Trying to get pregnant is certainly one decision that will change the entire course of your life. The prospect of bringing another human being into the world, while extremely joyful for some folks, can be equally daunting for others. From financial concerns to health considerations to the project of childproofing the house, people planning on growing their families have their hands full with all kinds of tasks.
If you’re considering starting a family, you’re probably curious as to what you should be doing during the period when you’re trying to conceive. You might be wondering what foods you should stock up on, how to adjust your exercise regimen, and if you should be upping your supplement game. Of course, before doing anything different, talk to your doctor or medical professional.
As for what you should steer clear of if you and your partner are trying to get pregnant? As it turns out, there are a lot of things you should definitely skip out on. We talked to the experts, and here’s what they say you should avoid while you’re trying to conceive.
If you're trying to get pregnant, don't smoke tobacco products
The adverse health impacts caused by smoking cigarettes are fairly well-known in the United States. But while smoking rates are on the decline, plenty of people still choose to light up, according to the CDC.
If you’re one of the folks who haven’t quite kicked the habit, now is the time if you’re trying to get pregnant, says Dr. Kecia Gaither, a double board-certified physician in OB/GYN and maternal fetal medicine. “Tobacco abuse causes damage directly to the placenta, secondary to the chemicals used to ‘cure the tobacco,'” she told The List. “Additionally, smoking produces carbon monoxide, which displaces oxygen in the mother’s blood stream, which the fetus needs to grow and oxygenate itself properly.” Plus, smoking decreases your fertility, as noted by Cleveland Clinic.
If you think that vaping is a safe alternative, unfortunately that’s not the case, according to Science Daily. This activity can reportedly impair fertility and pregnancy outcomes, so it’s best to focus on cessation altogether. Wondering what to expect when you stop? Here’s what happens to your body when you quit smoking.
Don't ignore your weight if you're trying to get pregnant
One thing that might not be obvious for couples trying to get pregnant is that your weight can have a significant effect on your efforts, as noted by registered dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller. “If you are trying to conceive, this is a great time to strive for a healthy weight, whether you need to lose weight or gain weight to achieve it,” she explained to The List. “A healthy weight can be measured by one’s body mass index (BMI).”
That doesn’t mean that your BMI is the be-all, end-all when trying to get pregnant, but it can be helpful. “While BMI does have its drawbacks, it can be used as a tool to measure how your weight is trending,” Kostro Miller continued. “Strive for a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 as this is considered a healthy weight.” So if your BMI is higher than 24.9 or lower than 18.5, you may want to consult with a dietitian, as BMIs in these ranges can potentially decrease your fertility, disrupt your menstrual cycle, and effect your hormone levels.
When trying to get pregnant, don't let stress get the best of you
If you’re trying to get pregnant, you’ve probably heard a comment or two that you must be having a ton of fun in the bedroom. But for some couples, regular intimacy may be quite stressful given the goal-oriented aspect of it. “The emotional and psychological burden of trying to ‘time’ sexual intercourse is fraught with problems which cause unnecessary stress for the couple,” says Dr. David Diaz, a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility expert. “Ultimately it can lead to marital strife when the lovemaking process becomes a chore instead of being pleasurable.” So don’t get too crazy with your planning, as you want to be able to enjoy yourselves.
Stressing out in general isn’t good for your fertility either, according to the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. “It is clear that psychological interventions for women with infertility have the potential to decrease anxiety and depression and may well lead to significantly higher pregnancy rates,” the 2018 article read. So if you’re feeling super anxious, check in with your doctor, or start a meditation practice to see if it helps.
If you're trying to get pregnant, don't over-exercise
Getting regular exercise is a healthy activity for most people, according to the CDC, as it can help you age well and lessen your risk of developing diseases. That’s also the case for most pregnant people as well, as noted by Mayo Clinic.
However, the problem arises not with a specific exercise, but over-exercising in general. That’s something you should avoid if you’re trying to get pregnant, says certified personal trainer Sara Haley. “My recommendation would be to look at your workout schedule and see what you are doing too much of,” she shared with The List. “Are you a cardio junkie? Do you lift heavy multiple days of the week?” If so, check in with your doctor or fitness coach to make sure you’re not overdoing it.
Haley says it’s also important to treat your body as though you have already conceived as well. “Ask yourself, ‘Would I work out like this if I were pregnant?'” she continued. “If you want to be pregnant, start exercising like you are.”
Avoid smoking cannabis if you're trying to get pregnant
Cannabis use is on the rise among adults in the United States, thanks to legalization for medicinal and recreational purposes, according to Science Daily. But if you’re a regular marijuana smoker who’s trying to get pregnant, you should stop smoking, says reproductive endocrinologist and fertility expert Dr. David Diaz. “Whether smoking tobacco or marijuana, excessive use of either can lead to a decrease in the couple’s fertility,” he explained to The List. “Marijuana can lead to low sperm motility and diminished libido, thereby reducing lovemaking.” And that’s the last thing you need if you’re trying to have a baby!
Don’t go reaching for the edibles, tinctures, or patches either, as they can harm your unborn baby, according to the CDC. Specifically, THC has been shown to cause low birth weight and slow down development, as well as increase the baby’s risk of learning disorders later in life. So, total cessation is the way to go.
Trying to get pregnant? Don't eat trans fats
It should come as no surprise that a healthy diet is important when you’re pregnant. But it’s also super important when you’re trying to conceive, as what you eat can have a significant impact on your fertility. That’s what registered dietitian Kendra Tolbert told Glamour magazine, calling out trans fats — found in fried foods, salty snacks, and some baked goods — as one of the least optimal foods to eat as you work to bring a baby into being.
Specifically, trans fats can cause inflammation and insulin resistance, which in turn can lower your fertility. They can also damage your blood vessels, which can hinder the nutrients you need from getting to your reproductive system. Even men should avoid trans fats, as they can lower sperm quality and count!
That being said, you don’t have to avoid all fats when you’re trying to get pregnant, as the healthy fat found in wild salmon, avocados, and olive oil, for example, are good for fertility, according to U.S. News & World Report. Also, opt for full-fat dairy as opposed to reduced fat, but avoid unpasteurized soft cheeses. Low-fat dairy products may contain androgens, and soft cheeses could contain listeria.
Avoid fad dieting if you're trying to get pregnant
When you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s important to avoid any fad dieting, even if you’re trying to get to a healthier body weight. “Restrictive diets are not only difficult and not science-based, but they can also put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies,” says registered dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller. “Being nutrient deficient can have a huge impact on your overall health and the health of a small fetus.” That’s especially true when it comes to nutrients like folic acid, which are super critical for the fetus in the earliest stages of pregnancy.
So rather than try out juice cleansing or the keto diet, or eschewing real food in favor of protein shakes, Kostro Miller says to focus instead on eating a healthy and well-rounded diet. “Most women even need special supplementation right around the time of conception,” she continued. “So talk to your doctor about when and what supplements you will need to take.”
Avoid these animal products if you're trying to get pregnant
While meat and fish are a good source of protein and can be part of a healthy diet, if you’re trying to get pregnant, there are some foods that you should avoid, according to registered dietitian Suzanne Fisher. For one, she told Glamour magazine that it’s not a good idea to eat deli meats, as they are vulnerable to listeria — but if you just can’t miss out on your turkey sandwich, heat it up until it’s steaming. Fisher also recommends abstaining from raw meats and seafood, as well as eggs, as they can contain bacteria that can infect the fetus via the placenta. So save the sushi for later.
If you’re not a meat eater to begin with, there’s some good news for you! According to a study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, replacing some of your meat, fish, and eggs with plant-based proteins is linked to reduced infertility risk. Talk to your doctor about making any dietary changes, of course, but it looks like science sided with vegetarians here.
If you're trying to get pregnant, don't skip out on these vaccines
One concern you may have while trying to get pregnant is vaccination, one of the most important defenses we have against disease, according to the CDC. Indeed there are some best practices to follow to ensure your safety, says board-certified pediatrician Dr. Vincent Iannelli. “If you are trying to get pregnant, you are hopefully already fully vaccinated and protected,” he explained to The List. “At this time, just as when you are pregnant, some routine vaccines are contraindicated.” This includes vaccines for HPV; measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); and chickenpox.
Timing is also an issue when it comes to vaccination and conception, as noted by Iannelli. “Other vaccines should be delayed until you are actually pregnant, including Tdap and your flu shot,” he continued. He added that, if needed, any other vaccine that’s kosher during pregnancy is also safe to receive while trying to conceive. As always, talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns.
Skip the soda if you're trying to get pregnant
It might not seem obvious, but, if you’re trying to conceive, you might want to ditch drinking soda — either regular or diet — as noted by registered dietitian Kendra Tolbert. “We think it’s a combination of the inflammation and metabolic changes caused by too much blood-sugar-spiking sweeteners and gut-bacteria-changing artificial sweeteners,” she explained in an interview with Glamour.
As if you needed more motivation to quit the fizzy drinks, many of them come in containers that contain BPA, which can increase your chances of having a miscarriage, according to CNN.
As far as sugar in general is concerned, which is found in many juices and sodas, you’d be wise to cut back your consumption of the stuff when trying to get pregnant. As registered dietitian Lily Nichols told U.S. News & World Report, spiking your blood sugar decreases your fertility. Plus sugar can cause weight gain, which may impact your fertility if you’re not at a healthy weight.
Cut down on your caffeine when you're trying to get pregnant
Mmm, coffee. Who doesn’t love that first steamy sip first thing in the morning? The good news if you’re trying to conceive is you don’t have to completely jettison your morning caffeine habit, as Mayo Clinic says it’s safe to have two cups every day — as long as the serving is six to eight ounces. If you stick to that portion, which is roughly 200 milligrams of caffeine, there won’t be a negative effect on your fertility.
However, if you drink too much caffeine while trying to get pregnant, it might take you a lot longer to achieve your goal. In fact, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, drinking more than 500 milligrams of caffeine every day can delay conception for up to 9.5 months! Plus drinking too much caffeine has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, as noted by the European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology. So it’s probably best to lay off the energy drinks!
Don't skimp on your sleep if you're trying to get pregnant
While it’s often said that you’re eating for two when you’re pregnant, if you’re trying to conceive, you need to think like you’re sleeping for two, says psychologist Dr. Melissa Burkley. “A study on sleep issues found that women who suffer from insomnia are four times more likely to struggle with fertility compared to their well-rested sisters,” she penned in an article in Psychology Today. “That’s a whopping 400 [percent] increase!”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, too, as getting sufficient rest is vital for every step of the reproductive process. Poor sleep causes menstrual irregularities and lower levels of the hormone FSH, both of which can decrease your odds of getting pregnant. It also can lead to pregnancy issues like longer labor, preterm delivery, increased chances of C-section delivery, and increased risk of miscarriage. So don’t skimp on your shuteye!
Finally, if you work the night shift, see if you can switch to the day shift if you’re trying to get pregnant. Night shift workers are especially vulnerable to losing sleep.
Don't ingest too much mercury if you're trying to get pregnant
If you’re a sushi nut, chances are you love chowing down a plate of spicy tuna rolls. Or perhaps you prefer your tuna seared on each side with a hint of lemon and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Unfortunately, either way, if you’re trying to conceive, it’s best to avoid tuna and other fish high in mercury. For one, mercury can decrease fertility, according to the journal Reproductive Toxicology.
It doesn’t stop there, as mercury can build up in your body and potentially harm the fetus, as noted by registered dietitian Suzanne Fisher. “The fetal nervous system is being formed before most women even know they are pregnant,” she revealed in an interview with Glamour.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t eat fish whatsoever when you’re trying to get pregnant — thank goodness! Just be sure to opt for low-mercury fish like flounder, sole, canned sardines, or mussels, to name a few.
Don't skip breakfast when trying to get pregnant
There’s merit to the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially if you’re trying to get pregnant. That’s especially the case if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can be a major factor when it comes to infertility.
According to a 2013 study in the journal Clinical Science, women with PCOS who ate a large breakfast saw improvement in their hormonal health. Additionally, for women who were categorized as having a “normal” weight, eating the majority of their daily calories in the morning reduced both insulin and testosterone levels, both of which can cause infertility. Furthermore, these women were shown to ovulate more than women who ate a smaller breakfast and a larger dinner.
There is one caveat, which is you should decrease the size of your other meals if you increase your breakfast size in order to avoid weight gain.
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