Do you want kids? When would you like to have kids? How many kids would you like? The right time to reflect on such questions is early on in a woman’s reproductive life. After a reflection, a fertility life plan can be developed.
Such a fertility life plan could be written down and discussed with a health professional (and/or your partner or family). Some important subjects for consideration include folic acid supplementation, alcohol and tobacco, vaccinations, and family history. An overview of some key considerations in a fertility plan follows below.
The recommended daily intake of at least 400 micrograms (or 0.4 mg) of folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are devastating abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord in newborns.
By eating meals rich in folic acid, neural tube defects can be avoided. Sexual activity or a desire to get pregnant should be linked with improved intake of folic acid. Information regarding good sources of folic acid can be accessed here.
Years ago, the US government mandated that many common foods (rice, pasta, cereals, etc.) supplement their products with folic acid and other vitamins that are important to fetal development. This helps to ensure that women have at least some intake of folic acid.
Alcohol and Tobacco
An awareness of the risks associated with alcohol is beneficial to a fertility life plan. This awareness is especially key because the earliest phase of a pregnancy is a delicate moment for developing babies. Alcohol consumption that coincides with an early or unrecognized pregnancy could cause mental retardation in newborns. Visit our Alcohol and Pregnancy page for more information.
In a similar vein, tobacco use harms developing babies and could lead to premature birth. It is, therefore, a good idea to cease such habits when you could become pregnant or you are trying to conceive. Visit our Smoking and Pregnancy page to learn more.
Vaccinations are an excellent and cost-effective way to ‘purchase insurance’ against infectious threats to newborns. Such insurance could easily be acquired against rubella, hepatitis B, and chickenpox.
The momentary pain of a vaccine jab protects against newborn deafness, heart disease, liver disease, blindness, and other complications of the aforementioned infections. Appropriate vaccination should be part of a fertility plan.
Unfortunate mistakes in human genes may occur during cell division. These genetic errors are responsible for conditions such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, neurofibromatosis, and other conditions with a profound impact on the lives of those who inherit the genes. Women with pregnancy plans should consider genetic counseling when a family history of a hereditary condition exists.
A fertility plan without male involvement is incomplete. Such planning is aided by knowledge of the factors that influence male fertility. Examples include smoking, diabetes, obesity, scrotal temperature, and alcohol consumption.
Smoking, obesity, and diabetes can impair erections by damaging the blood vessels of the penis. Hot scrotal temperatures from tight pants or hot baths reduce sperm numbers. Excessive alcohol similarly harms erections and may affect the number of sperm.
A stunning research study recently revealed that the sperm count of men in the West has dropped by 50% in the last 5 decades. To ensure fertility, men should adopt lifestyles with the right diet, exercise, and abstinence from tobacco and excessive alcohol.
Considering Your Partner
Pregnancy is a huge responsibility that could always arise from sexual activity. Folic acid, recreational habits, vaccination and family history are all important considerations.
A good fertility plan should also consider sexual partners and their fitness as a potential parent and mate. Would you trust this person as a mother or father to your child? Have you had a conversation with your partner about what he or she would want if you as a couple did get pregnant (parenting, adoption, abortion), and do you both agree? If you answered “no” to either or both of these questions, you may want to reconsider with whom you do or do not have a sexual relationship.
Remember, a healthy baby begins with you!
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Hagai Levine, Niels Jørgensen, Anderson Martino-Andrade, Jaime Mendiola, Dan Weksler-Derri, Irina Mindlis, Rachel Pinotti, Shanna H Swan. Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Human Reproduction Update. Volume 23, Issue 6, 1 November 2017, Pages 646–659, https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmx022