Lifestyle Changes Women Should Make When Trying To Conceiveby Teresa Shaw | May 12, 2008 12:00 AM
If you are trying to conceive, or thinking about trying, there are some steps you can take to maximize your fertility and chances of conception, and have a healthier pregnancy. Simple lifestyle changes like eating healthier and quitting smoking can make a difference, as can regular exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that women of childbearing age begin to prepare for pregnancy at least three months before conception, and optimally once they becomes sexually active.
Following are some tips on how to maximize your chances of conception and your health before and during pregnancy.
Talk to Your Doctor
First, schedule a preconception appointment with your doctor. Discuss your current health, including any medications you take on a regular basis -- both over the counter and prescription. There are also several medical conditions that can affect your chances of getting pregnant. These include diabetes, thyroid disorders, high blood pressure, anemia and STDs. A blood workup should be done to make sure that these conditions are being taken care of prior to conception. You should also receive a pap smear and breast exam.
Also talk about any vitamins or supplements you are taking. You will need to begin taking folic acid, which are included in most pre-natal vitamins. Folic acid is a naturally occurring B vitamin that helps a baby's neural tube -- the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord -- to properly develop. The March of Dimes suggests that women take 400 mcg of folic acid per day for at least three months prior to conception to reduce the risk of birth defects.
A healthy diet is essential to your health -- and your baby's. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (at least five servings per day), eat low-fat dairy foods, and drink plenty of fluids for optimal health.
A recent study also suggests that woman's diet around the time of conception can influence the gender of her baby. The study, completed by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford, appears in the Royal Society journal Biological Sciences and alleges that a woman who eats a high-calorie diet -- and regular breakfasts -- might have greater odds of having a boy. Participating in the study were 740 first-time pregnant women in the UK, who provided records of their eating habits before and just after becoming pregnant. Researchers found that 56% of women with the highest caloric intake around the time of becoming pregnant had boys, compared to just 45% among women with the lowest caloric intake.
Consider Going Organic
Organic fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products do not contain pesticides or synthetic growth hormones that many conventional foods may contain. What's more, studies have shown that organically grown fruits and vegetables are actually more nutrient-rich than their conventional counterparts. Pregnant women, or women who are planning to become pregnant, may wish to switch to organic foods for better nutrition. See Top 10 Foods to Eat Organically for more information.
Clear out the Chemicals
Women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant should limit their chemical exposure. Clean the house with ?green? cleaners readily made from products you already have at home, such as vinegar and baking soda. Avoid plastic food containers (especially in the microwave), using unbleached coffee filters, paper, napkins, toilet tissue, etc.
Also get into the habit of having someone else clean out the kitty litter. The litter can contain a toxin called toxoplasmosis, which can be passed to your unborn baby.
A healthy lifestyle also includes exercise. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine reports that regular exercise (five times a week for at least 45 minutes), as well as a healthy diet, boost fertility by keeping body weight at a normal level and relieving stress and anxiety. In addition, women who are overweight or obese have been shown to have increased perinatal mortality risk when they become pregnant. Exercise regularly for your health and the health of your baby to be.
A new study by the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group reports that women can decrease their chances of contracting gestational diabetes by not gaining weight. Women in the study who gained about 5-22 pounds each year prior to the five years before getting pregnant were 2.5 times more likely to develop gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is marked by glucose intolerance that is first experienced during pregnancy, and can require daily insulin injections. It is also associated with fetal complications. The condition usually resolves after childbirth.
Call it Quits
Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and any illicit drugs should all be avoided when trying to conceive and while pregnant. Smoking marijuana during pregnancy can increase the chances of having a miscarriage, and can contribute to low birth weight, premature births, developmental delays, and learning and behavioral problems. The American Lung Association says that smoking during pregnancy accounts for 20-30 percent of low-birth weight babies, up to 14 percent of preterm deliveries, and around 10 percent of all infant deaths. When trying to conceive, a healthy lifestyle is crucial -- which means avoiding alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
Some studies have also shown a link between consuming large amounts of caffeine and delayed conception. What's more, studies have also shown women who consume more than 300 mg (three 5 oz cups of coffee) a day may also be at an increased risk for miscarriage.
Know Your Cycle
It is essential to understand your monthly (or not so monthly, in some cases) cycle in order to maximize your chances of conception. Keep track of the days you menstruate and the length of your cycle for a few months, and use an ovulation calendar to track your ovulation to time your intercourse for conception.Teresa Shaw is a professional editor and freelance writer with a degree in English and journalism. She writes about motherhood, travel, and cooking, among other topics, for a variety of print and online markets. She enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, two cats, and dog.
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