You are ready to have a baby. You have a great partner, you’re financially stable, you’ve located a day care center right in your neighborhood, and you’ve even thought of names. Your mental checklist is complete, but what about your physical one? Did you know there are ways to improve your fertility through taking care of your physical health?
You are what you eat.
Conception can be easier if your body is within a normal weight range. To determine this, you should know your Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a measure of your body fat based on your height and weight. (If you are unsure of your BMI, you will find a calculator to measure it online here.) If you have a BMI less than 18.5, you are underweight. If your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, you are at a normal weight. 25-29.9 is overweight, and 30 or greater is obese.
A study published in the research journal Fertility and Sterility in 2004, which evaluated 2,112 pregnant women, found that women who had a pre-pregnancy BMI of 25-39 took twice as long to conceive as those with a normal BMI. Women with a pre-pregnancy BMI below 19 took 4 times as long.
To improve your diet and overall health, it is recommended that you avoid trans fats, cut out excessive sugar and refined carbohydrates, consume vegetable-based (rather than meat-based) proteins, eat fiber-rich foods, and exercise about 30 minutes each day.
You are what you drink.
If you are trying to conceive, it is time to cut back on caffeine and alcohol. Drinking 500 milligrams of caffeine per day (approximately 5 8-ounce cups of coffee or 5 20-ounce sodas) is associated with lower fertility. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine suggests you keep your caffeine consumption to below 200 milligrams a day.
Moderation is also the key with alcohol. Another study by Fertility and Sterility found that women who drank two alcoholic beverages a day decreased their fertility by 60%! The American Society for Reproductive Medicine states that lesser consumption of alcohol does not have adverse affects on fertility, but should be stopped immediately once you are pregnant to decrease the risk of birth defects in the child.
You are what otherwise goes into your body.
- If you are trying to conceive, you should quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke. Research has shown that cigarette smoke actually affects how receptive the uterus is to the egg in the conception process.
- Check your lubricant! Definitely make sure you aren’t inadvertently using a lubricant with a spermicide. You also want to avoid commercially available water-based lubricants, as these may inhibit sperm motility by 60% to 100% within 60 minutes of incubation. Doctors recommend you use peanut or canola oil as an alternative to traditional lubricant options.
- Be aware of your environment. Avoid exposure to pesticides, solvents, and toxins. Even common inhalants such as printing ink and dry cleaning fluid can impact your fertility.
Small diet and environmental changes can have a great impact on your ability to conceive. Remember your body is a vessel that will bring your most precious gift into the world. The time to take care of that vessel is now.