Health Plan for A Healthier Pregnancy
Manage Your Weight
A certain amount of body fat is vital to maintain your menstrual cycle. If you dip under that amount and lose too much weight, this can disrupt hormonal balance and stop you from ovulating. On the other hand, if you gain too much weight, this can also interfere with ovulation because excess fat causes an imbalance in the ratios of your reproductive hormones. For a man, being overweight can affect male fertility, reducing both the quality and quantity of sperm.
If you’ve over or underweight, you aim to get back to a healthy weight. If you find that you’re overweight, remember the best way to lose weight isn’t to diet but simply to eat healthily and increase the amount you exercise.
If you find that you’re underweight and you need to gain weight, rather than lose it, don’t be tempted to reach for cookies and junk food to incase your calorie intake. Try to resist these foods – although they fill you up and will help you gain weight, they prevent you eating the more nutritious fertility-boosting foods that you and your baby need. Instead, aim to eat plenty of healthy, fresh foods at every meal and have a small snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Be Fit and Well
Becoming as fit and as well you possibly can involve you and your partner exercising regularly. For at least 30 minutes a day, because regular exercise encourages hormonal balance, which in turn boosts your fertility. As well as eating healthily and exercising regularly, you and your partner also need to find a qualified, experienced healthcare professional to work with to ensure that you’re both free from infections and any sexually transmitted diseases, such as Chlamydia, which can limit your fertility and put the health of your future baby at risk.
Chronic stress increases your body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In order to make cortisol, your body uses progesterone, robbing it from its other function of playing a part in your fertility cycle. Also, stress is thought to interrupt the proper functioning of the hypothalamus in the brain, which triggers the pituitary gland to release fertility hormones. High levels of cortisol are also associated with blood-sugar imbalance and weight gain – both indicated in reduced fertility.
Moreover, stress adversely affects sex drive in both men and women (owing to the effects of cortisol on the production of male hormones, also known as androgens, which boost libido): If you’re not enjoying sex or having too little of it, you’re less likely to get pregnant.
Being stressed can increase your risk of having a stillborn baby, too. A study from the University of Denmark of almost 20,000 women suggests that esteem in the last three months of their pregnancy are more likely to suffer stillbirth. The increased risk may be down to raised levels of stress hormones cutting the blood supply to the placenta – and so the oxygen supply to the fetus. Other studies show that stress triples the risk of miscarriage in the first weeks of pregnancy and that children from stressed pregnancies are more likely to be hyperactive and have emotional problems, as well as suffering from stress themselves.
Try to make sure you make time for you and your partner. Make a date once a week to do something fun together that has no time-limit – a long walk in the sunshine, or a lazy day in the garden, or watching some DVDs. Often only simple, small changes to your routine can help the pressure lift away.
Detox Your Lifestyle
As with nearly everybody in today’s society, you’ve probably been exposed to all sorts of petrochemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins over your lifetime, from cigarette smoke, traffic fumes, and the pesticides and preservatives used on and in food. Some of these substances can act as hormone mimics or disrupters – and for women who are trying for a baby, this is really bad news. Toxins can also affect the quality and the quantity of your partner’s sperm.
Quit smoking The first thing to address, if you haven’t already, is smoking. According to a report in February 2004 by the British Medical Association, smoking damages the reproductive system in both men and women and increases the risk of miscarriage in women (passive smoking increases miscarriage rates, too). Other research has linked smoking to an increased risk of birth defects, such as spina bifida and cleft palate. Research from the University of Idaho suggests that the toxic chemicals in cigarettes can cause negative changes in DNA that are passed won via the sperm to future generations.
Drink less alcohol Studies show that as little as one drink a day can affect fertility in both men and women, so the advice is for you both to stop drinking altogether in the pre-conception period – and, for you, throughout any ensuing pregnancy.
Avoid environmental toxins No pre-conception care plan would be complete without taking into account the effect on your body of hormonally active substances (xenoestrogens) in the environment. There’s no need to become paranoid, though, as in most cases healthy eating, regular exercise, and following the common sense precautions are enough to reduce your risk of toxic overload. Remember that it’s important for your partner to following the guidelines, too.