New Year, New Cycles, New Hopes
Often, a new year brings with it a new set of goals, hopes, and dreams. Maybe this is the year you are trying to get pregnant, or the year you’ve decided to start fertility treatment because you have had difficulty trying on your own. Many men and women do not know a lot about their fertility and what everyday factors can potentially impact their success of conceiving. Here we breakdown what you should and should not do when trying to conceive.
Make sure you are mentally ready
While there have been studies to suggest that chronic or severe stress can impact pregnancy rates, if you are trying to conceive, it’s unlikely that moderate stress will significantly affect fertility. However, if severe stress and infertility are something you have experienced, “just relaxing” is unlikely to solve the problem. Fertility is so much more complex than simply reducing the amount of stress in your life. In fact, when we tell couples who are struggling to conceive to “just relax,” it probably does more harm than good. First, it inadvertently blames the couple, often times the woman, for her inability to conceive because of stress. Second, it diminishes the fact that infertility is a true medical diagnosis. Just as we wouldn’t tell a person with chronic high blood pressure, “just relax and your blood pressure will go back to normal,” it isn’t fair that we put that expectation on a couple struggling to conceive.
That being said, trying to conceive or dealing with infertility can create a significant emotional burden on both partners. It is important to make sure you are doing everything you can to take care of your mental health as you prepare for a pregnancy. Whether this means exercise, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, or talking to a therapist, do what you need to feel your best emotionally.
Think healthy lifestyle—NOT crash dieting
I like to think of this category as heath optimization. Doing a crash diet in January to lose holiday weight, only to revert back to unhealthy eating in February, is not helpful or healthy for your body. Women who are under or overweight may have a higher risk of pregnancy complications including miscarriage, preterm birth, and birth defects. And while no one particular diet, herbs, or supplements has been shown to significantly improve fertility, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or those who struggle with obesity may want to limit their carbohydrate intake, as this can improve their insulin levels and overall reproductive/endocrine health. Ultimately, a healthy diet and manageable exercise program should be a long-term commitment to your overall health and wellness.
Limit toxins by eliminating (or, in the case of caffeine,m significantly reducing) smoking, caffeine, alcohol, and drug use. Smoking can cause significant negative impacts on female fertility. It has been linked to higher rates of infertility, diminished egg quality, faster follicular depletion and a higher rate of miscarriage.
High levels of caffeine have similarly been linked to an increased risk of early pregnancy loss and, thus, we recommend limiting caffeine intake to 200 mg or less (usually about two cups of coffee per day).
And while studies are not clear on the impacts of alcohol on fertility, it is possible that heavy alcohol use (consistently having more than 2 drinks/day) may have an impact on pregnancy rates and time to conception.
Additionally, we can’t forget about environmental toxins and the effects they can have on fertility. Bisphenol A (BPA) has been linked to fertility problems by acting as endocrine disruptors and altering the natural hormone state in the body which may negatively impact ovulation and implantation. More research is needed to determine if/how this may impact male fertility.
Timing is literally everything
The egg a woman ovulates each month has a maximum lifespan of 24 hours before it dissolves. Sperm can live in the vagina for approximately 3 days. Timing is literally everything. It is important for couples to have intercourse before and on the day of ovulation to maximize their chance of pregnancy. Unsure of when you ovulate? One sign of upcoming ovulation is that your cervical mucus becomes egg white and thin, which allows for an optimal environment for sperm to travel through the reproductive tract. If you can’t tell ovulation based on your discharge, you can use ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) to determine your fertile days. The best times to have intercourse after getting a positive on the OPKs are the day of the positive and the following two days.
Knowledge is power
The more knowledge you have, the more ability you have to make informed decisions about your health. I hear from a lot of women who don’t want to see their OB-GYN or a fertility doctor because they are scared about hearing bad news. And I fully understand that. But, I think a better way to approach fertility is to tell yourself you want to know and learn everything you can about your body so you have the information you need to make the right decision for you!