Lifestyle whilst trying to conceive
Eat healthy, exercise daily, quit smoking, cut down drinking and stress less – yep, you’ve heard this advice before but why are these lifestyle changes so important to follow through during preconception? A healthy lifestyle before conception will promote quality gametes, a welcoming uterus and when conception occurs, a healthy pregnancy. Making healthier lifestyle choices as a couple can optimise fertility and provide you both with the stamina you need for plenty of baby-making.
Be physically active
An active lifestyle favours conception and a successful pregnancy by promoting a healthy body weight, mind and overall wellbeing. If you participate in regular activity, you’re more likely to have an optimal body composition (1), enhanced immunity (2), stronger heart and lung function and possibly, less anxiety and depression than sedentary people (3). Exercise and dieting has been shown to improve fertility and the likelihood of pregnancy in overweight and obese women (4). Women who establish exercise habits before conception are more likely to exercise during pregnancy which is encouraged. To reap the rewards of being a healthier, more fertile you, begin by seeing movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience. Aim every day to be active in as many ways as you can, then try to include at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity on most, preferably all days(5) and limit vigorously intense exercise to less than 5 hours per week if you have a body mass index (BMI) less than 25 kg/m2 as prolonging this activity may reduce fertility (6).
Let’s face it; when lovemaking attempts continuously fail and the spark in the bedroom begins to dim, you may place more pressure and stress on the situation which, in turn reduces fertility. Stress, whether brought on by the failure to conceive or from a lifestyle, can reduce the body’s ability to create healthy, viable sperm and eggs. Try not to be disheartened by failed attempts. Did you know it can take a healthy couple up to 6 months to a year of trying before they succeed? Try to worry less about when it will happen and focus more on how to increase the chances of sperm meeting ovum. Have a lot of sex a week before and during ovulation with much foreplay to avoid using lubricants as they can affect sperm. Ovulation occurs midway of the menstrual cycle, so that’s around the 14th day (take 2-3 days either side) of an averaged 28 day cycle. In addition, if there are things in your or your partner’s life that are worrying you or them, try identifying them and find a solution or a better ways to cope with the stress. If you are concerned about your fertility then it’s best for you and your partner to see a doctor for a check-up and possibly discuss options for assisting conception such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Manage your finances
While it may not be the most romantic topic to bring up before you start trying to have a baby, you may need to look if your financial situation can accommodate a baby. Consider the related medical costs during pregnancy, the impact of taking maternity leave, and when you’ll be returning to work, the baby’s necessities and ongoing costs such as childcare and preschool and well…the cost of a child are endless. This topic is not meant to deter you away from having children but rather trigger some financial changes, like creating a new savings account so that you can accommodate the costs of having a baby. Simply by adding an additional member to your family, you will need to re-organise your budget and spending’s. To help ease the costs of having a baby, think about borrowing pre-owned maternity and baby items from friends or relatives who have recently had a baby, or buy second hand. Baby’s clothes, equipment and toys can be expensive for things that only get used for such a short time, thus borrowing as much as you can, will really help the budget.
Tobacco use by the female partner and perhaps by the male partner reduces fertility through the release of toxic components that are known to cause many reproductive harms including damages to gametes (7) by possibly causing premature aging of the ovary (8) and reducing the quality of sperm (9). Female smokers are also less effectively assisted by reproductive technology (10)but here’s the good news; a recent review suggests that ceasing smoking for one year can reverse much of the reduced fertility associated by tobacco (6). Giving cigarettes the flick as a couple won’t be easy, both you and your partner need to give each other support and patience. A good way to start is by reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke per day.
Don’t take any risks – refrain from alcohol consumption
Female drinkers who drink moderately (3 to 13 drinks weekly) or heavily (more than 14 drinks weekly) whilst trying to conceive, usually take longer to become successfully pregnant. Heavy alcohol consumption by the male partner also decreases fertility potential. Women are encouraged to abstain from alcohol consumption during preconception because the most severe alcohol induced damages to the fetus occur around the time of conception. Fetal alcohol related disorders cannot be cured, they are only preventable hence the safest recommendation is no alcohol consumption whilst trying to conceive.
You and your partner should be aware of the reproductive hazards that are present in the environment and workplace. Some hazards include infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria and parasites, physical hazards such as radiation and toxic metals such as mercury and lead. Take action to minimise your exposure to plastic contaminates by limiting the use of plastic food and liquid containers. Be cautious when using industrial chemicals such as glues, paints, fertilisers and pesticides. You should identify any potential hazards and the measures you take to safeguard your health to your healthcare professional.
- Kyle UG, Gremion G, Genton L, Slosman DO, Golay A, Pichard C. Physical activity and fat-free and fat mass by bioelectrical impedance in 3853 adults. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2001;33(4):576-84. Epub 2001/04/03.
- Nieman DC. Current perspective on exercise immunology. Current sports medicine reports. 2003;2(5):239-42. Epub 2003/09/10.
- Galper DI, Trivedi MH, Barlow CE, Dunn AL, Kampert JB. Inverse association between physical inactivity and mental health in men and women. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2006;38(1):173-8. Epub 2006/01/06.
- Norman RJ, Noakes M, Wu R, Davies MJ, Moran L, Wang JX. Improving reproductive performance in overweight/obese women with effective weight management. Human reproduction update. 2004;10(3):267-80. Epub 2004/05/14.
- Ageing AGDoHa. Choose health: Be active: A physical activity guide for older Australians. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia 2005 Contract No.: P01001.
- Gibbons MDHaWE. Optimizing natural fertility in couples planning pregnancy UpToDate 2012.
- Paszkowski T, Clarke RN, Hornstein MD. Smoking induces oxidative stress inside the Graafian follicle. Hum Reprod. 2002;17(4):921-5. Epub 2002/04/02.
- Cramer DW, Barbieri RL, Xu H, Reichardt JK. Determinants of basal follicle-stimulating hormone levels in premenopausal women. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism. 1994;79(4):1105-9. Epub 1994/10/01.
- Vine MF. Smoking and male reproduction: a review. International journal of andrology. 1996;19(6):323-37. Epub 1996/12/01.
- Augood C, Duckitt K, Templeton AA. Smoking and female infertility: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Hum Reprod. 1998;13(6):1532-9. Epub 1998/08/04.