by Mary Jane Minkin, MD, Clinical Professor of OB/GYN at Yale University
Every couple mired in infertility, every woman who has ever spent hours scouring the Internet for new breakthroughs and conception tips has had the same wish: For a clear-cut, easy-to-follow program that would guarantee a healthy pregnancy.
Unfortunately, a simple do-it-yourself plan doesn’t exist, but fertility specialists and women’s health experts agree that certain measures can create the best possible chances for fertilization to occur. So, without ironclad guarantees, here are 7 things to give up to help you get pregnant this year:
1. Alcohol. Studies focusing on alcohol’s effect on conception have produced mixed results, with some indicating that pregnancy is more likely if women give up drinking entirely and others suggesting that those who drink moderately might increase their chances of conception – perhaps because an occasional glass of wine makes them more relaxed. But experts agree that women who give up alcohol will increase their chances of a healthy baby once conception does happen, and that alone is reason enough for most women to quit.
2. Tobacco. Unlike alcohol, the data smoking’s correlation to pregnancy is undisputed. Both primary and secondhand smoke are detrimental to a woman’s chance of conceiving and to a developing fetus as well. Quitting is never easy, but resources and support to help you find a plan and stick to it.
3. Caffeine. As the daily substance of choice for most Americans, dependency on those morning cups of coffee is difficult to break. Try cutting back on your intake if you drink multiple cups a day- a recent study confirms ACOG guidelines that one standard 12 oz. cup of regular coffee (200 mg of caffeine) is safe for pregnancy.
4. Your Spot on the Couch. In other words, get up and move around! Couch potatoes aren’t helping any aspect of their health, but women who are trying to conceive have an extra-compelling reason to kick it into high gear. Experts agree that women who stay within their ideal weight have a better chance of becoming pregnant, and a study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that women who exercise 30 minutes or more a day had a reduced risk of ovulation disorders, which often lead to infertility.
5. Junk food. Generally speaking, any change that moves you toward a healthier lifestyle will promote fertility. But when it comes to diet, advice seems to fall all over the map. Specific fertility diets advocate for eating foods like oysters, garlic and yams, but an extensive 2009 study advised women to follow simpler guidelines – healthy fats, selective proteins, whole grains and plenty of iron and other vitamins. It’s important to start taking supplemental folic acid to help prevent birth defects. The sooner you can start taking a prenatal vitamin with sufficient folic acid like vitafusion, the better! You should begin taking prenatals even before you begin trying to conceive. And, obviously, putting down the potato chips and the candy bars is an excellent first step to take to help you get pregnant this year.
6. Excessive Stress. Granted, this step is easier said than done, especially when the chief cause of the stress is the infertility itself. But if external factors are causing undue anxiety, a woman’s chance at conception can decrease, and the stress of waiting for that positive pregnancy test month after month could be the last straw for her emotional health. Give up extra responsibilities whenever possible, talk to your boss about reducing your job stress and work in regular “mental health” days to be refreshed by activities and people you enjoy.
7. Lubricants Containing Glycerin. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)’s “Guidelines for Optimizing Natural Fertility”, several leading vaginal lubricants (e.g. K-Y) may decrease fertility based on their observed effects on sperm survival. Another study showed that lubricants containing glycerin had an adverse effect on sperm motility. Fertility experts recommend using a fertility friendly lubricant like Pre-Seed that is specially formulated without glycerin that will not harm sperm and allows sperm to swim freely.
Like we said, there is no checklist you can complete that guarantees a healthy pregnancy, but giving up these 7 things can help you get pregnant. It’s all about creating the ideal environment for the pregnancy to happen; a healthy, happy and active lifestyle is a solid base and giving up the aforementioned things will get you there.
Mary Jane Minkin, MD is a clinical professor of obstetrics & gynecology at Yale University’s school of medicine. She is also the founder of MadameOvary.com, an educational resource for women’s midlife health.