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May is Pregnancy Awareness Month

a blog by Kim Griffiths, May 3, 2013

The goal of fertility treatment is to become pregnant, so it seems like a no-brainer to discuss Pregnancy Awareness Month and how to best optimize your body for conception and pregnancy.

Maintaining a healthy balance of diet and exercise, getting the appropriate vitamins, and kicking bad habits are just a few of the ways women should be working toward good health. By raising awareness of the potential risks to a woman pregnant after infertility treatment, fertility patients can make the right decisions for getting their body baby-ready.

Carrie Wambach, M.D. of Southern California Reproductive Center in Beverly Hills, California, encourages fertility patients to be mindful of things that may impact their ability to get pregnant and carry a healthy pregnancy. Working with your fertility doctor to achieve balance is recommended. “Patients should also try to minimize things that effect egg quality, but not to the point of causing undue stress,” she advises.

Watch Your Weight: “A healthy weight is important not only to get pregnant but also for the duration of the pregnancy. Ideally, we like to see our patients at a body mass index (BMI) below 30. The reason for this is if you have a high BMI, you are more likely to have poor egg quality and impaired ovulation as well as increased risk of preterm labor, gestational diabetes, and pre-eclampsia,” Wambach says. Exercise is recommended, but women are discouraged from beginning any new and strenuous exercise routines during fertility treatment and pregnancy. Low impact exercise is the most recommended activity.

Take Your Vitamins: Fertility patients should begin taking a vitamin supplement, preferably a prenatal vitamin, about three months before they conceive, including 1mg of Folic Acid (most prenatal supplements contain 800mcg which is acceptable). Women planning to become pregnant should also address vitamin D deficiency by taking a supplement of 1000mg or more, depending on the level of deficiency.

Kick Bad Habits: Habits like cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are also detrimental to a woman’s fertility and pregnancy outcomes. “Smoking is one of the causes of early menopause and diminished egg quality and quantity in women. It is also bad for the fetus,” Wambach apprises. Fertility patients should discuss alcohol consumption with their fertility doctor. While some doctors believe an occasional alcoholic drink is fine, others advise patients to eliminate alcohol all together.

Minimize Caffeine Intake: Caffeine consumption should be limited to 330mg per day, which is the equivalent of one cup of coffee or two shots of espresso.

Fertility patients are at a slightly increased risk of pregnancy complications including preterm labor, small for gestational age babies, pre-eclampsia, and high blood pressure during pregnancy. However, these are believed to be underlying health risks that may have contributed to the patient’s infertility diagnosis, rather than caused by fertility treatment.

To monitor for health risks during pregnancy, fertility patients should have an ultrasound between six and seven weeks to check for fetal heart rate and number of fetuses per gestation. During the first trimester, a nuchal translucency (NT) scan and blood test are recommended to assess the risk of chromosomal abnormality, even in patients who opted for preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) of their embryos during an IVF cycle.

“The general consensus amongst physicians is to advise patients to stay as healthy as they can. Don’t do things in extremes and stay optimistic about the outcomes of fertility treatment and pregnancy. Always be an advocate for your own health,” Wambach states.


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