5 Dos and Don'ts of Conceiving

Simple Tweaks to Improve Your Odds After Miscarriage

If you and partner decide to try again after experiencing a miscarriage, the first thing to remember is that a pregnancy loss doesn't, in and of itself, lessen your chance of having a baby the second time around. In most cases, you will conceive safely and with no complications whatsoever.

However, to give you the best opportunity going in, there are a number of dos and don'ts you may want to consider. You may be surprised just how much you can improve your chances with just a few little tweaks.

Young woman smoking cigarette
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If you are a smoker, you need to make effort to stop. Smoking, as an independent factor, increases a woman's risk of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy by one percent for every cigarette smoke per day, according to a 2014 study from the University of Maryland Medical Center.

If you do conceive, smoking during pregnancy can also increase the risk of birth defects (including cleft lip and cleft palate), low-birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The risk further extends to secondhand smoke which is only slightly less harmful than smoking yourself. If your partner smokes, he will also need to consider quitting for the good of the pregnancy.

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Some evidence suggests that inadequate folic acid levels in the body may increase the risk of miscarriage and that supplementation may help reverse that risk. Beyond conception, however, what we do know is that taking a daily folic acid supplement can significantly reduce the risk of potentially deadly neural tube defects of the fetal brain, spine, or spinal cord.

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Mid adult woman relaxing in hot tub, rear view
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A hot tub can be a great way to relax but not during a pregnancy. According to a study from the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston, soaking in a hot tub of greater than 104 F can raise a woman's body temperate to point where birth defects like spina bifida can occur.

Similar research from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in California suggested that the regular use of hot tubs after conception was associated with a twofold increase in the risk of miscarriage.

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Woman drinking white wine on patio
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While an occasional drink here or there [probably won't hurt your chances of conceiving, alcohol, in general, is something you will want to avoid during a pregnancy. Drinking is not only associated with higher rates of miscarriage, it can increase the risk of birth complications including fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

Heavy drinking, by contrast, can contribute significantly to infertility by impairing the production and potency of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) central to ovulation. ​According to research published in 2016 in the British Medical Journal, consuming more than 14 drinks per week reduced the likelihood of conceiving by 18 percent.

If you are unable to quit, you may want ​to speak with your doctor about alcohol treatment programs in your area.

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Even though a baby may be the thing you want most in the world, the stress of trying can often be overwhelming. If left unchecked, stress and anxiety can significantly reduce your chance of conceiving.

It's not just an old wives tale. According to research from National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., stress stimulates the production of the hormone cortisol which can affect the balance of hormone central to ovulation. In women with high levels of stress (as measured, in part, by the concentration of cortisol in the blood), the likelihood of pregnancy can drop by a much as 16.5 percent.

Stress reduction techniques can greatly help, including yoga, exercise, meditation, and counseling.

Sources:

Duong, H.; Shahrukh Hashmi, S.; Ramadhani, T. et al. "Maternal use of hot tub and major structural birth defects." Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2011;91(9):836-41. DOI: 10.1002/bdra.20831.

Greenberg, J.; Bell, S.; Gwon, Y. et al. "Folic Acid Supplementation and Pregnancy: More Than Just Neural Tube Defect Prevention." Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2011; 4(2):52-59.

Mikkelsen, E.; Riis, A.; Wise, L. et al. "Alcohol consumption and fecundability: prospective Danish cohort study." BMJ. 2016; 354:i4262.DOI: 10.1136/bmj.i4262.

Pineles, B.; Park, E.; and Samet, J. "Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Miscarriage and Maternal Exposure to Tobacco Smoke During Pregnancy." Am J Epidemiol. 2014; 179(7):807-823. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwt334.

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