Are you planning to get pregnant in the next year or so? It’s time to get that body healthy for baby. Healthy mamas are more likely to get pregnant, carry a baby full-term and give birth to a healthy baby. Rather than waiting until you’re pregnant to break bad habits, we recommend breaking bad habits now.
5 Habits to Break if You’re Planning to Get Pregnant
We’re going to skip all the obvious bad habits – like smoking cigarettes, drinking more than a drink or two per night, and taking illicit drugs. Once you’re officially trying to get pregnant, we recommend abstaining from alcohol altogether to be on the safe side. Those aforementioned “givens” go for your partner as well – cigarettes, marijuana use, illicit drugs and indulgent alcohol habits are as likely to affect male fertility factors as they are female factors.
In the meantime, here are 5 habits to we recommend breaking before you try to get pregnant.
- Skipping your annual well-woman visit. We’re surprised at how many patients didn’t think their irregular periods were a big deal, or who thought extreme cramps or heavy bleeding were par for the feminine course. Skipping annual well-woman visits with your OB/GYN is never a good idea. Those visits- paired with honest conversations and answers to the physician’s questions – can make a big different in your future fertility path. Skipped periods mean you aren’t ovulating and that will make it tricky to conceive. Heavy periods or severe cramping may indicate endometriosis, a common cause of infertility. The sooner you address these issues the better when it comes to getting pregnant.
- Ignoring the scale. The more we learn about obesity and infertility, the more diligent we are at encouraging our patients to lose excess weight. If you carry an extra five- or ten-pounds, that’s not such a big deal. However, when patients’ weights straddle or cross over the “overweight” and “obese” lines, we see declines in fertility rates. Obesity affects every aspect of pregnancy – from conception to delivery and beyond. We recommend aiming for a body mass index (BMI) between 19 and 24 to increase chances of conception, and minimize potential complications after you’re pregnant. Use an online BMI calculator to see where you stand, and then talk to your doctor if it is below or above the recommended numbers (being underweight is just as likely to cause infertility issues as being overweight).
- Not getting enough sleep. Sleep habits and fertility are linked, primarily because your body’s circadian rhythm is connected to hormone production – including fertility hormones. Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night so this should be your goal. If you work the night shift – consider switching hours or job responsibilities if at all possible. Multiple studies have shown women who work night shifts have higher rates of infertility, including higher miscarriage If you’ve fallen into the insomnia trap, visit the Sleep Foundation website for more information on the causes of insomnia as well as practical tips for re-establishing healthy sleep patterns.
- Quad mochas. Caffeine – in moderation – is not an issue. While studies haven’t correlated the link between caffeine and conception rates, there are studies that demonstrate excessive caffeine habits may play a role in delayed conception as well as miscarriages. The current recommendation is that women keep caffeine consumption to less than 300 mg per day, and you may want to err on the conservative side – keeping daily intake to about 250 mg or less. That is the equivalent of about one large or two small cups of brewed coffee, a single shot of espresso, a single soda, and so on. Better yet, switch to decaffeinated coffee and tea, since caffeine crosses the placenta – and small amounts show up in breast milk. Be aware that caffeine is also an ingredient in many over-the-counter headache medicines.
- Reaching for the carbs. Carbohydrates, especially those containing refined sugars, are increasingly showing up as “the bad kids” on the food block. While complex carbohydrates are fine in moderation, processed carbs are more apt to spike blood sugar levels as well as aggravate internal inflammation – both of which have been associated with lower fertility rates. When trying to get pregnant, we recommend clients switch to a Mediterranean Diet or an Anti-Inflammatory Diet, which have protein/carb ratios closer to 30/70 or even 35/65 – with carbs originating largely from complex carbohydrates (whole grains and other fiber-rich foods). Begin keeping a daily food diary and be completely honest about what you eat. Then share it with your physician or gynecologist to see whether you’re on the right track.
Bonus Habit to Break: Operating at a high stress level. Constant stress doesn’t do your body, mind or spirit any good. We now know that stress exacerbates inflammation and suppresses the immune system – neither of which assist conception. On the contrary, studies have shown that mindfulness practices and acupuncture can increase conception rates for women after IVF. Working to reduce stress and practice relaxation techniques may increase fertility rates and will certainly prepare you better for the relaxation tools you’ll need once you’re a parent!
Breaking bad habits before trying to conceive makes it that much easier to lead a healthy lifestyle when you find out your pregnant.