“For couples trying to conceive, making some changes for the New Year can have a huge impact,” explains Dr. Edward Marut, Medical Director with Fertility Centers of Illinois. “Quitting smoking or cutting down on coffee, and getting more sleep can be the difference between trying to have a baby and becoming pregnant.”
Break these bad habits in 2014 to supercharge conception efforts:
1. Stressing About Timing. Temperature charts and home ovulation kits add nothing if you are trying to conceive two to four times per week. If your cycle is regular, your fertile zone is days 12-16. If your cycles are irregular, see a reproductive endocrinologist and relieve yourself of the stress and confusion that comes with home testing.
2. Ignoring your BMI Number. Extra weight causes hormonal shifts that can affect ovulation and can make achieving a pregnancy more difficult. Conversely, being underweight can cause irregular or absent periods. The ideal Body Mass Index (BMI) falls in the 20-25 range. The CDC provides a BMI calculator to help assess your BMI number. The positive news: losing as little as 5-10 percent of body weight can significantly improve fertility potential in overweight patients. Also, being a little overweight is better than being underweight.
3. Eating Junk Food. If you’re putting junk in your body, you aren’t getting the nutrition you need. Limit or cut out overly processed foods, sweets, and saturated fats. Prepare meals that include fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, and don’t overdo carbohydrates. Too many carbs can lead to the production of ovarian hormones, which can interfere with ovulation and cause harm to women with PCOS. At the same time, don’t punish yourself if you have a craving. A little bit of fun food never hurts, and may relieve the urge to feast on guilty pleasures.
4. Avoiding a Doctor Appointment. If you’ve been trying for a year and you’re under 35, or if you’ve been trying for six months and you’re over 35 and have not yet achieved a pregnancy, it’s time to talk to a specialist. Knowledge is power, and there may be simple changes you can make to help achieve conception. A consultation and basic fertility evaluation is an affordable way to get a snapshot of fertility potential.
5. Lighting Up That Cigarette. A report by the British Medical Association showed that smokers may have up to a 10-40 percent lower monthly fecundity (fertility) rate. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has estimated that up to 13 percent of infertility may be caused by tobacco use. Smoking is also associated with miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, pregnancy complications, and stillborn births--even if it's the male partner doing the smoking.
6. Going Big at the Coffee Shop. Even though up to two cups of coffee have been shown to be safe in pregnancy, exceeding that when trying to conceive may be counterproductive. One study showed that “women who consumed more than the equivalent of one cup of coffee per day were half as likely to become pregnant, per cycle, as women who drank less.” Better to use decaffeinated or half-caffeinated coffee, and remember there is caffeine in tea, soda, and chocolate.
7. “Catching Up” On Sleep. If you aren’t getting the sleep you need per night, no amount of “catch up” can make up for lost rest. Research shows that the hormone leptin, which has a critical role in female fertility, is reduced when the body is deprived of sleep. Rest for at least seven hours per night, and be aware of your body’s needs.
8. Not Seeking Support. A study concluded that women with infertility felt as anxious and depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack. If you’re concerned about your fertility,talk to your partner, see a counselor (with your partner or alone), and find a support group or forum where you can speak with others who can relate. One in six couples experiences difficulty when trying to conceive--the odds are that someone you know is feeling the same way you are.