A healthy lifestyle is recommended prior to and during pregnancy. You may be surprised to learn that your diet, lifestyle and environment all have a profound bearing on your individual reproductive health and on the health of a baby. Put simply, preconception care involves making sure that there is an adequate supply of all factors essential to the health of sperm, eggs, fertilisation, a healthy pregnancy and including the delivery of a healthy baby.
Given the formation of mature sperm takes approximately two months and maturation of eggs requires approximately 100 days prior to ovulation, your reproductive health today is actually your health, diet, lifestyle and environment two to three months prior.
There are a number of factors that can influence your fertility that you have no control over, but there are several things that you can do to maximise your chances of conception. Rainbow Fertility recommends the following guidelines:
Apart from the long-term health risks, smoking is one of the biggest lifestyle factors that can negatively affect fertility. People who smoke have: increased miscarriage risks, decreased live birth rates and lower birth weight. Smoking cessation should be an integral part of preconception care. If you require support you are encouraged to contact 13 QUIT (13 7848).
Alcohol consumption can increase the risk of miscarriage. We recommend abstaining from alcohol for one month prior to starting fertility treatment and during pregnancy.
Studies have shown that recreational drugs can increase the risk of birth defects and also cause medical problems in the person carrying the child.
Caffeine can have an effect on fertility. It increases the risk of miscarriage, so you should limit your daily consumption to no more than one to two cups of coffee per day. Remember that caffeine comes in many disguises, not just our daily coffee. Caffeine is present in tea, some soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, some foods and medicines.
There is a clear relationship between weight and fertility. As the body’s weight moves away from the normal range (above or below), fertility decreases. Pregnancy may still occur, but not at the normal rate, and the miscarriage rate is also higher than average.
Ideal weight is calculated by a formula known as the Body Mass Index (BMI). Individuals with a high BMI put themselves and their babies at risk of complications during pregnancy, the postnatal period and their long-term health. The good news is that studies show that even just a 5-10% reduction in weight can make a significant difference to your fertility health.
Following a sensible diet and exercise program can help boost your reproductive health. A healthy, balanced diet rich in lean proteins, fresh fruit and vegetables is recommended. Aim to undertake at least half an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days.
Taking folic acid, at least one month before trying to conceive and for the first three months of pregnancy, can reduce your chance of having a baby with neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly (a congenital abnormality of the skull and/or brain).
Studies have shown that individuals under stress produce prolactin, which can interfere with regular ovulation. It is important to ensure you get adequate rest and relaxation. Let go of all daily non-essential activities and concentrate on your own well-being first. Maintaining a positive state of mind improves your health and your chances of a successful pregnancy. A degree of stress in your life is inevitable, but how you deal with it is important.