Get Set for Pregnancy: Prepare Your Body
If you get pregnant while taking birth control pills, don't worry that they will affect the health of your baby. Babies born to moms who were taking oral contraceptives at the time of conception are at no higher risk for birth defects than any other babies.
Like any other system in your body, the reproductive system needs to be in good shape to work properly. So before you plunge into pregnancy, take some time to get into top form.
Quitting Birth Control
When you decide that it's time to add another member to your family, it's obviously time to ditch the birth control. The type of contraception you have been using might determine how soon you will conceive:
- After stopping the birth control medication you might begin to ovulate immediately, or you might not ovulate for several months (or even for a full year if you were using Depo-Provera). So don't panic if you don't get pregnant right away. Give your body time to adjust and produce its own monthly cycle.
- If you are using an IUD for contraception, you will have to have it removed by your doctor. After it is taken out, your body is ready to conceive.
- If you have been using some type of barrier method (condoms, diaphragm, or spermicide) you are presumed fertile as long as you don't use them. So there's no medical reason to wait a period of time before you begin. Toss them aside and you're ready to go.
There is no specific diet known to boost fertility. But because diet affects the health of the entire body and all its systems, it makes sense that a good diet is needed to get your body in good physical shape to support conception and pregnancy. This is a good time to increase your intake of wholesome, nutritious foods from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. You might also want to switch to organic foods to reduce the potential for taking in pesticides and toxins through the food chain. The diet guidelines recommended for pregnant women will also boost the health of the want-to-be-pregnant woman. So drop that Twinkie and follow these guidelines starting today.
This is also the time to work toward your ideal body weight. Being overweight or underweight can complicate a pregnancy. Overweight women are at greater risk of developing diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy, and they are more likely to deliver their babies by cesarean section. Underweight women tend to have low-birthweight babies. But unfortunately, after you find out that you're pregnant, it's too late to begin a weight-loss or weight-gain diet. Your baby needs a balanced diet of nutritious foods—not too little or too much. So talk to your doctor about how to best reach your ideal weight before you become pregnant.
Some people say that boxer shorts are better than briefs for guys trying to boost their fertility. There might be something to it! The testicles hang outside the body for a reason. Sperm production is best when the testis is a degree or two lower than 98.6 degrees. So there's no harm and nothing to lose by wearing loosefitting pants, avoiding hot baths and saunas, and keeping your legs uncrossed when sitting.
Exercise is good for improving fertility, but it can also be bad-it's a matter of degree. Exercise keeps the body healthy (very important for conception). It promotes good circulation to all body parts, including the reproductive system. It reduces the stress of daily life that can hold up conception. It also promotes better sleep, allowing your body the time it needs to repair and rejuvenate. And it helps knock off extra calories for slow and steady weight loss. All of these benefits support optimum health.
However, excessive exercise can decrease the state of fertility. It can disrupt the normal flow of hormones and interfere with ovulation and menstrual cycles, and therefore affect fertility. That's why some women who run more than 20 miles a week have infrequent or absent menstrual cycles. If your exercise routine interferes with a normal monthly menstrual cycle, you'll have to reduce your workout to get your body regulated before you can conceive. Talk to your doctor about how to best restore a healthy hormonal balance.
Exercise can also affect male fertility. Sperm production can be reduced if the temperature in the testes rises. So while you are trying to conceive, your partner might want to avoid bicycle riding, jogging, or any other exercise in which the testicles are tightly confined, rubbed, or heated.
Avoiding Environmental Toxins
As a general rule it's best to avoid chemical products and toxins while trying to conceive a baby—that goes for both you and your partner. Many toxins affect both male and female fertility. The toxins that affect a growing fetus are also known to interfere with healthy conception. You'll want to stay away from pesticides, certain cleaning products, some interior decorating activities, air pollution, radiation, and even some arts and craft supplies.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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