Trying to get pregnant? Make sure you know the bottom line on baby-making—what you don't understand can affect your bub-to-be's health.
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Kick some butts: "There are so many things you don't have the ability to change to maximize your chances of having a healthy baby. Smoking is one thing you can change," says Arlene Cullum, M.P.H., of the Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif.
A woman who smokes is less fertile and faces an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery and having a low-birth-weight baby. Children of mothers who smoke are at higher risk for many health problems, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
If you're a nonsmoker but your partner isn't, tell him it's time he quit. Recent studies conclude that for a fetus, there's no big difference between having a mother who smokes or having one who's exposed to secondhand smoke.
Don't party hearty: No one has ever been able to determine a safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, so the March of Dimes and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you stop drinking entirely once you start trying to conceive. Moms who drink during pregnancy face an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and having a low-birth-weight baby or one with potentially severe birth defects.
Alcohol also can bring down sperm counts, and marijuana use decreases sperm density and motility and increases the number of abnormal sperm.
Go slow with the joe: You don't have to cut out caffeine entirely, but because excessive intake (more than 300 mg daily) has been linked to fertility problems as well as to an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery and a low-birth-weight baby, moderation is key.
Once you're actively trying to conceive, take a few more steps to stack the odds of a healthy pregnancy in your favor.
Find out which foods are safe: Experts recommend that pregnant women--and women who are trying to get pregnant--steer clear of raw fish and fish that are high in mercury; undercooked meat or seafood; deli meats; all foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs; unpasteurized soft cheeses, milk and juices; raw vegetable sprouts; and herbal teas.
Delegate the dirty work: Let others handle unsafe chores (e.g., using paints, solvents or pesticides; cleaning the cat box or rodent cage).
Help him keep his cool: Men who wear boxers have a lower scrotal temperature (and hence a more sperm-friendly environment) than those who wear briefs. Your guy also should keep the laptop off his lap and avoid cycling more than two hours a day, six days a week.