Getting Your Body Baby-Ready For 2016
Now is often the time of year when people start to think about what the New Year will hold for them and what their life plans and desires are.
While we will all want to let our hair down to fully enjoy the festive season, for those individuals considering embarking on parenthood, I thought it might be timely to offer some advice as to how you can best prepare your body for pregnancy in the New Year. As with a lot of fertility advice, there are many myths about what can help you to conceive and navigating your way through to the facts, on your path to starting a family, can be difficult. If you're thinking about trying to have a baby then I would always advise firstly speaking to your doctor and to get advice on your specific circumstances. In addition to this, here are my top tips to consider if you are thinking of starting a family in 2016.
Stop SmokingMost people are conscious that smoking can seriously inhibit your chances of falling pregnant. According to NHS Choices 'smoking may reduce fertility in women by reducing egg quality and that includes passive smoking'; and the website includes sources of advice if you are trying to quit. Research also proves that smoking can also linked to early menopause in women and damaged sperm in men, so my advice to women and men alike is make quitting smoking your new year’s resolution for 2016!
Aim to Achieve your Optimal WeightAchieving your optimal weight is important when trying to conceive. The NHS says ‘being overweight or underweight can affect a woman’s chances of conceiving. Too much or too little body fat can make your periods irregular or stop them completely, which can affect your ability to conceive.' The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has also found that obesity is associated with decreased fertility and increased risk of miscarriages.
Get ActiveLinked to the above, exercise is key factor improving the quality of your overall health and increasing chances of conception. A study in Obstetrics & Gynaecology concluded that women who exercised 30 minutes or more daily had a reduced risk of infertility due to ovulation disorders. Equally, it is crucial to make sure that you are not over-exercising as some data links too much vigorous exercise with reduced levels of certain hormones that can impact negatively on your fertility, as both a 2009 study in Human Reproduction and a Harvard study of elite athletes found.
Understand your CycleWhether you are trying for the first time, or have been for a while, knowing about your menstrual cycle and the best time for conception can be very helpful. There is six day fertile window in each cycle – the five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation (when your body releases the egg) – when the chance of conception is increased. Having sex regularly (every two/three days) is a good way to help to meet this fertile window but if you would like to be more precise then you will need to know how regular your periods are and the length of your cycle to pinpoint ovulation. There are lots of handy apps that you can download to chart your monthly cycle and ovulation tests are widely available.
Improve your DietAs well as helping you to achieve your optimum weight, a nutritionally balanced diet can be very beneficial for both men and women looking to conceive. Women should take a folic acid supplement to help prepare their body for pregnancy as this is key for cell growth. It also is beneficial for both men and women to increase their intake of foods containing folate (the natural form of folic acid), such as green leafy vegetables and brown rice. In addition, taking supplements or eating foods rich in Vitamin D, E, B12, zinc, iron and selenium can prepare the body for pregnancy and contribute to healthy sperm.
Research your Family’s Medical HistoryAsk your mum about her age of menopause, as this will be highly relevant to you. If it occurred before 45 years old you should think about getting your egg reserve checked. The best tests are an ovarian follicle count (called antral follicle count or AFC), done by ultrasound scan, and an AMH blood test, which taken together will give you the information you need. If the prognosis is not ideal, but you are also not ready to have a baby, then you may want to consider freezing your eggs – which acts to preserve healthier eggs until you are ready to use them.
RelaxEasy to say, hard to do! Trying for a baby – particularly if you have an underlying condition that makes it harder to fall pregnant, or are going through IVF – can be extremely stressful. Stress levels can then often impact on levels of interest in sex and it goes without saying that having sex more frequently is better for your chances of conceiving. Try to take time out to relax, spend time together as a couple doing something you enjoy and try and plan mini breaks as a means of reducing stress levels Taking up meditative exercises such as yoga or Pilates can help you learn how to relax and will promote enhanced sleep.
by Professor Dr Geeta Nargund, Medical Director, CREATE Fertility