The new year brings an opportunity to step back and consider our lives and our plans for the future. If trying to conceive a baby is on your list for 2016 it is worth taking a moment to think about your general health and that of your partner.
While for women, age is perhaps the most significant factor affecting your ability to conceive, there are a number of environmental factors and health behaviours that could impact on your fertility and that of your partner as well as the health of your baby. In particular, being overweight and smoking before and at the time of conception are major influences.
Research shows that the health of parents before and at the time of conception affects the health of their sperm and eggs. This in turn affects their chance of conceiving and the health of the baby at birth and into adulthood. A healthy lifestyle improves a couple’s chance of getting pregnant and reduces the risk of a child developing chronic diseases in adulthood. A father’s health is as important as a mother’s in determining their child’s long-term health.
The good news is that there is a lot you can do to get yourself healthy and baby ready. Here are some of the things you should know …
Ways you can get healthy and baby ready
Smoking has damaging effects on the whole body, including eggs and sperm. The risk of infertility among women who smoke is 60% higher than among non-smokers, and partners of men who smoke take longer to conceive. Additionally, smoking increases the risks of pregnancy complications and health problems for the baby. Quitting before you start trying for a baby is the best way to avoid these risks.
Cut back on alcohol
For women, not drinking alcohol is the safest option if you are pregnant or trying to have a baby. For men, avoiding excessive drinking can improve the quality of your sperm.
Be a healthy weight
Being overweight can affect your and your partner’s fertility by causing hormonal imbalances. Also, if one or both parents are obese at the time of conception this can affect the future health of the baby. On the flip side, if you carry some excess weight, losing just a bit, a balanced diet and regular exercise will boost your fertility and give your baby a good start in life. So, if you are thinking about trying for a baby it is best to start a healthy eating and exercise plan now. By making positive changes to your diet and increasing your daily physical activity, you’ll be on your way to a healthy weight. This will not only be an investment in your fertility and in the future health of your child, but in your overall wellbeing.
Evidence shows that if couples work together to improve their lifestyle, they are twice as likely to achieve better health outcomes – and improve their fertility – than if they try alone. Some joint New Year’s resolutions to eat a more balanced diet and to get regular exercise could be just the thing to help you on your way to parenthood.
While smoking, alcohol and weight are the three major modifiable factors that affect fertility and your baby’s health, there are a few other measures you can take to give your baby the best start in life:
- Folate – women should take folate for two months or more before conception and in the first three months of the pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects.
- Check your vaccination status – German Measles (Rubella) in pregnancy can cause severe birth defects. Your doctor will order a test to make sure you are immune to Rubella and if you are not, you should be vaccinated before you conceive.
- Chemical exposure – for women and men, it is best to avoid exposure to chemicals at home and at work when you are trying to conceive.
It is a good idea that you and your partner visit a doctor for a preconception health check to make sure that you are in the best shape you can be for parenthood.
And once you have done all this, don’t forget that you will only get pregnant if you are having sex at the right time during your menstrual cycle. Make sure you know when your fertile window is open before you try to conceive.