What effects does cholesterol have on fertility and pregnancy?

By (embryologist), (embryologist), (fertility specialist) and (psychologist).
Last Update: 05/02/2022

Cholesterol is a lipid that is the main substrate for the synthesis of steroid hormones. To this group of hormones belong those related to reproduction, both female and male.

Thus, it is logical to think that imbalances in cholesterol levels could affect fertility. In addition, high levels of cholesterol in the body increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Male and female fertility

Cholesterol has several known functions such as, for example, being the precursor for the formation of vitamin D in the skin after sun exposure. However, it is also the precursor of sex hormones such as estradiol, progesterone and testosterone, so it can affect fertility.

In one study, men and women of couples who did not achieve pregnancy after 1 year of follow-up were found to have higher cholesterol levels than couples who did achieve pregnancy.

In relation to male fertility, elevated cholesterol levels would affect seminal volume, live sperm count and parameters related to sperm head morphology.

Therefore, cholesterol reduces male reproductive capacity, since a minimum amount of live spermatozoa with good morphology is necessary to achieve pregnancy.

Cholesterol and pregnancy

Total cholesterol levels increase during pregnancy. This is due to the increased production of sex hormones such as progesterone and estrogens. However, these levels decrease rapidly after delivery.

In any case, it is important to keep cholesterol levels under control during pregnancy, as they may be related to the risk of preterm delivery, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.


As mentioned above, cholesterol can have negative effects on fertility, but it can also increase the risk of other pathologies. Therefore, it is essential to maintain adequate levels of cholesterol in the body and even more so if you are looking for a pregnancy, either naturally or by assisted reproduction techniques.

Assisted procreation, as any other medical treatment, requires that you rely on the professionalism of the doctors and staff of the clinic you choose. Obviously, each clinic is different. Get now your Fertility Report, which will select several clinics for you out of the pool of clinics that meet our strict quality criteria. Moreover, it will offer you a comparison between the fees and conditions each clinic offers in order for you to make a well informed choice.

Some useful tips to control cholesterol levels may be:

  • Eat a Mediterranean and varied diet that includes foods such as fish, legumes, vegetables, fruits, cereals.
  • Avoid excess salt and fried foods.
  • Weight control.
  • Smoking cessation.
  • Exercise frequently, at least for 30 minutes.

In other words, the most important thing is to acquire healthy eating habits and stay active in order to keep cholesterol at adequate levels.

FAQs from users

What consequences can cholesterol have on female infertility?

By Zulyma Blanco Maldonado M.D., M.Sc. (fertility specialist).

Several studies have shown how high LDL cholesterol levels can affect the time to pregnancy. In particular, couples with high LDL blood levels take longer to achieve pregnancy compared to couples with normal cholesterol levels.

Women with high levels of cholesterol in their bodies may have impaired ovulation due to hormonal imbalances.
Read more

Do I have to lower my cholesterol levels to get pregnant?

By Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

It is advisable for cholesterol levels to be at adequate levels, both for seeking a pregnancy (either naturally or through assisted reproduction techniques) and for other important aspects such as having a good cardiovascular health.

In addition, if cholesterol levels are elevated in women, the time to achieve a pregnancy may be longer than if the levels are adequate.

Therefore, the best thing to do is to try to reduce cholesterol levels with a healthy and varied diet, avoiding bad habits such as smoking and exercising frequently.

Can olive oil help with poor sperm quality?

By Zaira Salvador B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that is rich in oleic acid. If taken in great amounts, it helps destroy and eliminate the presence of "bad" cholesterol (LDL) in blood flow, which can help reduce the risk of having a cardiovascular and/or brain disease.

In relation to reproductive health, regular use of olive oil (especially virgin olive oil) along with the elimination of LDL cholesterol boost the arrival of oxygen to the testes. In other words, spermatogenesis will occur in optimum conditions.

If you have doubts about fertility and nutrition, you can obtain much more information in this link: What are the types of foods that favor female fertility?

On the other hand, cholesterol is closely related to vitamin D. If you want to know more about the effects of this vitamin on fertility, we recommend you visit this article: Does vitamin D influence pregnancy and fertility?

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Bartels Ä, O'Donoghue K. Cholesterol in pregnancy: a review of knowns and unknowns. Obstet Med. 2011 Dec;4(4):147-51.

Kim K, Browne RW, Nobles CJ, Radin RG, Holland TL, Omosigho UR, Connell MT, Plowden TC, Wilcox BD, Silver RM, Perkins NJ, Schisterman EF, Nichols CM, Kuhr DL, Sjaarda LA, Mumford SL. Associations Between Preconception Plasma Fatty Acids and Pregnancy Outcomes. Epidemiology. 2019 Nov;30 Suppl 2:S37-S46.

Pugh SJ, Schisterman EF, Browne RW, Lynch AM, Mumford SL, Perkins NJ, Silver R, Sjaarda L, Stanford JB, Wactawski-Wende J, Wilcox B, Grantz KL. Preconception maternal lipoprotein levels in relation to fecundability. Hum Reprod. 2017 May 1;32(5):1055-1063.

Ryckman KK, Spracklen CN, Smith CJ, Robinson JG, Saftlas AF. Maternal lipid levels during pregnancy and gestational diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BJOG. 2015 Apr;122(5):643-51.

Saez F, Drevet JR. Dietary Cholesterol and Lipid Overload: Impact on Male Fertility. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2019 Dec 6;2019:4521786.

Schisterman EF, Mumford SL, Browne RW, Barr DB, Chen Z, Louis GM. Lipid concentrations and couple fecundity: the LIFE study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Aug;99(8):2786-94.

Schisterman EF, Mumford SL, Chen Z, Browne RW, Boyd Barr D, Kim S, Buck Louis GM. Lipid concentrations and semen quality: the LIFE study. Andrology. 2014 May;2(3):408-15.

FAQs from users: 'What consequences can cholesterol have on female infertility?', 'Do I have to lower my cholesterol levels to get pregnant?' and 'Can olive oil help with poor sperm quality?'.

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Authors and contributors

 Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduate in Health Biology from the University of Alcalá and specialized in Clinical Genetics from the same university. Master in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Valencia in collaboration with IVI clinics. More information about Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
License: 3435-CV
 Zaira Salvador
Zaira Salvador
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Technical University of Valencia (UPV). Biotechnology Degree from the National University of Ireland en Galway (NUIG) and embryologist specializing in Assisted Reproduction, with a Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV) and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI) More information about Zaira Salvador
License: 3185-CV
 Zulyma  Blanco Maldonado
Zulyma Blanco Maldonado
M.D., M.Sc.
Fertility specialist
Dr. Zulyma Blanco has a degree in Medicine and a PhD from the Universidad Centro Occidental 'Lisandro Alvarado'. She also holds the title of Specialist in Infertility from the Central University of Venezuela and a Master's Degree in Infertility from the Complutense University of Madrid. More information about Zulyma Blanco Maldonado
License: 202871721
Adapted into english by:
 Cristina  Algarra Goosman
Cristina Algarra Goosman
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduated in Psychology by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Clinical Psychology by the European University Center and specific training in Infertility: Legal, Medical and Psychosocial Aspects by University of Valencia (UV) and ADEIT.
More information about Cristina Algarra Goosman
Member number: CV16874

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