What to avoid (and what to start doing) when you're trying to get pregnant.
So you and your partner have been seriously discussing having a baby. Congratulations! But before you start trying to conceive a baby, there are certain foods you should cut back on (and avoid), and some healthy lifestyle changes to start making.
To get the low-down on tweaks to make now to aid fertility, we chatted with Jean Twenge, author of The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant, for her expert advice for women preparing to conceive.
What You Should Avoid:
1. Trim down on high-mercury fish
If you like fish and eat a fair amount, cut back on your consumption of high-mercury fish (tuna halibut, swordfish) three months before starting to get pregnant, suggests Twenge.
According to the American Pregnancy Association website, "FDA guidelines state that no more than 12 oz of low mercury fish should be consumed weekly. 'Highest' mercury fish should be avoided and 'high' mercury fish should be kept to only three 6-oz servings per month."
See more: 6 low mercury fish
2. Keep the lid on soda and fruit juice
There's a lot of conflicting advice out there about how your diet affects fertility. What people tend to agree on is avoiding soda and fruit juice. They're both very high in sugar, they raise blood sugar very quickly and that can have a negative impact on fertility. It's also a good idea to eliminate trans fats from your diet, too, as consuming too much has been linked to infertility. Read labels to find out if you've been unknowingly consuming trans fats in processed, packaged foods.
3. Cut back on alcohol and change up when you have a glass.
Alcohol can be linked to fertility problems and miscarriage. "It does affect fertility if you drink a lot, but having a glass or two with dinner on the weekends is unlikely to have much effect on fertility," says Twenge. Have the wine before you ovulate if you're going to do it. Encourage his consume less if he's a heavy drinker, too much alcohol can affect his fertility as well.
4. Ditch the extra pounds.
Having too much or too little body fat can cause irregular or infrequent ovulation. "Women whose body mass index [BMI] is between 24 and 30 are most fertile," Domar says.
See more: Calculate your BMI
Healthy Habits To Start Now:
1. Get your thyroid hormone level checked.
Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) is very common in women, says Twenge. According to Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D., on MayoClinic.com, "Low levels of thyroid hormone can interfere with the release of an egg from your ovary (ovulation), which impairs fertility. In addition, some of the underlying causes of hypothyroidism — such as certain autoimmune or pituitary disorders — may impair fertility."
And if you do get pregnant it can cause miscarriage, says Twenge. "Fluctuating thyroid levels that are too low can cause birth defects, too, so it's very important to get this checked out now."
2. Get your vaccinations.
If you haven't received vaccinations or boosters in years, talk with your doctor about what he/she suggests you get and when. Twenge recommends at least three months before getting pregnant. The major ones are MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) but you also want to get booster shot for, DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis).
"Rubella could be very dangerous for the baby when you're pregnant," says Twenge. It's probably a good idea for him to get vaccinated before the baby is born. Before your baby is vaccinated they'll be more vulnerable to diseases like whooping cough (pertussis), so it's better to be preemptive by protecting your baby as best you can now.
3. Stock up on these supplements.
It's important to start taking a folic acid supplement about three months before you plan to get pregnant because it takes awhile to build up in your body, says Twenge. Buy it over the counter or at a supplement store. It's also a good idea to make sure you're getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet as some studies have linked a deficiency to infertility. Vitamin B6 and omega-3 fish oil supplements have also been linked to possibly aiding infertility treatments
See more: Prenatal vitamins made easy
4. Maintain a regular exercise routine.
How much exercise you should be getting during pregnancy is often a hot debate. Research suggests moderate exercise can improve fertility. Too much can throw off your cycle but if you're doing too little, that's also not good. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on 5 days each week or at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on 3 days each week for optimum health.
5. Don't fret about daily stresses.
There's so much talk about stress and fertility but really, research basically says stress doesn't affect fertility that much, says Twenge. Stress can delay or throw off your ovulation if you have an unusual event, like you breaking your leg or a death in the family, but overall most "general" stress doesn't have much of an effect on baby-making abilities for women or men.