Essential Health Info

Conception and Pregnancy- Healthy Nutrients & Behaviors

conception and pregnancy

Before a couple decides to go through conception and pregnancy, good nutrition and healthy lifestyles are good to obtain.  Most people are aware of a few things both men and women should be doing before deciding to conceive.  However, did you know men need to have a diet full of specific minerals?  Also, did you know women need to consume less caffeine when trying to get pregnant and carrying a baby?  Both men and women must bring their best and healthiest body to the field before pregnancy.  This does not guarantee an overall healthy baby, but it makes the process of carrying, delivering, and growing a healthy baby in the long run. It helps each parent overcome the overwhelming stress that is placed on the body as well.

Conception and Pregnancy- Healthy Diet & Lifestyles for Men

The biggest part a man plays before pregnancy is determined by his sperm health.  According to Blake, men’s diet and lifestyle affect the number and mobility of sperms (Blake, 2019, pp. 530).  Most people know that the dangerous habits are smoking cigarettes, alcohol, and drug abuse.  However, did you know that the quality of sleep mixed with dietary habits and obesity greatly affect their sperm (pp. 530)?  Any of these unhealthy habits will decrease the production and function of sperm (pp. 530).  Therefore, men should halt smoking and unhealthy drug usage.  Also, they should obtain a healthy weight and beneficial nutrition that can promote conception and pregnancy.

Nutrition is an important aspect to conception and pregnancy.  Men should have an adequate amount of these minerals:

  • zinc
  • folate

Also men should consume vitamins E, C, and carotenoids obtained from fruits and vegetables.  A healthy diet will consist of grains and meats that will not cause issues for their gut.  Above all, men should avoid high saturated fats and trans fats, especially, caffeine.  Remember, caffeine is a stimulant to your central nervous system.  It can cause a variety of adverse effects such as anxiety, insomnia, abnormal heart rhythm, and even headaches.  For more information on caffeine, view https://medlineplus.gov/caffeine.html

Women’s Nutrition & Behaviors that Promote Conception and Pregnancy

Have you ever run a marathon race?  Or have you ever hiked several days during a week’s vacation in the mountains?  What is the first thing that may come to mind concerning training?  If it is food, then you are thinking right.  Committing to a marathon or several days of hiking does not begin on the day of the event.  Committing to something like this requires months of training as far out as a year.  The same concept is applied to conception and pregnancy.

Four Nutritional and Lifestyle Adjustments:  Healthy Weight

There are four nutritional and lifestyle adjustments women must make as far out before they decide to conceive.  The first one is obtaining a healthy weight.  This may be one of the toughest aspects a woman may decide to endure to have a healthy pregnancy.  A healthy weight will ensure a greenlight conception, uncomplicated pregnancy, and maybe an easier time breastfeeding.  On the dark side, if a woman has a troubling weight issue such as underweight, overweight, and obesity, then she may have a harder time getting pregnant.  This can be related to a missing menstrual cycle.  If she does get pregnant, then she has an increased risk for fetal loss and a variety of health problems than can affect the baby (pp. 531).

Consume Folic Aid

Folic acid is the synthetic form of a B vitamin called folate (pp. 531).  Folic acid and folate are needed to create new cells that will help the embryo develop properly throughout the pregnancy (pp. 531).  Folic acid helps the following:

  • Reduces the risk of neural tube defects (NTDS)

NTDS include spina bifida, which can occur in early pregnancy even when a women may or may not know she is pregnant.  Health experts recommend that all women capable of becoming pregnant should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily from vitamins or  foods to ensure a healthy pregnancy (pp. 531).

Consume Moderate Fish & Caffeine

There are types of fish that can be helpful and harmful for women who want to become pregnant.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that women who want to become pregnant should avoid fish with high amounts of methylmercury (pp. 531).  This is a type of mercury at room temperature sometimes called quicksilver.  Simply, it is a liquid metal.  Adverse effects of methylmercury are neurological impairment.  According to Blake, it can be harmful to the fetus’s developing nervous system, especially during the first trimester (pp. 531).  A few fish choices you might want to avoid are (pp. 176):

  • King Mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish (Gulf of Mexico)
  • Tuna, bigeye

Caffeine is another adverse effect for women who want to become pregnant.  Some research suggests that consuming 500 milligrams or more may delay conception (pp. 531).  Even for women who are pregnant, caffeine can cross the placenta making it dangerous for the baby’s development.  Also, high amounts of caffeine contribute to miscarriage as well.  Women who want to conceive should consume fewer than 200 mg of caffeine per day.  

Quit Cigarette Smoking & Other Toxic Substances

Most people know this fact.  Smoking will increase the risk of infertility or prolonging conception.  Also, women who smoke will face the difficulty of quitting once they are pregnant.  Also, smoking marijuana can reduce fertility for both men and women according to the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service (pp. 532).

Alcohol can have severe adverse effects on fetus development as well as after having a child.  Drinking alcohol can affect the embryo within weeks of conception even before women know they are pregnant (pp. 532).  Some adverse effects are abnormal facial features once the child is born.  Also, a child can have a low birthweight and behavioral problems.  If this happens, the baby will have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) that will guarantee severe mental and physical problems throughout their life.

Summary

Good nutrition and healthy lifestyles are integral for men and women.  Conception and pregnancy are important processes that need several months of preparation ahead of time.  Consider what a healthy baby might be like.  Do you want your baby to develop well throughout the pregnancy?  Does healthy cognitive and physical attributes have substantial importance to you?  If so, then talk with your partner and your doctor before deciding to get pregnant.  The amount of time and preparation you spend on obtaining good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are worth it!

Author:  Jamie Moore Sam Houston State University Pre-Nursing

References

Blake, J. S. (2019). Nutrition & You (5th Edition) (5th ed.). Pearson.

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