(1) Smoking : Smoking has negative consequences, even prior to pregnancy. Before pregnancy, smokers, whether women or men, have a 60% relatively higher chance for subfertility. For women, the age of menopause can be advanced by 1-4 years, which is significant as it also advances the age at which a women may experience the end of her fertility. For men, smoking has been associated with a reduction in sperm concentration, motility and morphology. Together, couples who smoke may require up to twice the number of fertility treatments when compared to nonsmokers. Smokers also have an increased risk for miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.
(2) Alcohol : Several studies have outlined the negative impact regular drinking has on chances for conception, be it natural or following fertility treatment. Higher daily alcohol consumption (2 or more drinks per day) has been associated with a 60% relatively higher chance for subfertility. However, several studies have reported negative impacts (lower success with fertility treatment) with 4-8 drinks/week. Although the definition of high consumption has varied in the general and pre-conception population, we should always remember that there is no “safe” level of alcohol consumption when planning for pregnancy.
(3) Caffeine : High caffeine consumption (>500 mgday) has been associated with an increased risk for subfertility, but even >200 mg/day may increase the risk for miscarriage, making the per cycle chances for having a healthy pregnancy decrease relatively by 45%. Beware however, that different types have different levels For comparison, a standard eight ounce cup of coffee contains approximately 80-95mg of caffeine, whereas a shot of espresso has 64 mg.
(4) Diet : Diet has the greatest impact on women who are obese and who have ovulatory dysfunction as a result; for these women, there is evidence that diet will help with fertility. There is little evidence that dietary variations (like all vegeterian diets, etc) have a significant impact on fertility, and although some research has explored identifying the ideal “IVF diet,” a ‘gold standard’ or consensus has never been determined. However, most fertility experts recommend cutting down (and hopefully entirely eliminating) processed foods, and sticking to a diet full of fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Absolute modifications to diet during IVF and especially following transfer, is limiting high mercury containing foods, as this not only is the recommendation for pregnancy, but has also been associated with subfertility, and taking at least 800 mcg of folic acid, to prevent neural tube defects.
(5) Mindfulness/Stress : Results of studies investigating perceived stress with outcomes from fertility treatment are widely varied. However, it is no surprise that many couples experience emotional stress while on their journey to start their family, and this can certainly have negative impact on your overall emotional and mental well-being. Whether this is through mindful meditation, acupuncture, yoga, exercise, or just speaking with and having a good support system, it is always best to engage in activities that can minimize stress. This can be helpful not only in trying to conceive but in overall wellness.
Having ‘littles’ generally means big changes. Good habits take on a whole new meaning when it comes to parenting. Starting to think about and practice these habits early on can only help the transition.