We all know poor health choices can lead to difficult pregnancy experiences, but some experts say there are a few little-known improvements you can also make.
“For couples trying to conceive, making some changes for the new year can have a huge impact,” said Dr. Edward Marut of Fertility Centers of Illinois in a statement.
Marut says simple things like changing your diet, reducing the stress about having baby and adding in more snooze time can all help boost your chances of getting pregnant.
And when it comes to what to eat (and what to avoid), some diets work better than others. One study showed eating a Mediterranean diet full of high fibre foods and vegetables can increase your chances of having a baby. Another Harvard study found men who are looking to boost fertility should lay off bacon and processed meats.
But besides your diet, there are other habits that get in the way. Here are Marut’s top 10 bad habits to break in 2014 for both your overall health and chances of having a little one.
Stressing about timing
Temperature charts and home ovulation kits won’t add anything but stress to your life if you’re are having intercourse two to four times per week. Remember: if you have regular periods, your fertile zones are days 12 to 16. If your cycles are irregular, see a reproductive endocrinologist for additional support.
Ignoring your BMI number
The body mass index (BMI) is calculated using a person’s height and weight, and is used to indicate if you’re overweight, underweight, obese or normal weight. Extra weight causes hormonal shifts that can affect ovulation and semen production, and can make achieving a pregnancy more difficult. However, being underweight can cause irregular or absent periods. The ideal BMI falls in the 20 to 25 range. The good news? Losing as little as five per cent of your body weight can significantly improve fertility potential in overweight patients.
Eating junk food
You are what you eat. If you’re trying to get pregnant you should try to limit or cut out processed foods, sweets, and saturated fats. Make meals that include fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, and don’t overdo carbohydrates. At the same time, don’t punish yourself if you have a craving. A little bit of fun food never hurts, and may relieve the urge to feast on guilty pleasures all the time.
Avoiding the doctor
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year and you’re under 35, or if you’ve been trying for six months and you’re over 35, it’s time to talk to an expert. Doctors will be able to advise you on simple changes you can make to help achieve conception.
Still smoking cigarettes
We all know smoking is bad for you, and there are numbers to prove it. A report by the British Medical Association showed smokers may have up to a 10 to 40 per cent lower monthly fertility rate. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has estimated that up to 13 per cent of infertility may be caused by tobacco use. Smoking at least five cigarettes per day has been associated with lower fertility rates in both males and females. On top of this, smoking, whether tobacco or marijuana, is also associated with miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, pregnancy complications and stillborn births — and these apply to the male partner as well.
Too much coffee
Even though up to two cups of coffee a day have been shown to be safe during pregnancy, having more when trying to conceive may be counterproductive. One study showed that “women who consumed more than the equivalent of one cup of coffee per day were half as likely to become pregnant, per cycle, as women who drank less.” Instead, drink decaffeinated or half-caffeinated coffee, and remember there is caffeine in tea, pop and chocolate as well.
Using water-based lubricants
If you’re trying to conceive, water-based lubricant may be working against your efforts. Some lubricants may inhibit sperm movement by 60 to 100 per cent within 60 minutes of intercourse. In other words, these tiny swimmers can’t win the race and reach the prize if they can’t move.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep every night, no amount of “catch up” snooze time can make up for lost rest. Research shows that the hormone leptin, which has a critical role in female fertility, is reduced when the body is deprived of sleep. Rest for at least seven hours per night and be aware of your body’s needs
Not seeking support
One study showed women with infertility felt as anxious and depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack. If you’re concerned about your fertility, don’t go at it alone. Talk to your partner, see a counsellor or find a support group with people on the same boat. One in six couples experience difficulty when trying to conceive, so the chances are high others can relate.
“Saving Up” for ovulation
There is no need to “save up” sperm for sex during ovulation, experts say, or have intercourse multiple times per day leading up to ovulation. Don’t let trying to conceive interfere with having a pleasurable sex life. Aim to have sex at least two to four times per week or whenever you and your partner are in the mood.