Planning for Pregnancy: 5 Health Tips for Couples
Considering trying for a baby in 2017? We asked pregnancy experts, Baby2Body, to share their words of wisdom for couples planning for pregnancy this year…
If you’re thinking about having a baby, living healthier will not only benefit you and increase your chances of getting pregnant, but it can also benefit your baby’s future health. Even when trying to conceive, your nutritional habits and physical fitness can help reduce common pregnancy complications, promote healthy neural development in your baby, and contribute to a happier, healthier pregnancy down the line.
But that doesn’t just go for you! Soon-to-be dad’s can also make changes to promote their own fertility and increase your chances of conceiving as a couple.
While that’s reason enough to start focusing on getting healthier together, a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people are more likely to develop and stick to healthier habits when their partner is doing the same. Basically – you’ll have an easier time of getting healthier if you work on it together! That’s why we’ve got 5 ways you and your partner can stay healthy, boost your fertility, and increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
5 Ways to Get Healthier Together
1. Halt the habits
You’ve most likely heard which habits you should cut down or stop completely during pregnancy, like drinking alcohol, smoking, and consuming a lot of caffeine. But it’s actually beneficial for both you and your partner to ease up on all of these habits before you’re pregnant, when you’re trying to conceive.
Chemicals in cigarettes and cigars result in the reduction of egg count over time for women, and a decreased sperm quality and motility in men. Alcohol has also been shown to reduce fertility, and researchers suggest that it’s best if both partners avoid it altogether when trying to conceive. Remember – everything is easier when done in solidarity! Chances are, a drink or two on the weekend won’t have much impact, but it’s good to make conscious efforts to reduce alcoholic intake where possible. The same thing goes for reducing caffeine intake. Studies on caffeine and conception are less conclusive, but the general recommendation is for both of you to stick to 200-300mg of caffeine a day, which is no more than 2 cups of coffee.
2. Snuggle up
And get some sleep! The benefits of sleep have been widely researched, and it is without a doubt a crucial component to health and wellbeing. We need sleep to rejuvenate our bodies, to grow new tissues and heal damaged ones, to keep our immune system at optimal functioning, to aid with digestion, and to allow for better brain functioning and concentration the next day.
The benefits of sleep are closely tied to our circadian rhythm and establishing a steady sleep schedule. Regularly interrupted or abbreviated sleep cycles have been shown to affect both male and female fertility as this throws off hormonal balances (hormones are vital to healthy reproduction!) and increases cortisol levels.
If possible try to stick to a similar sleep schedule to your partner, in order to promote maximal sleep quality for the both of you.
3. Hit the pavement
Pencil in a jog with your partner 3 times a week to start. If you can do more, that’s fantastic, but it’s great to start small and build gradually. Making exercise something you do together will help you stay motivated and you’ll have more fun with it! Of course, if you prefer hitting a spin class together, or doing a HIIT workout, that’s great as well. It’s all about fitting fitness into your schedule and pushing each other to stick to it.
A study in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day was associated with a reduced risk of infertility.
On the other hand, maintaining a very intensive exercise schedule can result in a low body fat percentage, and you need healthy fat stores in order to get pregnant. Why? Fat stores act as your energy reserve and your body wants to make sure it has enough energy in storage to carry a healthy pregnancy to full term. Being underweight also affects male fertility by lowering sperm count.
So, for the both of you it’s about finding the right balance in your fitness routine. A great way to assess this is through your BMI score, which is calculated using your height and weight. The ideal BMI for conception for both men and women is between 19-24.
4. Keep it fun
The best thing you can do right now is find ways to keep your stress levels low. Chronic stress results in sustained cortisol levels that can inhibit ovulation and reduce sperm count. But trying to reduce stress isn’t like flipping a switch. It takes a conscious effort to try new methods of stress management.
Things will change when baby arrives, so focus on doing the things you love most as couple – whether it’s travelling, hiking, or going to shows on the weekend. Mindfulness, meditation and visualisation practices can also be very helpful for reducing stress. And lastly, keep it fun in the bedroom. When trying to conceive starts feeling like a task, the enjoyment goes down, the pressure and stress pick up, and ultimately that impacts your chances of conceiving and can put a strain on your relationship. Remember, making a baby should be fun!
5. Two cooks are better than one
Cook together and make your meals about getting healthier on the inside! The first thing for a ‘planning for pregnancy’ diet is to reduce sugar intake. You can do so by making whole grains your primary carbohydrate source, and avoiding things like soda, sports drinks or fruit drinks that have added sugar. High sugar diets lead to high insulin levels, which negatively affect fertility.
Getting plenty of folic acid in your diet is also great for both you and your partner at this stage. While you may want to start taking folic acid supplements yourself, your partner can probably get by with increasing his intake of dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, beans and lentils, and citrus fruits.
A few other tips for a healthy fertility diet for two are:
1) Increase your antioxidants with blueberries, Goji berries, pecans and dark chocolate
2) Opt for healthy, unsaturated fats such as those in oily fish, avocados, and nuts and seeds
3) Switch any low-fat dairy for full-fat dairy options (yes, you read that right!)
4) Get your protein from veggie sources and lean meats such as turkey or chicken
5) Eat organic wherever possible to reduce exposure to potential toxins
Baby2Body is a woman’s daily guide to a healthy pregnancy and a happy motherhood – because happy, healthy mums make for happy, healthy babies. Sign up for your personalized guide today on Baby2Body or download the Baby2Body iOS App