Make healthy changes in your diet three months to a year before you conceive.
The sooner you can, the more likely you are to get pregnant. For both men and women, foods and fertility are linked; you both need to stick to a balanced diet to boost your chances of conceiving and of having a healthy baby.
Cut back now on artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and alcohol.
If your eating habits leave something to be desired -- and many people's do -- you'll have to make some adjustments. Some solid advice: Cut down on the artificial sweeteners, wean yourself from caffeine in chocolate, soda, and coffee (more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day may reduce fertility by 27 percent), and cut out alcohol (for non-alcoholic alternatives, see our list of the best virgin drinks).
Stop using recreational drugs and if you smoke, quit. All these substances and habits can harm your soon-to-be-conceived baby.
Take a vitamin-mineral supplement.
While you can meet almost all your nutritional needs through a balanced diet, some experts believe that even the healthiest eaters can use extra help. "My doctor suggested I take a supplement while trying to conceive, and I figured it couldn't hurt," says Margaret Phillips of San Francisco. "I don't always have time to plan meals and I sometimes eat on the run. This way, I'm making sure I get everything my body needs."
Remember that a supplement is a safeguard, not a substitute for a sound diet. And since over-the-counter supplements may contain megadoses of vitamins and minerals that could be harmful to a developing baby, it's smart to switch to a pill formulated for pregnant women even before you conceive. Talk with your caregiver about the right prenatal supplement for you.
Get lots of folic acid -- at least 400 micrograms a day.
Everyone could use more folic acid, not just women: This B vitamin has been linked to a lower incidence of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and diabetes. It also reduces a baby's risk of neural-tube birth defects such as spina bifida.
Most women of childbearing age should get 400 micrograms (mcg) daily, which is the equivalent of 0.4 milligrams (mg), according to the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). If you have a family history of neural-tube birth defects, your doctor may suggest that you boost your daily intake to 4,000 mcg, or 4 mg, starting at least a month before you conceive and continuing throughout your first trimester.
A good over-the-counter prenatal vitamin should contain 800 mcg of folic acid; in addition, you can eat folate-rich foods, such as dark green leafy vegetables (like spinach or kale), citrus fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and fortified breads and cereals. Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, so your body will flush out the excess if you consume too much.
For some women, there's an exception to this rule; getting too much folate may hide a B-12 deficiency, sometimes a problem for vegetarians. Ask your doctor or midwife if you think you may be at risk.
Find your ideal body weight.
Shedding some pounds (or gaining a few if you're underweight) while you're attempting to get pregnant is fine, since you want to be as close as possible to your recommended weight when you conceive.
Then devise a smart eating plan. Choose lower fat, higher fiber foods. Start or increase an exercise routine, and aim to lose one to two pounds a week, a safe rate of weight loss.
Extreme weight loss from crash dieting can deplete your body's nutritional stores, which isn't a good way to start a pregnancy.
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