If you want 2020 to be the year you fall pregnant, there are several things you need to start doing today to optimise your fertility health. Here are a few of the most important.
1. Eat well
Many studies have found that eating a diet rich in nutrients and low on sugar and saturated and trans-fats benefits fertility for both men and women. Aim for a balanced diet that is rich in lean proteins, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or underweight can impact on your ability to conceive as hormonal imbalances, ovulation and sperm quality can be affected.
For females, being overweight also increases risk factors in pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, miscarriage and increased birth weight of the baby. Overweight or obese women are more likely to take more than a year to fall pregnant and then have the associated risks mentioned.
For men, studies have consistently linked obesity to a lower sperm count or poor-quality sperm, as testosterone levels drop while oestrogen levels rise.
Studies show that a 5-10 per cent reduction in weight can make a significant difference to your fertility health. Calculate your body mass index (BMI) today, so you know where you stand and can take action if needed.
3. Keep fit
Regular, moderate-intensity exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight and has the additional health benefits of reducing stress levels and improving sleep patterns. Aim to exercise most days of the week for at least 30 minutes a day.
4. Know your medical history and medications
If you have any medical conditions or are taking any medication, tell your doctor that you are planning a pregnancy and get their advice on the safety of your current medications for both you and the baby.
If in doubt about anything, check with your doctor or pharmacist. Most vaccinations are safe, but others (such as Rubella) need to be given well before you conceive and should not be given during pregnancy.
Some of the more common medical conditions that impact on female fertility are Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. With correct diagnosis and treatment, the effects of these conditions can be minimised or managed, thus allowing conception to occur more easily.
Other medical conditions, such as diabetes and thyroid disease, also play a role in fertility success and need to be optimised before trying for pregnancy.
5. Minimise stress
The process of trying to conceive can be stressful and research shows that women under stress produce prolactin, which can interfere with regular ovulation. Studies also have shown that a male’s semen quality declines during periods of stress.
Relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation can be beneficial in helping to reduce stress levels and activities such as walking and playing golf with your friends may also help.
6. Quit bad habits
Smoking: Apart from the long-term health risks, smoking is one of the biggest lifestyle factors that can negatively affect fertility. Among women, smoking has been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and babies with low birth weight. It can also reduce sperm quality.
Alcohol: Alcohol consumption should be eliminated or at least restricted before and after conception. Alcohol can reduce the number of eggs produced and increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects. In males, excessive consumption of alcohol affects sperm quality, making it harder to conceive.
Caffeine: Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, cola and some energy drinks. There are a few studies that suggest that caffeine can have an adverse effect on fertility, so you should moderate your intake.
Recreation drugs: Social drugs should not be taken at all in pregnancy.
7. Consider supplements
If you decide to supplement your diet with multivitamins, make sure that they are safe to take in early pregnancy and that they do not exceed the recommended daily limits. Check with your pharmacist if you are unsure.
It is recommended to take folic acid to minimise the risk of spina bifida (a birth defect). You should take at least 500 micrograms a day from the time you start trying to get conceive until you are at least three months pregnant.
City Fertility wishes you all the best on your fertility journey in 2020!