Smoking and Alcohol When Trying to Conceive

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.

Creating a Healthy Environment for Conception

You know the obvious no-no’s like smoking and excessive drinking when trying to conceive. But have you considered the hidden factors that could be sabotaging your efforts? Let’s dive into some often-overlooked areas to create the healthiest possible environment for baby-making.

Ditch the Couch Potato Lifestyle

Sure, you hit the gym occasionally. But a sedentary lifestyle can seriously undermine fertility in both partners. Lack of exercise disrupts hormone balance and blood flow – two vital elements for a successful pregnancy. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days. Walking, swimming, or cycling are excellent low-impact options.

Stress is a Buzz-Kill

We get it – trying to conceive can be stressful AF. But excessive stress hormones like cortisol can mess with ovulation and sperm production. Find healthy ways to relax and de-stress, whether it’s meditation, yoga, or simply scheduling weekly massage sessions. A calmer mind fosters a more welcoming uterus.

Watch Your Weight

Being overweight or underweight can throw your hormones out of whack and decrease fertility. Strive for a balanced diet and maintain a healthy BMI range. And fellas, that beer gut could be cramping your fertility style too. Excess weight can disrupt testosterone production and sperm health.

Check Your Meds

Over-the-counter painkillers, antidepressants, and even common antibiotics can sometimes interfere with conception. Talk to your doctor about any medication you’re taking and explore safer alternatives during your baby-making months.

Reconsider the Lube

While lubrication can enhance bedroom fun, many mainstream personal lubricants contain ingredients that can immobilize sperm. Opt for fertility-friendly lubes or use a smidgen of coconut oil instead.

The key is nurturing your body and minimizing exposure to anything that could impair fertility. With some simple lifestyle tweaks and a dash of patience, you’ll boost your chances of welcoming that long-awaited positive pregnancy test.

Photo Credit: “284-013” (CC BY 2.0) by Jenni Lane

This post first appeared in 2013 and has been updated since.

Zoom Baby is a leading supplier of Pregnancy Tests and Ovulation Test Kits

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