A New Year: A New, More Fertile You!

By Alice Domar, PhD
Executive Director
The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF


This is the time of year when we all make those soon-to-be-broken resolutions like losing weight, joining a gym, making new friends, being nicer to our neighbors, and gettting more sleep.

It seems to be human nature to make these promises to ourselves on December 31– but as work and life intensify after the holidays are over, those well intentioned promises seem to go by the wayside.

I don’t care so much if you end up making new friends (unless of course they are friends you made during participation in one of our mind/body groups!) or are nicer to your neighbors (unless you live near me), but I do care about your health habits. There is data to support the impact of certain lifestyle behaviors on fertility — and during this time of temporary attention to our habits — it makes sense for me to review them.

Weight/BMI: The relationship between weight and fertility is actually a U-shaped curve. Being skinny or obese are both associated with lower fertility rates and lower pregnancy rates for IVF.  If you fall somewhere in-between, terrific. But if not, this is a great time to learn how to eat more healthfully.

Smoking: Nothing I can say is supportive of smoking. It’s not good for you, it’s not good for your body, and definitely not good for your eggs or sperm. If you are trying to get pregnant and are either male or female, you have to stop.

Caffeine: This is a bit more controversial, but in general, the more you drink the more likelihood there is that it could have a negative impact on your fertility. A cup of coffee a day is likely ok, but try to switch to decaf for the rest.

Alcohol: Small amounts are probably ok, fertility-wise, but the threshold is unknown. Research shows that the more you drink, the less fertile you are.

Exercise: Probably the most controversial in terms of recommendations. Some research shows that “couch potatoes” have the highest pregnancy rates, but other studies show that moderate exercise is associated with higher pregnancy rates. Walking, swimming, and other lower impact forms of exercise might well be best.   

The fact is, most of us were conceived by parents who were doing whatever they wanted, and we all have very fertile friends who are obese smokers who survive on lattes. Lifestyle habits are unlikely to cause your infertility, but they might contribute to it.


Alice D. Domar, PhD is a pioneer in the application of mind/body medicine to men’s and women’s health issues. She not only established the first Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health, but also conducts ongoing ground-breaking research in the field. Her research focuses on the relationship between stress and different women’s health conditions, and creating innovative programs to help women decrease physical and psychological symptoms.

Dr. Domar received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Health Psychology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Ferkauf School of Professional Psychology of Yeshiva University. Her post-doctoral training was at Beth Israel Hospital, Deaconess Hospital, and Children’s Hospital, all in Boston.

She has conducted research on infertility, breast cancer, menopausal symptoms, ovarian cancer, and premenstrual syndrome. Dr. Domar has earned an international reputation as one of the country’s top women’s health experts.

She is currently the Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF. She is an assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and a senior staff psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dr. Domar has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments as a best-selling author, media authority and sought-after public speaker. She is the author of numerous books, on the advisory board for Parents Magazine, Health Magazine, Conceive Magazine, and Resolve, and on the Board of Experts for LLuminari. Two of her books have been finalists for the Books for a Better Life Award. She was also the Series Editor for a series of mind/body books by Harvard Medical Publications/Simon and Schuster. She is the narrator of the DVD’s “Stress and Relaxation Explained” and “Infertility Explained”, both of which won silver Telly Awards.  Dr. Domar has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dateline NBC, CNN, PBS, and the CBS and NBC Evening News, to name a few. She presents lectures and conducts workshops throughout the US and around the world and went on tour with Oprah in the spring of 2004 and 2005 with the LLuminari team. Dr. Domar was named to the prestigious list of 15 “Women to Watch in 2004″ by Lifetime TV. Her newest book is “Be Happy Without Being Perfect” (Three Rivers Press, March, 2009) and she is currently working on a new book, co-authored with Dr. Susan Love, called “Live a Little” (Crown, December, 2009). She is also a featured expert on the new online social health network BeWell.com.