Preparing for Pregnancy

Most people would benefit from improving their health, particularly couples who are trying to have a baby. A healthy lifestyle can improve your fertility and can also increase your chances of successful treatment.

How can I improve my health and fitness before my treatment?

This is a commonly asked question so we have put together some advice for both men and women to help you improve your health and fitness.

1. Stop Smoking

stop      nosmoking

The health risks of tobacco smoking are well known with regard to disease of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels, but the shocking impact on reproductive health has never been fully appreciated. There is now substantial research evidence which suggests that smoking reduces a couple’s chances of successful pregnancy and increases the possibility of adverse health effects on their children.

Impact of cigarette smoking on reproduction in women

Impact of cigarette smoking on reproduction in men

Impact of cigarette smoking on assisted reproduction

Smoking cessation

Smoking cessation for at least two months before IVF significantly improves chances of conception. Although long-term cigarette smoking can have an irreversible effect on ovarian function, the harmful effect on treatment outcome, may in part, be reversed if smoking is discontinued prior to the start of treatment.

For additional information: NHS smoking helpline – 0800 169 0169 /

If you need help to give up smoking try the following for support:

2. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight


If you need help achieving your ideal weight we can arrange for you to see our resident dietitian.

3. Take regular exercise


4. Reduce Alcohol Intake

alcohol1      alcohol2

Can drinking alcohol affect your fertility?

Yes, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can adversely affect your fertility and also cause damage to your baby.

Alcohol and female fertility

All women who are trying to get pregnant should be aware that the adverse reproductive effects of alcohol can range from:


Drinking alcohol puts your baby at risk of:

Alcoholic mothers also have an increased risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. This is characterised by growth deficiency, mental retardation, behavioural disturbances and an atypical heart-shaped facial appearance in the baby. Additionally, congenital heart defects and brain abnormalities are also often found in these babies. This syndrome occurs in 30 to 40 percent of babies born to women who are alcoholics.

Alcohol and male fertility

In men, excessive alcohol may result in abnormal liver function and a rise in oestrogen levels, which may interfere with sperm development and other hormone levels. Alcohol is also a toxin that can kill the sperm-generating cells in the testicle. Sperm takes at least three months to develop and this should be considered when preparing for treatment. Men who regularly drink excessive amounts of alcohol may suffer with decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. It is thought that up to 40 per cent of male subfertility is due to excessive alcohol intake; this effect is reparable when reducing or refraining from alcohol.

What are sensible limits?

A sensible limit whilst trying to conceive is less than 6 units of alcohol per week for men.

5. Drink plenty of water


6. Follow a Healthy Eating Plan

healthy1 healthy2

Why is healthy eating important?

The picture below shows recommended daily proportions of foods from each food group that are essential to maintaining good health:


Here are some tips to help you achieve the recommended proportions:

Eat More Fruit and Vegetables

N.B. A portion equals:

Fill up on starchy foods

Meat Fish and Alternatives

Dairy Products

Occasional Foods

Take Folic Acid

Do I need to take any other supplements?

Not necessarily but please seek advice from us before taking any other vitamin supplements or herbal remedies.

Want to know more?

7. Improving Sperm Quality


The Effect of Heat

The normal activity of the sperm producing tubules in the testes is affected by heat. Intermittent overheating of the testes leads to a reduction in sperm production and/or a decrease in sperm activity (motility). The testes are situated in the scrotum mainly because it is cooler there than inside the body cavity. The testes have their own heat regulating mechanism so that in cold conditions the scrotum contracts, pulling the testes closer to the body, whereas in hot conditions the testes hang much lower. Overheating of the testes can be caused in various ways:

In addition, illness associated with fever temporarily reduces fertility.

Remember that sperm takes about 70 days to develop from their cells of origin, thus any episode of testicular overheating could affect your fertility for over two months.

To improve your fertility you should:

There is some evidence to suggest that in certain situations taking zinc and vitamin E can improve sperm quality.

Other Factors

The use of certain medications, including anabolic steroids or recreational drugs such as marijuana can seriously affect your sperm quality. If you are taking any medication please discuss this with us.

8. Coping with Stress

We know from couples undergoing fertility treatment that their experience can be an extremely stressful one. This is understandable; especially if a couple believe that their future happiness depends upon a successful treatment outcome. Stress in such a situation is unavoidable. However, it is not stress itself that causes problems but the way in which an individual responds to it.

Without positive ways of dealing with stress a couple undergoing fertility treatment may experience some very negative symptoms such as:

Staff at RFS want to help couples avoid the distress such symptoms bring about. For this reason we recommend that you give some thought now as to the coping mechanisms you currently employ to deal with stress. Are they positive and likely to get you through treatment in good shape? Or, are they negative and therefore likely to make the situation worse?

Here are some ways of coping positively with stress that some couples have found helpful:

Counselling is available at RFS during any stage of your treatment journey should you require it. For further information or to arrange an appointment please speak to any of our staff.

We want you to feel able to give treatment its best chance of success. Using positive coping mechanisms to deal with stress may help you to do it.

We hope your have found useful information in this leaflet. The information provided here is however not intended to replace verbal communication with medical or nursing staff.

Please speak to us on 01625 264 110 about any specific queries or concerns you may have.

Appendix 1: BMI Chart