Pregnancy and health
Both partners can benefit from a regime of healthy living.
- Eat a well-balanced diet - A lack of essential nutrients can weaken the body and the immune system, so eat well and don't undertake any drastic diets. In particular, avoid foods high in Vitamin A, as large amounts may be harmful to the fetus; and increase your Vitamin D intake during pregnancy, as it is used to help the body absorb calcium.
- Exercise in moderation - We recommend brisk walks, and exercises that strengthen the back, buttocks, abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Avoid strenuous exercise following procedures, and don't exercise if it causes discomfort or your doctor advises against it.
- Drink plenty of water - Aim for 10 to 12 glasses a day. Keep a water bottle handy and take regular sips throughout the day.
- Avoid large amounts of caffeine - Try to limit yourself to two or three cups of coffee or tea per day. Remember that there is also caffeine in cola and chocolate.
- Quit smoking - There are negative consequences of smoking for couples with low fertility. Drop this dangerous habit.
- Reduce alcohol consumption - drinking to excess is harmful to both you and your fetus. No safe level of alcohol consumption has been decided for pregnancy, and many people prefer to avoid alcohol altogether. Be sure to avoid spirits, and don't drink more than two glasses of wine or beer at any one time. Read Prof Jansen's thoughts on alcohol and fertility.
- Discuss any medication or nutritional supplements with your doctor - including over-the-counter drugs. Choose paracetamol for pain relief or fever, and avoid aspirin-based drugs as they may contribute to bleeding. Check with your doctor before you take antibiotics.
- Protect yourself from infection - Make sure all meat, eggs and fish is well cooked. When reheating food, ensure it is heated through. Avoid unpasteurised foods including some soft cheeses, pâté, and products containing raw eggs (some mayonnaises). Wash fruit and salad. When gardening, wear gloves. Avoid animal waste in particular, contact with cat litter can cause an infection called toxoplasmosis. Wash hands after contact with animals.
- Avoid chemicals - Stay away from paints, solvents, etc. Do not have your house fumigated while you are there.
- Avoid overheating - Saunas and spas, while relaxing, can cause the body to overheat, which can be unhealthy.
- Relax - a hobby or meditation class can be a real stress buster.
- Take folic acid - it encourages healthy growth of cells in the first few weeks of pregnancy, reducing the incidence of neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. We recommend you take two 500mcg tablets per day for at least one month before embryo transfer and continue until at least the twelfth week of pregnancy.
- Pay attention to your diet and exercise habits - a man's sperm takes months to develop before ejaculation. Any bad habits that can affect sperm production can affect treatment for months.
- Staying away from chemicals and environmental toxins - these can include paint, adhesives, printing inks and pesticides.
- Quit smoking - tobacco and marijuana are particularly noxious to developing sperm. They should be avoided.
- Check with your doctor before taking medications - Some drugs can also decrease or eliminate sperm production. Many of those commonly taken for high blood pressure or peptic ulcers can lower sperm count. Sulfasalazine, taken for colitis and anabolic steroids can temporarily cause complete absence of sperm. Chemotherapy drugs can permanently eliminate sperm production.