When you’re trying to get pregnant, some of your habits may need to change. Here are ten fertility foes to steer clear of when you’re actively trying to have a baby. 10 of such habits are going to be explained in details in this article.
Question – Does using a lubricant inhibit conception?
Answer – Yes. Research has found that some vaginal lubricants are toxic to sperm and interfere with the role of the cervical mucus.
Normally, the vagina’s own acidic secretions kill sperm, but the alkalinity of the cervical mucus produced just before ovulation protects the sperm. Some artificial lubricants prevent the sperm from reaching the cervical mucus quickly, so they die in the acidic environment of the vagina before getting inside the uterus. (There are some brands of lubricants on the market that are said to be designed not to damage sperm though).
Most artificial lubricant, whether store-bought or found at home (such as egg whites or mineral oil), presents a potential problem. The best lubricant to use when conception is your goal is foreplay. Take your time working up to sexual intercourse. Ask your partner to do more touching, hugging and kissing. Many women say they need 15 to 20 minutes of stimulation to get in the mood.
If you still have minimal mucus despite all attempts at foreplay, try using warm water as a lubricant. Water isn’t toxic to sperm and won’t interfere with the sperm’s ability to reach the cervix.
2. SOME CERTAIN MEDICATIONS
Question – What medications should I stop taking now that I’m trying?
Answer – The simple answer is to stop all unnecessary medications before attempting pregnancy, but of course, that’s not always possible.
Some that you should definitely avoid because they can harm the fetus include isotretinoin, better known as Accutane (for acne), Coumadin (an anticoagulant used to prevent blood clotting), tetracycline (for acne or infections), valproic acid (for epilepsy), ACE inhibitors (for hypertension), injectable or preventative drugs like Imitrex and propranolol (for migraines), anti-malarial drugs like Plaquenil, or high doses of steroids like cortisone and prednisone (for lupus).
Note – Please, make sure you talk with your doctor before you stop taking any prescribed medication.
Many over-the-counter medications are safe in small amounts. But some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as Motrin, Aleve, or any drug containing ibuprofen, can impair ovulation and make the lining of your uterus less favorable for implantation. With the exception of Tylenol — which is safe to take anytime — you should take NSAIDS only while you’re menstruating if you’re trying to conceive.
The best advice is to check with your physician before taking any medication. Many medications have safer alternatives for pregnant women. For example, if you need an anticoagulant for a deep vein thrombosis, heparin is safe — and Coumadin is dangerous because it crosses the placenta. Or if you need an anticonvulsant for epilepsy, Dilantin has risks but is much safer than valproic acid. Discuss these matters with your obstetrician well before embarking on a pregnancy journey.
3. LARGE AMOUNT OF CAFFEINE
Question: Does caffeine affect your fertility?
Answer – Maybe. Some studies have shown a link between caffeine consumption and a woman’s ability to conceive, but others have found none.
The National Infertility Association, Resolve, thinks there’s reason to be cautious. It says animal studies suggest that caffeine can prevent an egg from maturing properly, and since a less mature egg may not fertilize, it may affect your chances of getting pregnant. While animal studies don’t mean the same results will be found in people, it might be prudent to limit your caffeine intake if you’re having trouble getting pregnant.
Most experts agree that moderate amounts of caffeine – less than 300 milligrams (mg) a day, or the amount in 16 ounces of brewed coffee – don’t appear to affect a woman’s fertility. But one study did find that 200 mg or more of caffeine a day (roughly the amount in a 12-ounce cup of coffee) raises your risk of miscarriage, so this would be a good time to start cutting back.
Which foods and beverages contain caffeine?
Coffee is one, of course. The amount of caffeine in a serving of coffee varies widely, depending on the type of bean, how it’s roasted, how it’s brewed – and, obviously, on the size of the coffee cup. To manage your caffeine intake, though, you’ll need to be aware of other sources, like tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, and coffee ice cream. Caffeine also shows up in herbal products and over-the-counter drugs, including some headache, cold, and allergy remedies. Read labels carefully.
How can I cut back on caffeine?
If you decide to give up caffeine, ease off slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue and headaches.
You might want to start by switching to a half decaf, half caffeinated drink. Or reduce the caffeine in homemade hot beverages by brewing them weaker or for a shorter time. If you love to start your day with a cup of English Breakfast, steeping your tea bag for one minute instead of five reduces the caffeine by as much as half.
4. MERCURY IN FISH
Even if you don’t care for seafood, you’ve probably heard that fish is a major source of omega-3 fatty acids (specifically DHA and EPA), which are important for a baby’s brain and eye development. Fish is also low in saturated fat and high in protein, vitamin D, and other nutrients that are crucial for a developing baby and a healthy pregnancy.
Your body will store omega-3s for several weeks, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting enough now so you’ll have adequate levels when you become pregnant.
On the other hand, you’ve probably also heard that some types of fish contain contaminants such as mercury. In high doses, this metal is harmful to a baby’s developing brain and nervous system.
Mercury accumulates in the body – and takes time to go away once you reduce your intake – so you’re right to be concerned about your exposure before becoming pregnant.
Most experts agree that women in their childbearing years should eat some fish. But it’s important to know which ones are safe and how much to eat.
How Does Mercury Get Into Fish?
Mercury is everywhere, even in the air we breathe. Some of the sources (such as volcanoes and forest fires) are natural. It’s also released into the air by power plants, cement plants, and certain chemical and industrial manufacturers. It’s used in making thermometers and thermostats and may be released when those products end up at the dump.
When mercury settles into water, bacteria convert it into a form called methylmercury. Fish absorb methylmercury from the water they swim in and the food they eat. Methylmercury binds tightly to the proteins in fish muscle and remains there even after the fish is cooked.
Almost all fish and shellfish contain some mercury, but large predator fish accumulate the most. That’s because predator fish eat other fishes – fishes that have absorbed mercury themselves. And the bigger the predator fish, the more fishes it eats. Larger fish also tend to live longer than smaller fish, so there’s simply more time for mercury to build up in their bodies.
What Could Happen If I Eat Fish That’s High In Mercury?
Your body easily absorbs methylmercury from fish and stores it for months. Once you become pregnant, the mercury in your body will cross the placenta too.
Studies show that exposure to high concentrations of methylmercury during pregnancy can impair a baby’s growing brain and nervous system. The results may be mild or severe. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), cognitive skills (like memory and attention), language, motor skills, and vision may be affected.
Women who are pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant, or nursing – and their babies and young children – are most vulnerable to high levels of mercury.
Experts are still debating exactly how much mercury is harmful, but most agree it’s a good idea for women of childbearing age to avoid fish that are high in mercury and to limit (but not eliminate) other fishes in their diet.
Why Not Just Stop Eating Fish?
Fish is too good a nutritional choice to give up, and most experts agree that the benefits of eating fish usually outweigh the risks.
“It’s not necessary – or even possible – to avoid all exposure to mercury. There are low amounts that are not harmful,” says Charles Santerre, a professor of food toxicology at Purdue University and an expert on contaminants in fish. “If a woman stops eating fish to avoid mercury, when she becomes pregnant her baby may miss out on the healthy nutrients that fish provides.”
It’s your baby’s developing brain and vision that will benefit most from the healthy fatty acids found in fish. Studies show that babies who get adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy have better cognitive development and vision than babies who receive fewer omega-3s.
Some studies also show that eating fish during pregnancy may help prevent preterm birth and low birth weight.
Which Fish Are Highest In Mercury?
In 2004 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the EPA released a joint advisory on mercury in fish. In it, they identified four types of fish that women of childbearing age should not eat because they contain high levels of mercury: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
Other experts and advocacy groups would like to expand this list. Purdue toxicologist Santerre recommends that you also avoid eating all fresh or frozen tuna, striped bass, bluefish, Chilean sea bass, golden snapper, marlin, orange roughy, amberjack, Crevalle jack, Spanish mackerel from the Gulf of Mexico, and walleye from the Great Lakes.
What can I eat, other than fish, to get my omega-3s?
Many foods – such as eggs, milk, soy beverages, juice, yogurt, bread, cereal, and margarine – are now fortified with omega-3s. Some don’t contain very much DHA or EPA, but small amounts can add up. (Look for products that contain at least 50 milligrams of DHA per serving.)
You may have heard that flaxseed is a good source, but the only omega-3 fatty acid that plant foods contain is ALA, which has not been proven to provide the health benefits of DHA and EPA.
What About Omega-3 Supplements?
To cover your bases, especially if you don’t eat fish, you might choose to take an omega-3 supplement.
These supplements provide EPA and DHA and are mercury-free. Many contain fish oil, but mercury is not fat soluble, so it’s not in the oil. Omega-3 supplements that are derived from algae rather than fish have no fishy aftertaste and are appropriate for vegetarians.
Ask your healthcare provider about the types of supplements available and the amounts that would be suitable for you, based on your diet and the other supplements you take. (If you’ve begun taking prenatal vitamins, check the label. Some contain DHA.)
Note: Some women turn to cod liver oil as a source of omega-3s. If you go this route, check the label and make sure you’re not exceeding the recommended level of vitamin A for pregnant women. (Vitamin A can be toxic at high doses.) You should also make sure that the brand you choose filters the oil to eliminate toxins such as PCBs.
How Can I Tell Whether I Have High Levels Of Mercury In My Body?
There are tests that can detect the mercury in your blood or in a hair sample, but they aren’t routinely recommended. If you’re concerned, talk with your healthcare provider about the best course of action. And pay particular attention at the fish counter.
Question – Should I stop drinking before I start trying to conceive?
Answer – Yes. A baby develops rapidly during the first weeks of pregnancy, even before the mother-to-be knows that she’s expecting. Some research shows that even a moderate level of alcohol can increase the chance of a miscarriage.
Experts haven’t yet defined a safe level of alcohol for women who are pregnant nor do they know whether or how babies differ in their sensitivity and reaction to alcohol. But because the harmful effects of alcohol during pregnancy are well known, women trying to conceive and those already pregnant should probably play it safe and avoid all alcoholic beverages.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s most important that you don’t drink during the second half of your cycle, after you’ve ovulated, because that’s when you might be pregnant.
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