While it’s very important to have healthy lifestyle habits while pregnant, these same behaviors are just as important when you’re trying to conceive. Staying physically active, eating well, and quitting smoking are some of the many ways that you can prepare your body to be in the best possible shape for trying to conceive:
1. Stay Active
One very important way to prepare for pregnancy is to achieve an optimal weight–as measured by your body mass index (BMI)–through exercise and a healthy diet. Being overweight or obese can convey many risks to both mother and baby that women can often reduce or eliminate with weight loss. Underweight individuals also are predisposed to risk factors that a woman can remedy by proper nutrition and achieving an optimal weight.
In many women with BMI that is above normal, diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes have been shown to make a significant difference in fertility potential. Studies have shown that for these women, losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of their body weight can dramatically improve outcomes.
2. Kick Bad Habits
Everyone knows that smoking presents risks to your overall health, but many do not realize the effect that it can have on their fertility. Studies have shown that women who smoke have approximately twice the rate of infertility compared to women who are non-smokers (American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Smoking and Infertility, 2014). Smoking has also been shown to increase the rate of miscarriage and is associated with menopause occurring 1-4 years earlier than expected. Quitting smoking and other risky behaviors, such as excessive drinking and use of illegal substances, are critical to both minimizing your chances of miscarriage, and promoting a healthy pregnancy. Avoid drinking more than 2 cups of coffee per day when trying to conceive or pregnant as this may impact miscarriage rates.
- Counseling, education, and encouragement are essential for those that need to kick the habit. Read the Guide to Quitting Smoking.
3. Reduce Stress
For many women, their stress levels may already be high when coming into treatment. If you are feeling overwhelmed, we recommend joining a support group or trying more holistic therapies like yoga, acupuncture, or meditation. We know that for many patients, some form of fertility treatment will be needed to reach their ultimate goal of parenthood. While stress has not been shown to decrease the chances of conception, studies have shown that increased stress levels do correlate to patients quitting treatment before becoming pregnant. Complementary therapies can help reduce stress levels during treatment. The better that you feel, the easier it will be.
Persistence with treatment does pay off. In women 40 years or younger who didn’t conceive on the first try with in vitro fertilization (IVF), 42 percent of those women will deliver a baby with another embryo transfer and another 37 percent of those remaining will have success on the third cycle.
According to the 2017 Society for Assisted Reproduction and Technology (SART) National Database: 59.8% of all new patients 35 years and younger had a singleton live birth as a result of IVF. 47.5% of women 35 years or younger had a live birth as a result of their retrieval- 35.4% on their first embryo transfer and 39.4% on subsequent embryo transfers.
4. Check Your Medications before Pregnancy
Review your current medications with your physician to ensure proper and safe dosages during pregnancy. For some medications, your physician will want you to transition to an alternative prior to conception.
Make sure you are taking prenatal vitamins with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid starting at least 1 month before pregnancy and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid may help prevent major birth defects including neural tube defects.
All women, especially women that are trying to conceive, need at least 600 IU of Vitamin D per day. This is important for bone and teeth development. Low vitamin D levels have been shown to impact fertility so we check this on all of our patients.
5. Know Your Medical History
It is important to review your own medical history, including past immunizations. Your doctor may recommend certain vaccinations before you become pregnant, during pregnancy, or right after delivery. It’s important that patients are up-to-date with immunizations for conditions such as influenza, chicken pox, measles, mumps, and rubella to name a few.
6. Manage and Treat Conditions before Becoming Pregnant
A number of medical conditions can negatively affect pregnancy, including pre-diabetes and a low-functioning thyroid gland. It’s important to have a physical examination by either a gynecologist or your primary care physician before trying to conceive or prior to fertility treatment. Physicians can test and treat many conditions easily and quickly, and the result of treatment can greatly improve your fertility, reduce the chance of miscarriage, and promote a healthy pregnancy for both mom and baby.
You don’t have to act on every tip on this list immediately; be sure to perform them in a way that’s comfortable for you. Don’t set too many goals at once if you think they’ll be insurmountable. The goal is to be in the best possible condition—both mentally and physically—for conception. Your health and well-being is what comes first, the rest will follow.
Editors Note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of October 2020.