Your TTC Strategy 2: Develop Healthy Preconception Habits
What to know and put into action well before you get pregnant
There is a strong and frequently repeated argument that we should be able to get all the nutrients we need from “a well-balanced” diet. With current agricultural practices, however, it may not be possible. Food rich in nutrients needs to be grown in soil rich in nutrients, but much of our soil has been over-farmed to the point that it no longer contains the nutrients we need. In addition, pesticides and other chemicals reduce the nutrient content of the food, and as food is processed it is stripped of its key nutrients even more.
So when you are aiming to boost fertility, it really does make sense to increase your intake of nutrients by taking a multivitamin with minerals.
(Read more about pre-pregnancy nutrition and eating here: The Ultimate Trying-to-Get-Pregnant Diet.)
Our body needs to be the right weight in order to produce the appropriate balance of hormones to regulate ovulation, menstruation, or sperm production. In fact, more than 12 percent of all infertility patients suffer from weight-related infertility. Gaining or losing weight can often help correct these problems.
Information from the Nurse’s Health Study indicate that women with the lowest and highest body mass indexes (BMI) were more likely to struggle with infertility than women in the middle. Infertility was least common among women with BMIs of 20 to 24, with an ideal around 21. If you need to lose or gain weight, start your eating and exercise program six to 12 months before you try to conceive.
Weight issues can also affect male fertility. Men who are overweight appear to be at risk for low sperm count and motility problems, because extra layers of body fat can produce excess estrogen that disrupts normal hormonal balance. In addition, the excess fat surrounds the testicles, raising their temperature above 96 degrees. Even this slight increase in temperature can cause sperm to die or can lower sperm production. Men who are underweight are also at risk for fertility issues, as they tend to have lower sperm counts and poor motility and morphology, perhaps related to poor nutrition. Men who over-exercise could also increase the temperature of their testicles, killing their sperm. (Read more about how male diet and weight issues affect fertility here.)
With more and more women building high-powered careers, childbearing tends to be forgotten until a milestone, like a birthday, reminds us that it’s time to get on with family building. If your life has been built around high stress and a fast pace, your body may not be prepared to function optimally for conceiving.
Stress can come from just about anything that you feel is threatening or harmful. A single event, such as a death in the family, can produce stress. So can the little things that worry you all day long. Some people are stressed all the time. With either acute or chronic stress, hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine are released to help your body adapt. Yet these same chemicals can disrupt the normal balance needed for conception.
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