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What not to do while trying to conceive

Trying to conceive can be a very different process for each individual couple - some will conceive very quickly, while for others, it can take a little more time. If you’re currently trying to have a baby with your partner, there may be some things to avoid to make conception as stress-free as possible. Here are eight things that you shouldn’t do.

1. Lose or gain a lot of weight

Losing or gaining a lot of weight can put an extra strain on your body and may even cause a change in your hormones. When this happens, you might experience irregular periods or even miss one altogether. A missed period means that your ovaries haven’t released an egg that month, making it impossible to get pregnant.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to maintain a healthy weight before and during pregnancy. Therefore, if you’re starting to think about trying to conceive and are currently overweight, you may wish to consider eating more healthily and doing some light exercise. This means that when you do decide to get pregnant, you won’t be continuously dieting or worried about your weight. Avoid fad diets, over exercising and undereating as these things can all put extra stress on your body. 

Those who are underweight can have issues with conception too, so you should try to put some weight on if you’re struggling to conceive. This doesn’t mean eating lots of fatty, processed or sugary foods. Instead, try to up the amount of snacks you have in a day, or increase your calories by adding slightly more food to your plate. 


2. Do too much exercise

Very intense exercise, or even exercising for four to five hours a week, can cause hormonal changes that will also affect whether your body releases an egg or not. For this reason, it’s not a good time to decide to run a marathon, for example, when you and your partner are trying to conceive. Where possible, try to keep the exercise light and stick to a couple of times a week. Yoga, a brisk walk or a quick swim could be beneficial when trying to get pregnant, but heavy-hitting classes, like circuits or weight training, may be best avoided.


3. Smoke

It’s been clear for years that smoking can have a negative impact on your general health, but smoking when trying to conceive, whether you’re a man or woman, can affect your chances of conception.

In women, smoking can prematurely age the ovaries, which may lead to early menopause and and increased risk of infertility. Therefore, trying to conceive in your 30s or 40s may be more difficult than if you hadn’t been a smoker.

Smoking can also have an effect on the unborn baby if you continue to smoke throughout your pregnancy, potentially increasing the risk of premature birth, lung defects and low birth weight.

For men, there’s some research that shows smoking can result in low sperm motility, as well as decreasing the number of sperm a man produces. Nicotine can alter the shape of the sperm so they no longer have the typical speared head. This makes it harder for them to penetrate the egg for fertilisation to occur, which is why smokers may have a harder time conceiving.


4. Have an unhealthy diet

A balanced, healthy diet is always recommended, but particularly so when you’re trying to conceive. Therefore, when you’re trying for a baby, it might be a good time to re-evaluate your diet and think about what you can reduce and remove.

Foods to potentially be avoided or minimised include processed meats, sugary treats and fried food. If you will struggle to cut these out altogether, try cutting down on how often you eat them or how much you eat.

Instead, you should try to eat a range of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and plenty of protein. Wholegrain, high-fibre foods are important, such as wholemeal bread and brown rice, and should replace their white equivalents (white bread and rice), and good ‘healthy’ fats include avocado, nuts and oily fish. 

For men, certain foods can help to boost sperm count and motility, including oranges, eggs, oily fish, tomatoes, sprouts and bananas. 


5. Drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol

It may feel like trying to conceive means removing food and drink items that you love from your diet, but both alcohol and caffeine can have an impact on your unborn baby and may even increase your chance of a miscarriage when you are pregnant.

Caffeine can be associated with increased risk of infertility, so switching to decaf or even cutting it out altogether would be beneficial. Remember that tea contains caffeine too, as can some coffee shop hot chocolates. 

Why should a couple avoid alcohol when trying to conceive?

Alcohol can not only affect the baby, but also your fertility, so while it’s not imperative that you avoid it altogether, limiting your intake will only be beneficial. Once you are pregnant, it’s not advised that you drink alcohol at all, because it can affect your baby’s brain and nervous system. It’s generally advised that you cut it out while trying to conceive, just in case you do fall pregnant quickly and don’t expect it.


6. Stress or worry about the process

You might be anxious and excited about falling pregnant quickly, but it doesn’t always happen this way for everyone. The process can be complicated, from wondering whether you’re ovulating to speculating whether you’re pregnant before you miss a period. If it doesn’t happen straight away, or you’re worrying about getting pregnant, anxiety and stress can affect your chances of conceiving. While it’s much easier said than done, you should try to relax about the whole process and let nature take its course. 


7. Wear tight underwear

It’s an unusual one, but wearing tight underwear could actually reduce a man’s sperm count. The testicles are located outside of the body because the body’s average internal temperature is too hot for sperm to be produced. But tight clothing and underwear reduces the skin’s capability to breath and keeps the testicles closer to the skin. Both of these things could result in increased testicular temperature, reducing the production of healthy sperm. 


8. Use spermicide lubricants

If you’re using a lubricant during sex, you should check that you’re using fertility-safe varieties. Many lubricants contain spermicides that will inhibit sperm from reaching an egg, making it harder for you to conceive.

You can look for water-based lubricants instead of oil-based ones, and stick to the ones that mimic your body’s natural pH balance without affecting sperm. 


9. Abstain from sex

It may seem obvious, but in order to get pregnant, you and your partner need to be having regular sex, particularly around the time you’re ovulating. Some couples prefer to track when ovulation occurs so they know the best time to have sex, although this can be stressful. You can track ovulation by taking your basal body temperature (BBT) each day with an oral thermometer. 

If you’d prefer not to track such information, you should have sex with your partner every two to three days to ensure that when you do ovulate, the egg can be fertilised before it disintegrates or dies 24 hours later.

While you needn’t worry about sticking to this entire list, they are points you should be mindful of during your conception journey, and little changes here and there can add up. The most important thing is to ensure both you and your partner are happy and healthy.