Most pregnant women are aware of the things they shouldn’t do when they’re already pregnant; things like drinking alcohol, smoking, drinking caffeine, and so on. But what are the do’s and don’ts for women who are trying to conceive? Healthcare professionals will always suggest that couples trying to conceive make healthy choices right now, because it really does matter what you do and don’t do before conceiving. Reducing stress is very important, as is consuming a healthy diet, getting plenty of quality rest, and exercising regularly.
Getting pregnant is not out of your control; there are many things a couple trying to conceive can do to improve their chances of not only getting pregnant, but maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Avoiding drugs and alcohol and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise are all great choices for creating the best possible environment for a baby; however, recommendations do vary and there are a range of opinions about the dangers of some practices while trying to get pregnant. The purpose of this article is to help you make the best decisions for your specific situation, so let’s discuss the most common subjects of smoking and drinking alcohol.
The Dangers of Smoking When Trying to Conceive
Smoking when trying to conceive is probably the most obvious questionable habit, and in this regard we can’t ignore the many studies that have proven that women trying to conceive who smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day are likely to experience a noticeable decrease in fertility. In fact, experts believe that women who smoke just a few cigarettes a day are damaging their chances of conception. It’s believed that smoking leads to cervical changes, issues with fallopian tubes, damage to eggs, and a bigger risk of miscarriage. Studies also confirm that women who smoke whilst trying to conceive not only decrease their chances of getting pregnant, they create potentially dangerous risks for their baby after conception.
Both Partners Should Quit Smoking!
The website UpToDate states that around 23% of women over the age of 18 years are smokers. However, it’s not only the women who are at risk, because second-hand smoke can also damage fertility. In addition, it is now known that men who smoke damage their own fertility, which can lead to hormonal issues, lower sperm count and motility, and erectile dysfunction.
Any couple serious about trying to conceive a healthy baby should stop smoking altogether. Work together and create a plan to help each other in your goal to quit smoking, keeping in mind the ultimate goal of carrying and delivering a healthy baby.
The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke
A 2021 study by Virginia Commonwealth University concluded that no exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy is safe and that pregnant women need to avoid secondhand smoke completely. The study said that, for the first time, a concrete link could be identified between second-hand smoke and disease-related gene regulation in newborns.
This tells us that during early development, poor nutrition, stress, pollution, and cigarette smoke can be the fundamental cause of many adult diseases.
The Dangers of Drinking Alcohol and Trying to Conceive
There is no clear, concise information on the link between drinking alcohol and trying to conceive, but health practitioners will typically tell couples who are trying to conceive to give up drinking alcohol. Perhaps one reason for this advice is that a woman could still be drinking alcohol without realising that she’s already pregnant. What we do know is that consuming alcohol can lead to birth defects, so any couple trying to conceive should quit alcohol for the time being. On the other hand, other studies are unclear on the dangers of drinking alcohol while trying to conceive. Some studies suggest that women who quit drinking alcohol are more likely to get pregnant, while others suggest that women who drink on a moderate basis are more likely to conceive than women who don’t drink alcohol at all.
For men, heavy consumption of alcohol can reduce a man’s sex drive, cause impotence, negatively affect their sexual performance, and damage the quality of their sperm.
If you’re unsure which approach to alcohol you should take, we suggest the Better to Be Safe Than Sorry attitude and quit drinking all alcohol beverages while trying to conceive. It’s not forever! It’s so much easier for one person to stop drinking when their partner also stops. Going alcohol-free together will not only increase your chances of achieving a healthy pregnancy, it will also be good for the health of you and your baby.
It’s Your Journey, and Your Decision
For some couples the conception journey can take years, so it’s probably unrealistic to suggest that they quit drinking alcohol altogether, especially as time passes and they’re required to attend celebrations and special occasions. On the occasion when a woman unknowingly falls pregnant, doctors typically advise that one alcoholic drink won’t harm your baby. It’s up to the couple trying to conceive to make themselves aware of the facts, then make their own decision regarding alcohol intake. It may well be that one glass of wine relieves stress and relaxes the woman. Overall, though, the best choice for any couple trying to conceive is to live the healthiest lifestyle possible.
This post first appeared in 2013 and has been updated since.