Preconception – Trying to Conceive. Worried About Conceiving?
Moms want the best for their babies.
From quality skin care products to a baby-proof home, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure your child is healthy. But all of this can only begin with you. If you don’t take care of yourself initially, your baby may never get the chance to do the things you so desperately hope for. Your body and your physical well-being are critical factors when trying to conceive.
Here is what you need to know about your health and a few things you might not have considered.
Your body and your physical well-being are critical factors when trying to conceive.
Stay in Control
There are a number of factors that contribute to infertility, but your everyday physical health is probably the most significant. In fact, the way you treat your body and your health is often a top reason for conception difficulties. For example, smoking, weight (both too much and too little), previous sexually-transmitted diseases, stress and strenuous, frequent exercise all can lower your chances of conception, says fertility specialist Dr. Fady Sharara of the Virginia Center for Reproductive Medicine in Reston, Va.
“Smoking is detrimental to both eggs and sperm,” says Dr. Peter Chang, director of Beth Israel Center for Infertility and Reproductive Health in New York City. “Therefore, people trying to conceive should quit.” Also, he adds, anything in extreme (such as weight or stress) can cause irregular periods (or none at all), and that stops you from ovulating.
If you suffer from specific medical conditions, it is best to talk with your doctor and take medications that are safe during pregnancy. “We can alter our [routines] to correct our lifestyle,” Dr. Sharara says. Even some medical conditions, such as diabetes, that can increase the chance of miscarriage, he adds, can be controlled if a woman can take control and get properly treated.
“Blood pressure should be well controlled, and women with hypertension should consult their OB/GYN or high-risk obstetrician for preconception counseling,” Dr. Chang says. “Obesity is also a risk factor for gestational diabetes during pregnancy.”
Kick the Caffeine
While it isn’t totally clear whether or not caffeine has any correlation with infertility, it is probably best to avoid it. Some studies indicate it can increase chances for early-pregnancy miscarriages, while others have shown it can have benefited by improving semen motility.
mom working out Caffeine stimulates your heart, respiratory system and central nervous system and has similar effects on your mind and body as stress. It raises blood pressure, affects your sleep patterns and can become more addictive than you might think. (Plus it causes more frequent trips to the ladies room!) All in all, those extra stimuli are stresses you don’t need. You’ve already got enough on your mind.
Don’t Overdo Exercise
Your mother always told you too much of a good thing isn’t always good, and yes, exercise can fall into this category. While some of us don’t consider exercise to be a “good thing” but rather a “necessary evil,” it is still important to understand how your workouts may or may not affect your chances of getting pregnant.
Like caffeine, the research is speculative, but the longer and harder you exercise each day, the less energy your body has for other things (i.e. conceiving). It’s best to talk with your doctor to find out what workout schedule is best for you for optimum pregnancy chances.
Research has shown that alcohol can contribute to menstrual disorders and a lower count of healthy sperm when consumed excessively. Some studies show that maintaining a low intake of alcoholic beverages (meaning less than five per week) has little effect on pregnancy chances, but most doctors advise avoiding alcohol altogether during pregnancy.
The Birth Control Misconception
Despite the rumors, many doctors believe oral contraception does not inhibit your chances of becoming pregnant once you stop using it. “Birth control pills do not affect fertility in general, even if the woman has been taking them for years,” Dr. Chang says. However, he adds, fertile eggs do age, and the number does decline while on prescription contraceptives (OCPs). It may take a month or two for ovulation to reoccur.
But if you don’t normally have regular cycles or they don’t resume regularly once you’ve stopped taking the OCPs, go see your doctor for further evaluation. “If menses resume and they are regular, ovulation typically occurs 14 days prior to the next menses,” Dr. Chang says. “So if a woman has 28-day cycles, ovulation should happen around day 14. If a woman has 26-day cycles, then ovulation would be around day 12.”
What You Can’t Change
One thing a woman can’t alter is her age. “Age is the most important factor in infertility,” Dr. Sharara says. “There are many studies that clearly show a decline in pregnancy chances as women get older. What very few women know is that their fertility starts declining in their 20s, and by the mid- to late-30s there is a very sharp drop.” By your early 40s, conception chances are extremely low and can become less than 5 percent when you hit 43 and 44, he says.
Some Home Remedies
While changing your lifestyle can certainly increase your conception chances, there are a couple of other things that may make a difference.
couple drinking coffee. Stress can significantly decrease your chances of conception. Remember that things usually happen when you least expect them to, so try to relax. Don’t forget to do your research. Read books or visit Web sites like PregnancyToday.com to get your infertility questions answered. Finally, find a doctor you’re comfortable with, and establish a treatment plan you can follow if need be.
It’s important to keep communication open between you and your partner. The more you talk about things, the less worried you’ll be about what he’s thinking. Spend some time together (outside the bedroom), and do the silly things you love like picnics, dancing lessons or test-driving the cars you’ve always wanted to own. All of these can help take the pressure off and may help increase your chances of conceiving.