8 Everyday Habits That Might Harm Your Fertility

Seemingly innocent behaviors could be interfering with your ability to get pregnant.

By Diana Kelly Levey
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If you're thinking about getting pregnant in the coming months, or have been trying for a few months with no luck, there may be some modifications you could make to improve your health and lifestyle. Consider whether these eight habits are prevalent in your life and how to change them to increase your chances of both getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy.

You're under a lot of stress.

If your workload feels insurmountable and your home responsibilities are piling up, you're probably going to feel stressed, which isn't necessarily the ideal situation for baby making. "When we're just talking about daily stress and whether that affects fertility or not, it's questionable," says Vitaly Kushnir, M.D, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist with Neway Fertility in New York. We all have some stress in our lives: "If you're stressed to the point where you're not having intercourse on a regular basis, that would probably affect your fertility," he says.

One study published in Fertility and Sterility found that women who had higher levels of alpha-amylase, a stress hormone, in their bodies were less likely to conceive during their fertile window. The researchers suggested that finding ways to relax might help a woman get pregnant. Find an activity that helps you feel less stressed and anxious, whether that's walking, yoga, meditation, or getting a massage. 

You're not sleeping well.

You've heard that poor sleep can impact your health, weight, and concentration. Although largely unknown, not getting quality zzz's might impact your fertility as well. "Someone who has very poor sleep habits, disturbed sleep, or is not getting enough sleep can certainly have [problems with] ovulation, and that can lead to fertility problems," says Dr. Kushnir. Build good sleep habits now and prioritize your bedtime to help your overall health and possibly your ovulation as well. Better yet, get to bed at least 20 minutes earlier and get your partner involved for some baby-making activities.

You're taking OTC pain medications.

When you have a headache or body ache, think twice before reaching for your go-to pain reliever. "I generally advise women to avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs] that can interfere with ovulation," suggests Dr. Kushnir. He suggests swapping an NSAID for acetaminophen if you need pain relief mid-cycle. Recent research suggests taking certain NSAIDs may decrease progesterone, a hormone needed for ovulation. However, ibuprofen, one of the most commonly used NSAIDs, was not used in this study.

You avoid fruits and vegetables like the plague.

You know that you'll have to make some diet modifications when pregnant, but it's never too early to start eating healthier and adding more wholesome foods and fruits and veggies to your meals. "Do what your grandma would do," suggests Dr. Kushnir. "That's a good rule for your general health." That means don't overeat junk food, curb the fast-food habit, and maintain a healthy weight.

Your coffee habit is super-sized.

Some data that showed pregnant women who had a high caffeine intake had more miscarriages. "It's probably not a strong association, and I'm not even sure if there's a positive relationship there," says Dr. Kushnir. "Whether the caffeine caused the women to miscarry or because the women who are drinking more caffeine may have other problems, like a more stressful life or are working much more, maybe that's what led to the higher risk for miscarriage." He suggests being cautious about how you interpret these studies since they're often showing associations, not concrete truths. That being said, other research from the National Institutes of Health showed an association between miscarriages if a woman and her partner drank more than two caffeinated beverages daily in the weeks leading up to conception. "My general advice as far as caffeine is 'don't overdo it.' One cup [a day] is probably okay," Dr. Kushnir suggests.

Your weight isn't in the normal range.

Though this isn't an 'everyday habit,' it maintaining a healthy weight is an important component of fertility. "Weight has a great effect on fertility," says Dr. Kushnir. "Women who are either underweight and undernourished or those who are overweight and overeating, both have lower fertility in general than women at a normal weight," says Dr. Kushnir. You want to be as close to normal weight as possible. Discuss your weight and eating plan with your doctor to determine if he or she recommends you make changes that could improve fertility. While you might be tempted to crash diet or exercise a ton to get to a healthier weight - stat - that isn't advised either, says Dr. Kushnir. "You could make things worse, not better, for your fertility." While it's generally a good idea to lose some weight if you're overweight, get a doctor's opinion about how much weight would be recommended and the best, safest ways to do it, he suggests.

You're drinking like you just turned 21.

"In women who are trying to become pregnant, I recommend cutting down alcohol," says Dr. Kushnir. "You don't have to eliminate it. Of course, during pregnancy, no amount of alcohol is safe because it can cause very severe birth anomalies and fetal alcohol syndrome and things like that." If you've missed your period and aren't sure if you're pregnant, take a pregnancy test before you drink, he advises. So go ahead and enjoy that glass of wine or two with your partner during your anniversary dinner, just don't drink the whole bottle by yourself.

You think your social cigarette isn't a big deal.

Smoking is very harmful to fertility, says Dr. Kushnir. In patients who are going through fertility treatment, there are several studies that show smokers have about half the chance of getting pregnant as those who are not smokers. If you are pregnant and smoke, those toxins can cause fetal growth restriction and less blood flow to the uterus, so the baby might not grow as much during pregnancy. "Avoid smoking if you're trying to get pregnant or if you're pregnant," says Dr. Kushnir. "And be aware that second-hand smoke can cause those problems as well."

Related:

What You Need to Know About Ovulation

The Ultimate Guide to Getting More Sleep

Healthy Carbs to Eat for Weight Loss

Article written by Diana Kelly Levey