Holidays can be a challenging time to maintain positive lifestyle goals to eat healthy, drink moderately, exercise and minimize stress. It’s easy to blow off the best of intentions starting with Thanksgiving and ending with New Year’s celebrations. Still, if you’ve been coping with the challenges of infertility, there’s more reason than ever to do your best.
There’s strong evidence to show that many healthy and unhealthy lifestyle habits affect fertility. In fact, what you eat and drink – from food to supplements to alcohol – affect both female and male infertility. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a spiked eggnog or a piece of fruitcake, but moderation and balance are important if having a baby is at the top of your wish list.
Besides the caveats about watching what you eat and drink over the holidays, try also to be aware of your stress level as it can play havoc with your healthy lifestyle goals. Perhaps the best gift to yourself over the holidays is self-care – knowing the ultimate benefit is a better chance at getting pregnant and delivering a healthy baby.
So, here are a few things to keep in mind during the holidays when the stakes for maintaining your healthy habits and keeping stress in check have important consequences:
Eat Healthy, Take Your Vitamins
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight for both prospective parents makes a difference in your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby. For more than 12% of couples given an infertility diagnosis, weight is the cause. The most effective diet includes at least six servings daily of fruit (this does not include fruitcake) and vegetables, plus whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Such a diet will also help you get needed folic acid and antioxidants, along with taking a daily multivitamin.
The good news is that many women diagnosed as infertile because of their weight may get pregnant spontaneously if their weight issue – being overweight or underweight – is resolved.
None of this advice means you need to skip the Christmas cookies – just try for balance and don’t overdo it. However, did you know a cup of spiked eggnog has about 400 calories? You’d need to walk more than 90 minutes to burn that off. If you plan to indulge a little more over the holidays, stepping up the exercise program is probably a good idea. Along with the right diet, exercise will help maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress.
Drink Moderately, Both Alcohol and Caffeine
While the holidays may bring opportunities for overindulgence, couples should be mindful that evidence shows that drinking too much alcohol for both prospective mothers and fathers affects the ability to get pregnant and deliver a healthy baby. Couples should drink moderately or consider eliminating alcohol while trying to get pregnant.
Those trying to get pregnant should also keep their caffeine consumption in check. While it might be tempting to have another latte so you can stay up late to wrap presents, we know caffeine affects fertility in multiple ways. Some experts advise consuming no more than 100-200 milligrams of caffeine daily. Remember that caffeine is found in coffee, tea, energy drinks and chocolate, so reading the nutrition label can help you follow the guidelines.
Manage Your Stress
Holidays are often busy with multiple demands on time for both work deadlines and family holiday events. That’s enough to stress anyone but the holidays can create additional stress and sadness for those who have been trying without success to have a baby. While the influence of stress on infertility isn’t clear, it often makes it harder to maintain the healthy lifestyle habits that directly affect fertility including what and how much you eat and drink and how well you sleep. Sleeping too little or too much can affect the female and male hormones associated with fertility; for women, the hormone that triggers ovulation and for men, testosterone.
You can assess your stress level to determine if you might need to pay extra attention to taking care of yourself.
To better cope with a holiday focused on children that may intensify the sad feelings you already have from facing fertility issues, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association offers advice including finding childfree celebrations, creating holiday rituals as a couple, choosing to focus on helping others in need and how to talk to family and friends who may not understand how you feel. Read more here and here.
Even with supportive friends and family, stress may be a feature of your holiday. Taking care of yourself by eating well, not drinking too much, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, are all well-established methods for maintaining equilibrium at any time of the year. Also, consider what activities most help you relax as an individual or couple. Make the time for a yoga class, take a walk in the park with your dog or listen to music – choose what works best for you. Mindfulness exercises and meditation may also help. Developing healthy self-care habits will benefit you now and later when you’ll need to find your calm center as parents of teenagers!
So, for the healthiest and happiest of holidays, focus on the mistletoe, peace on Earth and step away from the eggnog!! Or, be prepared for a really long holiday stroll.