A healthy lifestyle is recommended prior to and during pregnancy. You may be surprised to learn that your diet, lifestyle and environment all have a profound bearing on your individual reproductive health and on the health of a baby. Put simply, preconception care involves making sure that there is an adequate supply of all factors essential to the health of sperm, eggs, fertilisation, a healthy pregnancy and including delivery of a healthy baby.
Given the formation of mature sperm takes approximately two months and maturation of eggs requires approximately 100 days prior to ovulation, your reproductive health today is actually your health, diet, lifestyle and environment two to three months prior. City Fertility tells us what we should be doing – and not doing – now.
Women who smoke have 2.5 times higher incidence of infertility, have a 50% higher increase in miscarriage, premature birth and low birth-weight babies than non-smokers. This is directly related to the fact smoking decreases uterine blood flow and circulating oxygen to the cells of the body, including the reproductive systems.
Women who smoke also have poorer responses to fertility treatments, earlier onset of menopause and lastly a higher rate of intrauterine growth retardation, congenital abnormalities and infant death. More and more, research is showing that smoking, by either parent around the time of conception increases the risk of long term health issues for the child.
Smoking cessation should be an integral part of preconception care. Women who require support are encouraged to contact 13 QUIT (13 7848).
Alcohol consumption has been known to decrease your chance of conceiving, increase your chance of miscarriage and has long term implications for the health of your child.
The current Australian recommendation is that if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant not drinking is the safest option.
High consumption of caffeine has been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage, so you should limit your daily consumption to no more than one to two cups of coffee per day. Caffeine reduces the absorption of iron, and destroys B-complex vitamins.
Remember that caffeine comes in many disguises, not just our daily coffee. Caffeine is present in tea, some soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, some foods and medicines.
Ideal weight is calculated by a formula known as the Body Mass Index (BMI). It is calculated using the following formula: Weight (kg)/Height (m)
The optimal BMI range for fertility health is between 20-25. A BMI of under 20 is considered underweight and over 25 is considered overweight. A BMI over thirty is considered obese. Women with a high BMI put themselves and their babies at risk of complications during pregnancy, the post natal period and their long term health. The good news is that studies show that even just a 5-10% reduction in weight can make a significant difference to your fertility health.
Diet and Exercise
Following a sensible diet and exercise program can help boost your reproductive health. A healthy balanced diet rich in lean proteins, fresh fruit and vegetables is recommended. As well as regular moderate exercise for an average of 30 mins per session, ideally, once a day.
Taking Folic Acid, at least one month before trying to conceive and for the first three months of pregnancy, can reduce your chance of having a baby with neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida and Anencephaly (a congenital abnormality of the skull and/or brain).
We recommend that women planning a pregnancy increase their dietary intake of Folic Acid, a minimum of a month before trying to conceive. Folic Acid supplementation (0.5mg daily) should also continue for the first three months of pregnancy. It is available in tablet form, which can be purchased from a chemist or health food store. Recent studies indicate an adequate intake of Vitamin B6 is necessary for full absorption of Folic Acid.
Folic Acid is a water-soluble vitamin found in many fruits (particularly oranges, berries and bananas) and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, silverbeet, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, endive and avocados. It is also found in cereals, legumes and liver.
Immunisation and General Health Screening
Before you start trying to conceive a baby it is recommended that you visit your GP for an antenatal screen. This may include blood tests to:
- Check for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, Syphilis and your Blood group.
- Determine your immunity to Rubella (German measles) and Varicella (Chickenpox).
Immunisation can help protect an expecting mother from infectious diseases, which can cause birth defect in their unborn child and prevent transmission to their child once the child is born. Following some immunisations it is recommended to wait 28 days before trying to conceive.
Your GP may also recommend you to undergo a Pap smear test and a breast screening.
Studies have shown that these drugs can increase the risk of birth defects and also cause medical problems in the mother.
Lubricants can affect sperm quality, so should be avoided if you are trying to conceive.
Difficulty conceiving a child has been described as one of the most stressful events in a couple’s life. Studies have shown that women under stress produce prolactin, which can interfere with regular ovulation.
It is important to ensure you get adequate rest and relaxation. Let go of all daily non-essential activities and concentrate on your own well-being first. Maintaining a positive state of mind improves your health and your chances of a successful pregnancy. A degree of stress in your life is inevitable, but how you deal with it is important.
We are faced with a myriad of environmental toxins on a daily basis. If you work with or around toxins, you need to be using protective face masks, etc. Talk with your doctor or specialist if you have any concerns.
Having trouble falling pregnant? Contact City Fertility.
This article is reproduced with permission from City Fertility.