Abstain from alcohol
Alcohol goes into your baby’s bloodstream in the same concentration as it goes into yours, but it takes twice as long to leave it. You probably know you will have to avoid alcohol while you’re pregnant but recent research suggests that it’s beneficial to avoid alcohol even when you’re trying to fall pregnant. Why? The very beginning stages of pregnancy are some of the most crucial in the fetal development, and you may not even be aware you’re pregnant. Your baby’s nervous system is forming also before you miss your first period.
Alcohol is the leading known preventable cause of mental and physical birth defects. While in some European countries it’s believed that drinking the odd glass of wine during pregnancy is perfectly okay, avoiding alcohol altogether while you’re trying to conceive and during your pregnancy is the safe way to go. There is not enough research to establish exactly how much drinking impacts your baby’s health, so it’s best to abstain completely. While others are drinking, you can enjoy sipping a spritzer instead of an alcoholic drink. Try pomegranate juice, lime, and seltzer as a tasty alternative. There are many other mocktail recipes you can try that are alcohol-free but still yummy, like citrus, sangria-inspired punch or a cranberry apple spritzer.
It’s apparent that you should avoid substance abuse when you’re trying to conceive. Marijuana use is increasing in pregnancy as public approval of its use grows, but unfortunately, we do not yet have enough information about its effect on the fetus. All drugs pass through the placenta to reach the fetus and may affect the growth of the placenta and the baby. It is known that if you regularly abuse drugs such as crystal meth, heroin or cocaine, your baby is likely to be born with withdrawal symptoms. Cocaine use increases the risk of preterm birth, lower birth weight, smaller head circumference and behavioral problems. Prolonged cocaine use results in decreased libido and erectile dysfunction.
If you are taking drugs and you want to have a child, acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step. Both women and their partners using illicit drugs must stop if the woman wants to conceive. Referral to a local drug treatment service is likely to be necessary as few people, can quit on their own. Addiction is never easy to overcome. The triggers for the drug use need to be determined, and a plan needs to be put into action to help you to quit and build up a support team.
Evaluate your environment
Some substances in your home or your workplace may make it harder for you to fall pregnant or could harm your baby when you fall pregnant. For instance, studies have shown that excessive exposure to chemicals, like those found in some plastics, cans and personal care products, could hurt fertility. Buy BPA free containers, utensils and water bottles if you haven’t done so already.
Take a good look at your home and work environment. Think about the chemicals you use in your home or garden. Find out whether toxic substances are being used in your workplaces such as pesticides or solvents. The highest risk for exposure to pesticides is in the first three to eight weeks of the first trimester which is often before you even know you are pregnant. One way to minimize your risk of exposure is to seek out alternatives for possible pollutants. You may want to start drinking purified water, eating organic food and swapping chemicals for natural household and personal care products.
Protect sperm health
We often think it’s all about the woman when it comes to conception but men have just as important a part to play. They need to pay attention to the health of their sperm – quantity, quality, and motility are all important. Sperm likes to be a little colder than the rest of the body. In practice, this may mean staying away from hot tubs and saunas. Even a laptop on the lap is not a good idea. Men should not wear tight trousers, biking shorts or underpants made out of synthetic materials as this traps in body heat and heat affects the motility of the sperm.
Exercise, such as cardio and strength conditioning, can improve sperm motility. Mountain biking, on the other hand, may have the opposite effect. Smoking, alcohol and marijuana use can affect the quality, quantity, and mobility of sperm. Even drinking too much coffee can have an impact. Eating healthy foods, especially deep colored ones that are high in antioxidants can improve the quantity and quality of sperm. Being overweight is another factor that may decrease sperm production. Make an effort to lose a few pounds and your sperm will be happier for it.
Frustration and stress have a negative impact when you’re trying to conceive. Stress is linked to delayed or missed periods, and you will find it difficult to track your ovulation. Too much stress during preconception can impair the ability to produce and balance hormones which is essential for reproductive health. This includes estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone. Stress can also affect the outcome of infertility treatment.
Try to limit your amount of stress as much as possible. You might find it helpful to do yoga or learn some relaxation techniques. You can also nourish your nervous system and your adrenal glands with specific nutrients to restore hormonal balance. Some simple lifestyle and mindset changes will help you to prepare mentally and physically for conception. A little exercise can go a long way towards reducing stress because your body benefits from the release of those feel-good endorphins. You can even do some simple things such as getting a massage or going for a walk every day. Small lifestyle changes can improve stress levels.
Check your lubricant
Your choice of lubricant may be preventing you from conceiving. Standard lubricants from your local pharmacy may make it harder for sperm to make their way into the cervical canal. Make sure you pick a lubricant that’s sperm-friendly and helps with sperm viability and motility. When you’re looking at labels, you will notice they mention pH balance and osmolality. What this means is that when you’re trying to conceive, your pH levels need to be balanced and some lubricants disturb your pH balance while others support it. Sperm needs a healthy pH balance to survive. If they’re released into an environment that’s too acidic, they are destroyed.
You can find brands that are organic and don’t contain glycerin which can damage sperm. There are those with adjusted pH levels, so your fluids mix and they have a consistency similar to your body’s cervical mucus. Pre-seed Fertility Friendly lubricant, for example, is invented by a woman sperm physiologist. It mimics fertile cervical mucus in its pH and consistency. The sperm can swim freely and make their way to the eggs. Some lubricants are not only compatible with sperm but contain magnesium and calcium ions which can help you to get pregnant.
Many vaccine-preventable diseases can have severe consequences for both mother and fetus, which makes the immunization status of women wanting to conceive an important factor. Several vaccinations need to be done at least a few months before pregnancy. This is why it’s important to review your immunizations with your physician so you can make sure they are up to date. When was your last tetanus shot? A booster is needed every ten years. Have you received booster pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine? Immunity wears off, and this is something you don’t want to pass on to your fetus. Blood tests can check for chicken pox and rubella. We’re often vaccinated as children against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), but immunity can fade over time. These are dangerous diseases to get while you’re pregnant.
Women who are not immune at a preconception visit should be vaccinated. The vaccine causes your body to produce protective antibodies and some of these pass on to your baby before birth. Those who receive the vaccine should avoid pregnancy for about three months. Other vaccines, like flu shots, can be given before or during pregnancy, depending on whether or not it is flu season.
Include your partner
Include your partner right from the start. The preconception period can be an anxious time – you’re worried about your ability to conceive, what type of parent you will be and the impact of children on your relationship. Discussing these fears with each other can help to overcome any anxieties and make issues easier to deal with as they arise. Many physical and emotional changes come with pregnancy, and constant communication is important to keep your relationship healthy.
Your mental and emotional health is closely linked to your physical health. If your partner is intimately involved from the start, you will feel more emotionally secure. When men think about preconception health, they usually think it applies to the women, but many of these preconception health tips apply to men as well as women. Taking your partner along with you to that first general visit is an opportunity for both of you to be on the same page and work together towards conceiving a child and creating the best possible circumstances for its birth.