietary fibre is the most important of all.

Ensure your diet includes plenty of whole grains along with fresh fruits and vegetables that are loaded with natural prebiotics. Other foods high in prebiotics include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, beetroot and nectarines.

Conversely, processed foods, particularly those high in sugars and fats, should be reduced or, better still, avoided completely.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, though, so don’t feel pressure to adopt wholesale changes to your diet overnight and incorporate every antioxidant-rich, immune-boosting foods that you can find! Instead, aim to try one or two new foods every week while reducing your intake of processed foods and other inflammatory foods.

2. Boost your Intake of Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant-Rich Foods

An immune-boosting diet eliminates foods low in antioxidants that cause inflammation. These inflammatory foods include grain-fed meats, vegetable oils, and most processed foods.

When exposed to high temperatures, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids become oxidised, or damaged. When this occurs, the fat can turn rancid and harmful.

Antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods often overlap. Some of the most widely available include wild-caught fish, non-starchy vegetables (such as broccoli, spinach and kale), nuts and berries.

3. Get the Right Nutrients

Many of the foods above contain nutrients and natural anti-inflammatories that support the immune system and boost antioxidants. But to ensure your body has all the correct nutrient bases that you might not derive from your diet, it’s advisable to take a good multivitamin.

4. Take regular exercise

Observational studies and clinical trials have confirmed that physical activity can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.

Researchers have found that exercise, regardless of intensity, volume, and type, increases your body’s antioxidant defences.

Moderate forms of exercise (for more than one hour, but less than five hours a week) are recommended for healthy women of all body types TTC (trying to conceive). Activities such as walking, bicycling and swimming are ideal since they are low-impact, but will still elevate your heart rate.

5. Manage Stress Levels

Research has shown that increased oxidative stress often accompanies severe life stressors, including traumatic events. The stress hormone, cortisol, plays a role in regulating the inflammatory response, but its ability to do so becomes significantly dampened by chronic stress. Chronic stress, meanwhile, can also increase inflammation and impact the immune system.

Yoga, meditation, deep breathing and brisk walking are some of the best ways to reduce the impact of stress on your life.

6. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy body weight is believed to help reduce oxidative stress.

According to a 2015 systematic review, excess fat cells produce inflammatory substances that trigger increased inflammatory activity and free radical production in immune cells.

7. Maximise your Sleep

Sleep, both in terms of quality and quantity, can play a key role, so don’t underestimate its importance.

Researchers associate sleep quality with inflammation, oxidative stress, and antioxidant levels. Poor sleep adversely increases inflammation and oxidative stress, while lowering your body’s antioxidant defence.

Ideally, aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

In short….

Fertility challenges such as PCOS, endometriosis, and immunological infertility can all be tied back in part to chronic inflammation. And that’s why it’s so important to reduce any inflammation within the body if you’re TTC.

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Amy Martin

Marketing Director

Amy is a high achieving individual with a number of marketing awards under her belt, including Young Digital Business Person of the Year 2019. She is a big believer in digital marketing and an expert in executing personalised targeted campaigns. Amy strives to learn from data and campaigns that show return on investment.

Robert Gordon

Managing Director, Gordons Chemists


Robert Gordon, director at Gordons Chemist's. Gordons Chemists is a chain of more than 60 pharmacies, located in NI and Scotland. Gordons Chemists is Northern Ireland's largest independent pharmacy chain.

Dr. Debbie Collins



Dr. Debbie Collins MBBchBAO MRCGP, a practicing GP and partner in Belfast. She has a passion for patient education and advocacy. Her special interests are Women's Health and Fertility

Sarah Trimble

Nutritional Therapist


Sarah Trimble - a nutritional therapist with a passion for good food instead of fad diets. Sarah has a particular Interest in using the power of nutrition to support hormonal imbalances and reproductive health.

Barbara Scott

Director, Seren Natural Fertility
Chair, Association of Reproductive Reflexologists


Barbara Scott is Chair of The Association of Reproductive Reflexologists, founder of Seren Natural Fertility and author of Reflexology for Fertility. In 2017, she was awarded ‘Complementary Therapist of the Year’ by the Federation of Holistic Therapists and has been nominated for several awards within the field of complementary therapy. In 2019 she was awarded the Innovation in Reflexology Award by the Association of Reflexologists.

Barbara speaks and lectures globally on her integrative approach to supporting couples having difficulties conceiving. She has spoken at many of the Fertility Shows and Fertility Fest. Alongside her own busy clinics, she also trains practitioners in providing this integrative, approach to fertility and reproductive healthcare and well-being. The ARR (Association of Reproductive Reflexologists) has trained practitioners globally, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and most areas of the UK.

Her expertise and passion is in advocating a patient-centred and integrative approach to supporting both men and women on their journey to parenthood.

Cindy Charles

Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife


Cindy Charles- Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife. Cindy is a committed advocate of social and personal development. Her own life experiences inspired her fertility support services. Cindy has worked with the Fertility Network UK, and has had the privilege to work as a resident Fertility Coach for the London Women's Clinic on Harley Street. Cindy believes in the importance of nurturing our own fertility.

Dr. Lyuda Shkrobot

MD, MSc Gynecologist, Fertility specialist at unq.life fertility clinic


Dr Lyuda has a special interest in reproductive immunology. Dr Shkrobot assisted in establishing the first European Donor Egg programme at Sims, coordinating and liaising with Intersono Clinic in Ukraine Advisors. She is passionate about patient-centred, results-driven care.

Lisa Corcoran

Business Development Executive


Lisa has 15 years of commercial business experience. She has proven her capabilities in Investment Property Sales and, Management & Business Development for Technology companies that have provided her with an understanding of different customer needs across several sectors. Lisa appreciates the value of customer education and relationship building in long-lasting partnerships.

Aoibheann Murphy

Chief Financial Officer


Having trained with PWC, Aoibheann qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1997. She subsequently spent eight years working in industry, gaining invaluable experience in many areas In 2005 Aoibheann became MD of Pangur Consulting, providing professional expertise to a broad client base. She is looking forward to the new challenge of Nua Fertility.

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.


What was your journey to parenthood like?

Right craic!

Do you prefer podcasts or books? And of the one that you prefer, what is a show or title that you recommend?

I love sport…any sport…and the outdoors. Living in the Barrow valley I get to enjoy swimming and kayaking in the Barrow and exploring the Blackstairs mountains. Since I hung up my soccer boots (the body just couldn’t take it anymore!), I’ve been cycling with my lovely friends in Mount Leinster Wheelers and was chuffed to have completed the Ironman 70.3 triathlon event in Dublin in 2019!
I’m an avid reader…books beat podcasts hands down!...although recently I’ve dabbled with audio books through the library app Borrow Box. “A Little Life” left its mark on me. A harrowing story, definitely not for the faint hearted.

If there was just one thing you could impart on women on their journey to parenthood, what would it be?

Don’t be consumed by the roles in your life – parent, partner, employee etc. Parenthood, be it getting there or going through it, will have its tough times. Cherishing yourself as an individual and making time for yourself can help you through those times….it’s good to be a bit selfish!!

Mark Mullins

Director of Sales


What was your journey to parenthood like?

To be honest it was very difficult. At the beginning we thought that when we decided that we wanted to start a family Deborah would fall pregnant shortly afterwards like many of her friends. As time went by, we started to suspect something was wrong. After initial tests we found out that I had a low sperm count which meant that we would have to go down the assisted pregnancy route. This took me several months to get my head around as I blamed myself for this. All I wanted was my wife to be able to go through the pregnancy journey. We couldn’t wait to become parents. There were many long and painful nights where I thought this would never happen for us. After several failed attempts we decided to look at further ways of improving our chances. This led us to look at fertility supplements, our diet, exercise. I will never forget when that morning during our Two Week Wait when Deborah woke me up at 5 a.m. to show me those two lines, we had both been yearning for! We are blessed to now have our beautiful daughter.

On challenging days, what kept you going? Where did you find inspiration?

My wife was my inspiration. She kept me going through those challenging months and years. She was there to help me deal with everything. The guilt I felt when I saw her having to go through everything.

What is your ideal was to relax and unwind?

My latest passion is cooking on my BBQ. I find it so peaceful and I just switch off. It just gives me a bit of alone time which everyone needs.

If there was just one thing you could impart on men as they begin trying to become parents, what would it be?

I would highly recommend communicating with friends and family. A problem shared is a problem halved. Failing that there are some really good private Facebook groups for men suffering from infertility. I found this great support through the good and especially the bad times.

Deborah Brock

Founder & CEO of Nua Fertility


Deborah has a personal passion for fertility health, supporting people and communities. With over 15 years experience of working in the Non profit and Education sector, I have had the honour of working together with people and communities focusing on their strengths, capacities and assets. With extensive senior management, project management and creative programme development experience.

How did your experience with fertility inspire you to help start Nua Fertility?

My own personal fertility journey opened my eyes to the world of fertility health. Trying for a baby is one of the most exciting yet vulnerable times in your life. It took myself and my husband over three years and the helping hand of science to become a mum.  I have always worked with people and communities and felt my vision for Nua Fertility could genuinely support others who have fertility challenges.

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

I'm am curious person and love all things research. My ideal evening would be reading and exploring scientific journals! I like to think I am a little bit creative and I LOVE paint by numbers! Its probably the only time I slow down, I become immersed in the painting and think of nothing else.

What do you want to tell someone trying to conceive or already pregnant?

Educate yourself! Knowledge is power. The more you inform yourself about your fertility health the more you are empowering yourself with knowledge. Own your journey and take control over your own fertility health.

What’s something you wish someone told you while trying to conceive?

Open up and talk with friends and family. I was surrounded by amazing friends and family but I never opened up. When your struggling to conceive, a non-judgemental ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on is so powerful.