Your health while trying for a baby

One of the best things you can do while trying for a baby, whether naturally or through fertility treatment, is to ensure your lifestyle is healthy. A healthy lifestyle has been proven to increase the chances of becoming pregnant, both naturally and while receiving fertility treatment. The impact of a healthy lifestyle cannot be underestimated: it is also hugely important for both the short and long-term health of your baby.

There are a number of things you and your partner can do to boost your chances of becoming pregnant and improve your own health in the process. Your fertility specialist can advise you on lifestyle changes and help steer you towards the right path in areas you are struggling in.

What lifestyle changes can I make?

Your Weight

Being either underweight or overweight can have an impact on your fertility. Excess weight can affect the healthy development of eggs by the ovary and can also affect the implantation of a fertilised egg in the womb.

A healthy weight is also needed for the normal production of hormones (oestrogen and testosterone) in both males and females. If you are trying to conceive, we recommend that you calculate your body mass index(BMI). To calculate your BMI click here.

While trying to conceive, both you and your partner should have a BMI of between 20 and 24.9. A BMI of above 25 is considered overweight and above 29 is considered obese. If you have a BMI of more than 29, weight loss of 5% to 10% can significantly increase your success of pregnancy.

If you are underweight (BMI of less than 18.5), you are likely to experience irregular periods. Gaining weight can kick-start your ovaries to work properly again and increase your chances of pregnancy. The best thing you can do to achieve a healthy weight is to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.

Eating Well

Healthy eating ensures your body is in the best possible condition to become pregnant and nourish a developing baby. What you eat before pregnancy can have an influence on the long-term health of your baby.

Here are some tips for healthy eating:

  • Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
  • Use low-fat products (e.g. low-fat milk, low-fat butter).
  • Reduce intake of fizzy drinks, fast food, cakes, biscuits and sweets. Choose whole grain alternatives to bread, rice and pasta.
  • Increase your intake of oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), for Omega 3 and 6 and vitamin D.
  • Limit caffeine to two cups of tea or coffee per day. Remember that fizzy drinks also contain caffeine.
  • Take 400ug of folic acid while trying to become pregnant and during the first three months of pregnancy, to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly in your baby.
Exercise

Regular exercise is needed for a healthy body and mind when trying to conceive, especially if you have a high BMI and are trying to achieve a healthy weight.

Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least five times a week is recommended for adults. This can include activities such as brisk walking, cycling, tennis and swimming.

Many people find that trying for a baby can be a stressful time in their lives. One of the best relievers of stress is regular exercise, as it causes your body to release endorphins (‘happy hormones’). Be aware of the dangers of over-exercising: too much exercise can lead to excessive weight loss and irregular periods.

Smoking

Smoking has been proven to affect the fertility of both men and women. In fact, it is directly responsible for up to 13% of all infertility. If you or your partner smokes, you are strongly advised to quit.

Research shows that the rate of infertility is higher and the time it takes to become pregnant is longer in smokers than in non-smokers. Smoking has been linked to damage in the ovaries, changes in hormone levels needed for pregnancy, and earlier onset of the menopause.

Smokers are 54% more likely to take 12 months or longer to become pregnant. It can cause genetic abnormalities in developing eggs and directly affects hormone production. Remember, passive smoking can be just as harmful to fertility.

Giving up smoking is one of the best things you can do to ensure your chances of conceiving. The National Smokers Quitline is available on 1850 201 2013. Other useful websites which we highly recommend are www.quit.ie and www.cancer.ie

Alcohol

It is worth considering your alcohol intake while trying to become pregnant. How alcohol influences fertility remains unclear. However, alcohol has been linked with reduced ovulation and impaired development of a fertilised egg in women.

It is not known how much alcohol you need to drink before it will affect your fertility. Therefore, we recommend you significantly decrease your alcohol intake or totally avoid drinking alcohol while trying to become pregnant. You should not drink more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week (one unit = small glass of wine or half a pint of beer).

Recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine should be avoided, as these are known to affect both male and female fertility.

 

Get to know your cycle

Understanding your menstrual cycle helps you know when you’re most fertile: the week you ovulate. Ovulation generally happens on around day 14 of a 28 day cycle, so your best chance of getting pregnant is on days 12 to 16. It helps to become aware of the signs of ovulation, such as a change in cervical mucus.

Ovulation prediction kits can help you predict the best time to get pregnant, but you can also calculate when you will ovulate based on the dates of your menstrual cycle.

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