As we approach 2018, many couples may be considering embarking on the path to parenthood. If you are one of these couples, there are some helpful lifestyle changes to reflect upon this holiday season. Making modifications now can not only improve your chances for conception, but also make the process of conceiving less stressful.
Whether you are at the start of your journey to parenthood or you are already actively pursuing pregnancy and/or undergoing treatments for fertility, these suggestions can be helpful. We know this is a tough time of the year to implement new habits and be your “best self,” but don’t let the ball drop in Times Square and feel as though you’ve let the ball drop in your personal life!
Manage Your Stress
While we don’t know exactly how stress impacts fertility, we do know that decreasing stress levels will allow for a better quality of life during this time. Research has shown that patients who are less stressed are better able to make rationale and reasonable decisions. Developing better coping strategies can help you to feel more in control of the situation and allow you to be more proactive. There are many stress–reducing techniques that we recommend to our fertility patients, including exercise, acupuncture, meditation, mind-body groups, cognitive behavioral therapy, massage therapy, and support groups, among other things. And who doesn’t deserve a massage at the start of a new year?
Implement Nutritional Changes
Altering your eating habits is a difficult task to tackle as we approach a season full of multiple holidays. However, data has shown that women in the normal weight range (defined as a body mass index of 19-25) have lower rates of pregnancy complications than women who are overweight. There may also be a higher chance for miscarriage and birth defects in women who are overweight. While there is no single food that will improve your chances for conception, eating a well-balanced diet and trying to shed any extra pounds before conceiving will improve your chances for a healthy pregnancy. Exercising can also help you to reach your weight goals as well as serving as a form of stress relief.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
We certainly don’t expect you to steer clear of all peppermint lattes and eggnog throughout the holiday season, but we do suggest moderation in terms of caffeine and alcohol. Once you are pregnant, it is recommended to limit caffeine consumption to around one cup of coffee a day and to eliminate alcohol. Additionally, smoking cigarettes has been shown to decrease fertility. So if your New Year’s resolution is to quit smoking, here is yet another reason to make that happen.
Seek Out Support, Resources & Education
Approaching pregnancy and fertility with a positive mindset and the appropriate emotional support and knowledge is crucial. It is important to know that you are not alone in your journey and that many couples have questions, concerns, or issues related to getting pregnant. There are multiple online educational and support resources available. We recommend ACOG.org/Patients as an educational resource for pregnancy-related questions and ASRM.org for common fertility questions. For support resources, we suggest www.resolve.org, as well as our patient information page which links to other resources and topics (GenesisFertility.com/for-patients).
Lastly, speaking with friends or family can be difficult and challenging if you are experiencing infertility. However, opening up to loved ones can provide some much-needed stress relief as they may be able to offer support during this emotional roller coaster.
As we embark on a new year, consider the above suggestions if a new baby may be in your future. With the right kind of planning and preparation, you will soon be trading in champagne bottles for a whole new set of bottles.
By Katherine Melzer-Ross, M.D., GENESIS Fertility and Reproductive Medicine