Walk through the halls of Women's Health these days and you might start to feel as though you're on the set ofKnocked Up. In less than a year, six staffers have announced that they're pregnant. Something in the water? Not exactly. Turns out our office could be a microcosm of the world at large. A notion currently generating buzz is the idea that the recession might lead to a mini baby boom. Perhaps it's because sex is the ultimate "cheap-thrills" way to have fun, or that unemployment offers an opportunity (albeit an involuntary one at first) for some moms and dads to be stay-at-home parents.
Economics aside, for many women, figuring out whether--and when--to have a baby is challenging. While you can't stop the clock on the most important fertility factor--your age--there are plenty of lifestyle changes you can make now to up your odds of getting pregnant later.
If you want to get pregnant in five years...
Brush and Floss. Could something as simple as flossing your teeth help keep you fertile? Perhaps. "Several studies have indicated that a woman's oral health may be related to her reproductive success," says Susan Karabin, D. D. S., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Periodontology. In one study, women who needed fertility treatments had higher levels of gum bleeding and inflammation than those who conceived naturally, the Journal of Periodontology reports. "Brush and floss every day and get a professional cleaning and exam every six months," advises Karabin, who adds that not smoking and avoiding sugary foods and drinks are also key to keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
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If you want to get pregnant in two years, do all of the above, plus...
Switch Up Your Grocery List. In a groundbreaking study of the dietary habits of more than 18,000 nurses who were trying to get pregnant, a Harvard Medical School researcher found some striking connections between food and fertility. There are four basic rules of a baby-friendly diet:
1. Choose slowly digested carbohydrates (such as vegetables and whole grains) over highly processed ones (such as white bread and white rice).
2. Eliminate trans fats (aka partially hydrogenated oils).
3. Pick unsaturated fats over saturated fats.
4. Get the majority of your protein from plants rather than animals.
Is 2012 Your Target? 3 More Pregnancy Preparations to Start NOW
If you want to get pregnant in one year, do all of the above, plus...
Save your calories for ice cream. Our favorite bit of health news ever. If you add one serving of full-fat dairy to your diet per day, such as whole milk on your cereal instead of skim, you can actually increase your chances of getting pregnant, according to Chavarro's research. There is one caveat, however: "You have to make adjustments to the rest of your diet so you don't gain weight," Chavarro says. He also stresses that this should not be a lifetime change--once there's a bun in your oven, you can go back to drinking skim and eating low-fat fro-yo.
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Rethink Your Birth Control. Now that you're getting closer to wanting a little munchkin, it's time to think about what's kept you from having one in the past. Barrier methods (such as condoms or a diaphragm) are easy: simply stop using them the day you're ready to get pregnant. If you have an IUD, your fertility will return as soon as your doctor takes it out. The same goes for Pill users: Whether you've been taking it for one year or 20, don't believe the rumor that it'll be months before your ovulation revs back up, says Vanessa Cullins, M. D., vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood of America. "Women may have a few irregular cycles at first, but ovulation can happen within two weeks after you toss your last pack," she says. But, Cullins points out, there is one form of birth control that takes time to exit your system before you can get pregnant: If you've had Depo-Provera injections, it can take up to 10 months to become fertile again.
Cut Down On The Booze and Caffeine. Some studies show that having one to five alcoholic drinks per week can drop your chances of conceiving that month by as much as 50 percent. While other studies have found little connection between moderate drinking and fertility, Chavarro points out that sobriety certainly couldn't hurt, and it might help. And while you're at it, cut back on the triple-shot lattes. While there is no real consensus, some studies suggest that consuming more than 300 milligrams of caffeine a day (about two eight-ounce cups of regular coffee) may increase your risk of endometriosis or fallopian tube problems.
Reduce Stress. "There's nothing a couple that is trying to get pregnant wants to hear less than 'Relax, you're trying too hard,'" says Janis Fox, M. D., a fertility specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. But stress can put a damper on fertility by messing with the brain signals that tell your body to ovulate. A study in Human Reproduction showed that couples were more likely to conceive during months they considered themselves relaxed. An effective way to start reducing stress now is to focus on what you appreciate in your life today, says Leslee Kagan, director of women's health at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine in Boston. Every day, write down three things that you love about your life (No diapers to change! The chance to spend endless, uninterrupted hours reading a great novel!), and take at least 15 minutes to meditate, do yoga, or listen to relaxing music. Believe us, a few years from now, when that baby you waited for is finally here, and you're groggily but happily dealing with colic and diaper rash, these relaxation skills will come in handy!