Whether you’re just thinking about starting a family or you’ve been trying to conceive (TTC) for a couple of months, auditing your lifestyle and habits is a good idea to give yourself a better chance of getting pregnant.
Many of us know the obvious ones – stop smoking and cut back on alcohol – but there are other factors which can help you both achieve optimum health for conception.
Holistic Genea Fertility Specialist Dr Natasha Andreadis has helpfully provided a checklist of some of the less obvious lifestyle factors to consider as part of improving your chance of getting pregnant.
Studies have found that for people wanting to get pregnant, the optimal amount of sleep each night is seven to eight hours.
“Despite what you might think, getting more than eight hours each night isn’t actually ideal. Heavy sleepers may have irregular lifestyles, they get up late, miss breakfast, go to bed late and this all affects their fertility,” Dr Andreadis said.
In fact, a study of 656 women having IVF, found those who had between seven and eight hours sleep a night were 25 per cent more likely to become pregnant than those who got nine hours or more. On the flipside, the study found that those who had between seven and eight hours sleep each night were 15 per cent more likely to conceive than women who slept for less than seven hours a night.
“Although their research only concerned women having IVF, the academics believed all women trying for a baby would benefit from having seven or eight hours sleep a night. It was suggested this could start from three weeks before trying to conceive.”
Tips to help you get more sleep include:
- avoid coffee and too much alcohol in the evenings
- wind down and relax before bedtime (turn off the TV and other devices)
- have a warm bath
- dim lighting
It’s important to see a dentist as part of your pregnancy planning because maternal exposure to periodontitis or gum disease has been associated with low birth weight and pre-term birth.
“Recent studies suggest that periodontal disease, as a source of subclinical and persistent infection, may induce systemic inflammatory responses that increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes,” Dr Andreadis said.
Many women focus on diet and exercise when they’re trying to conceive but often their partners don’t follow suit.
“Studies have found that obese men are three times more likely to experience a reduction in semen quality than men of a normal weight and that an increase in BMI correlates with a decrease in sperm concentration as well as a decrease in motility or sperm movement,” Dr Andreadis said.
“Overweight men also experience increased DNA damage in sperm. So men need to be thinking about formulating a good diet and exercise routine to ensure their weight is in the healthy range. Cut out the refined foods, the junk foods, the soft drinks etc and aim for a diet of fresh food that’s largely plant based.”
Obviously, it’s still important for women to think about what they’re eating.
“Choosing trans fats in the diet instead of monounsaturated fats has been shown to drastically increase the risk of ovulatory infertility so it’s important to stick to good fats where possible,” Dr Andreadis said.
Maintaining a healthy weight is vital as studies show that women with a BMI over 30 take longer to get pregnant than women who have a BMI between 20 and 25. Miscarriage rates are also higher in obese women compared with those who have a normal BMI.
“Being underweight and having extremely low amounts of body fat is not a good plan either – both are associated with ovarian dysfunction and infertility,” Dr Andreadis said.
“The risk of ovulatory infertility increases in women with a low BMI and underweight women have an increased risk of pre-term birth while eating disorders can negatively affect menstruation, fertility, and maternal and fetal well-being.”
Medications, Drugs and Herbal Remedies
If you’re on prescription medicine, check with your doctor about the suitability of those medications for fertility and conception.
“Psychiatric medications such as anti-depressants and some anti-psychotics can interfere with the hormonal regulation of ovulation,” Dr Andreadis said.
“Also, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may interfere with ovulation and if your dose of thyroid medication isn’t well-regulated (too high or too low), your prolactin levels may be affected.”
For men, the use of anabolic steroids can interfere with hormone signals and opiate use can cause low sperm production.
“You also need to take care with herbs and Chinese medicines as they can contain substances that can act like hormones. Essentially the message is to make sure you let your doctor know about everything you are taking so they can advise you.”
The topic of age is raised regularly when it comes to conception but a major survey conducted by Genea found that people still overestimate just how long they stay fertile, Dr Andreadis said.
“Remember, it’s generally accepted that if you’re under 35 and have been trying to conceive for 12 months or more you should see a medical professional to investigate. If you’re 35 or over and you’ve been trying for six months or more without success, please consult a doctor,” Dr Andreadis said.
The information in this article does not replace medical advice. Medical and scientific information may or may not be relevant to your own circumstances and should always be discussed with your own doctor before you act on it.
This blog post is sponsored by Genea
On Wednesday 19 October in the Sydney CBD, Genea Fertility Specialist Dr Natasha Andreadis will be holding a fertility options seminar. Dr Andreadis will cover everything from tips to boost your natural fertility through to an explanation of how IVF works. Places are limited so register at www.genea.com.au.