When preparing for pregnancy, it's important for both partners to think about their overall health. A healthy lifestyle can improve your fertility and can also increase your chances of successful treatment.
How can I improve my health and fitness before my treatment?
This is a commonly asked question so we have put together some advice for both men and women to help you improve your health and fitness, particularly when preparing for pregnancy.
1. Stop Smoking
We offer a smoking cessation programme as part of our wellness services.
For additional information: NHS smoking helpline – 0800 169 0169 / www.quitsmokinguk.com
If you need help to give up smoking try the following for support:
- ‘Quitline’ on 0800 002 2000
- ‘Fag Ends’ on 0151 261 0202
- Your GP or Practice Nurse
2. Maintain a healthy body weight
If you need help achieving your ideal weight we can arrange for you to see our resident dietitian.
NB: Healthy weight loss is a slow gradual process. As you wait for your treatment, use this time wisely. A loss of 1-2 lb. (0.5-1.0 kg) per week is recommended.
3. Take regular exercise
4. Reduce alcohol intake
5. Drink plenty of water/avoid caffeine
6. Follow a healthy eating plan
Here are some tips to help you achieve the recommended proportions:
Eat More Fruit and Vegetables
- Fruit and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals
- Aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- A portion equals:
- 1 apple, pear, banana
- 1 slice of melon or pineapple
- 2 plums or satsumas
- 1 cup of strawberries/raspberries
- 2 tablespoonfuls of vegetables (raw, cooked, frozen or canned)
- 1 dessert bowl of salad
- A portion equals:
- If you are trying to lose weight fruit makes an excellent snack or dessert
- Choose fresh, frozen or tinned (avoid fruit tinned in syrup)
Fill up on starchy foods
- This includes bread, cereals and potatoes
- Try wholegrain varieties where possible e.g. wholemeal bread, bran flakes etc.
- These are higher in vitamins and minerals and also help to fill you up, so you are less tempted to snack between meals
Meat, Fish and Alternatives
- These foods are important for protein and iron as well as other nutrients
- Vegetarians should include pulses, beans or nuts to replace meat or fish
- Take care with fat content of meat or fish, especially if trying to reduce your weight
- Milk, cheese and yoghurt are important for calcium, protein and other nutrients
- Choose low fat varieties as much as possible, for example, skimmed milk, cottage cheese or low fat yoghurt (especially if trying to lose weight)
- Low fat varieties have as much calcium as the regular versions
- Many snack and convenience foods contain lots of fat and sugar e.g. sweets, chocolate, biscuits, burgers, cakes, crisps and pastries
- They are low in vitamins and minerals and high in calories, so should only be eaten occasionally
- Added fats e.g. butter, oils and margarine should be used sparingly
Take Folic Acid
- It is strongly recommended that women take 400mcg of folic acid per day, 3 months before pregnancy and until 12 weeks after you conceive
- Good dietary sources of folic acid include fortified breakfast cereals, fortified bread, sprouts, spinach, Bovril and oranges
Do I need to take any other supplements?
Not necessarily, but please seek advice from us before taking any other vitamin supplements or herbal remedies.
Want to know more?
- We can arrange for you to see our resident Nutritionist
- Alternatively, you can contact the ‘Eating for Pregnancy’ Helpline on: (0114) 242 4084
7. Improving sperm quality
The Effect of Heat
The normal activity of the sperm is affected by heat. Intermittent overheating of the testes leads to a reduction in sperm production and/or a decrease in sperm activity (motility). The testes are situated in the scrotum mainly because it is cooler there than inside the body cavity. The testes have their own heat regulating mechanism so that in cold conditions the scrotum contracts, pulling the testes closer to the body, whereas in hot conditions the testes hang much lower. Overheating of the testes can be caused in various ways:
- Soaking in hot baths
- Working in a high environmental temperature
- Jacuzzis or saunas
- Wearing tight or support underwear
In addition, illness associated with fever temporarily reduces fertility.
Remember that sperm takes about 70 days to develop, thus any episode of testicular overheating could affect your fertility for over two months.
To improve your fertility you should:
- Avoid hot baths, jacuzzis and saunas and change to having showers or lukewarm baths
- Wear non-support, non-insulating cotton boxer shorts.
There is some evidence to suggest that in certain situations taking zinc and vitamin E can improve sperm quality.
The use of certain medications, including anabolic steroids or recreational drugs such as marijuana can seriously affect your sperm quality. If you are taking any medication please discuss this with us.
8. Coping with stress
We know from couples undergoing fertility treatment that their experience can be an extremely stressful one. This is understandable, especially if a couple believe that their future happiness depends upon a successful treatment outcome. Stress in such a situation is unavoidable. However, it is not stress itself that causes problems but the way in which an individual responds to it.
Without positive ways of dealing with stress a couple undergoing fertility treatment may experience some very negative symptoms such as:
- Fatigue – constant lack of energy
- Inability to concentrate for long
- Mood swings
We want to help couples avoid the distress such symptoms bring about. For this reason we recommend that you give some thought now as to the coping mechanisms you currently employ to deal with stress. Are they positive and likely to get you through treatment in good shape? Or, are they negative and therefore likely to make the situation worse?
Here are some ways of coping positively with stress that some couples have found helpful:
- Physical exercise – swimming, running etc.
- Learning how to relax – using tapes, books, videos
- Stress management courses – night school, information from GP's, libraries etc.
- Support – building your own network using friends, family, counsellors
Counselling is available, during any stage of your treatment journey should you require it. For further information or to arrange an appointment please speak to any of our staff.
We hope your have found this useful. The information provided here is however not intended to replace verbal communication with medical or nursing staff.
Please speak to us on 01625 617 316 about any specific queries or concerns you may have.