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9 Healthy Changes All Couples Should Make Before Getting Pregnant

Here’s how to get a headstart for a healthy pregnancy.

Updated
Health News
5 min read
Chromosomes and genes contain the blueprint for your physical characteristics. But your parents’ health and diet before you were conceived can also affect how your genes are expressed – and impact your long-term health (Photo: iStock)    

If you’ve decided to take the plunge into parenthood, just pause for a minute or a month or two. A healthy pregnancy maketh a healthy child so before you go down the road to conception, there are some important things you need to do.

And men, you need to read too, in case you didn’t notice, it takes two to make a baby.

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Factors To Look Into Before Conception

Although a woman bears the child, a man has an important role too. If fertilisation has to occur, his sperm must be robust and healthy to penetrate the egg. So the sperm has to be in the right shape, move the right way and there must be enough semen to carry the sperm. Any bumps in this process and there is trouble conceiving.

So you need to look into the following:

1. Age

You can also opt for genetic screening before you start planning a baby to see whether you or your partner is a carrier for serious inherited illnesses such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and others. If both you and your partner are carriers, your child will have a 1 in 4 chance of having the disease (Photo: iStock)
You can also opt for genetic screening before you start planning a baby to see whether you or your partner is a carrier for serious inherited illnesses such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and others. If both you and your partner are carriers, your child will have a 1 in 4 chance of having the disease (Photo: iStock)

Delaying pregnancy can decrease the chances of conception. An older woman’s eggs aren’t fertilized as easily as a younger woman’s eggs and might not develop normally even after fertilization occurs, giving rise to increased incidence of diseases like Down’s Syndrome and others.

2. Diet and Nutrition

Hoping to be eating for two soon? If you’re trying to conceive, you may want to take a look at how you’re eating now (for one) (Photo: iStock)
Hoping to be eating for two soon? If you’re trying to conceive, you may want to take a look at how you’re eating now (for one) (Photo: iStock)

Even before the bun is in the oven, what you eat matters. In fact, the right pre conception diet can not only fuel your fertility but also help you get a healthier baby on board. So both of you load up on leafy greens, broccoli, sprouts, and if you’re already a healthy eater, you’ll probably need a little pre conception tune-up.

3. Your Work Environment

A hot working environment can affect your fertility. In fact heat is among the top causes of reduced fertility in men. From soaking in the bath tub on a regular basis, to using the laptop on your lap, tighty whities and too much rigorous workouts can all cook your balls.

4. Lose the Pounds

Studies have suggested that couples in which the man is overweight or obese and the woman is of normal weight take longer to conceive than couples with no weight problems (Photo: iStock)
Studies have suggested that couples in which the man is overweight or obese and the woman is of normal weight take longer to conceive than couples with no weight problems (Photo: iStock)

The pregnant ideal body mass index is between 19 and 24.

If you need to shed a few pounds, now is the time for it. Being overweight (i.e. having a body mass index of 25 of higher) lowers the quantity and quality of sperms. Weight issues in women make them less likely to ovulate and more likely to suffer miscarriage than lean women of the same age. On the other hand, underweight women suffering from anorexia or bulimia rarely ovulate and menstruate.

5. Find a Remedy For Stress

Studies report a significantly higher incidence of miscarriage, premature births and low birth weight in women who experienced high stress (Photo: iStock)
Studies report a significantly higher incidence of miscarriage, premature births and low birth weight in women who experienced high stress (Photo: iStock)

Crazy high levels of stress can make ovulation whacky and difficult for you to conceive. It also affects men’s sperm count by lowering the levels of a hormone called gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which is needed for sperm production.

6. Kick the Butt and the Partying and Insist Your Partner Does Too

Smoking is linked with reduced sperm quality: Research has shown that male smokers are more likely to have low sperm counts and decreased sperm movement, and they have higher numbers of abnormally shaped sperm. (Photo: iStock)
Smoking is linked with reduced sperm quality: Research has shown that male smokers are more likely to have low sperm counts and decreased sperm movement, and they have higher numbers of abnormally shaped sperm. (Photo: iStock)

You don’t need any reminders that drinking and smoking during pregnancy are major don’ts. But that’s when you get pregnant. Did you know that smoking decreases a man’s sperm count by 23% and motility by 13%?

There is medical evidence to suggest that prenatal smoking might encourage congenital abnormalities and childhood cancer in babies.

Babies born to mums who smoke are more vulnerable to a low birth weight, breathing and heart problems. As adults, these kids are likely to be obese and have triple the chance of developing diabetes.

And if you are downing five cocktails in a sitting or most of the week, there is a problem. Excess alcohol intake can result in abnormal liver function, a spike in estrogen levels in men and a heavy risk of spontaneous miscarriage, impaired fetal growth and risk of mental retardation for the unborn baby in women.

Bottom line: There’s never been a better time to kick butt and say goodbye to your wild party days.

7. Cut Down Caffeine

If the Starbucks guy knows your order as soon as you enter the outlet, or you cannot get through office without four cuppa Joe’s, do yourself a favour and limit the caffeine intake ASAP.

Just to be clear, medical science has mixed studies on caffeine-induced miscarriages but you must do this to avoid withdrawal symptoms once you are pregnant. And FYI, caffeine isn’t only in your coffee, it is in your green tea, masala chai, soda, chocolate and even in certain painkillers.

8. Schedule Regular Checkups

Regular visits to the doctor can help you detect and treat health conditions that might threaten your fertility, like latent diabetes and thyroid disorders. Also ask your gynaecologist if you should be prescribed a prenatal vitamin.

9. Bank Those Zzzz’s

Nap whenever you can, rest and watch movies as much as you can (Photo: iStock)
Nap whenever you can, rest and watch movies as much as you can (Photo: iStock)

The sleep struggles are not only after the baby arrives but can start even during your pregnancy. Sometimes heartburn, the constant need to pee, and adjusting to side-snoozing can keep moms-to-be from getting a decent night’s rest. So stock up on sleep as much as you can.

(Dr Ashwini Setya is a Gastroenterologist and Programme Director in Delhi’s Max Super Speciality Hospital. He endeavors to help people lead a healthy life without medication. He can be reached at ashwini.setya@gmail.com)

(#LetsTalkFertility: Have questions on fertility? Write to us at fit@thequint.com and we will get experts to answer them for you.)

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