Expert answers common conception questions
Reproductive & Gynaecological Dr Adam Watkins, General Secretary of the Society for Reproduction and Fertility and research fellow at Aston University’s school of life and health sciences, tackles your conception conundrums.
What weight should I be if I am trying to start a family?
A ‘normal’ body mass index is between 20 and 25. Outside this range, your blood will contain abnormal levels of glucose, fats and insulin. In women, this can change the make-up of the fluids that support egg growth, and it can affect the egg itself, making it less likely to implant correctly after fertilisation. In men, being overweight can reduce testosterone levels and increase oestrogen levels in the blood, affecting sperm production, quality and motility.
What sort of foods should I eat?
For conception the best diet is balanced and rich in vitamins and minerals; good choices include green, leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce. Women wanting to get pregnant should also take a folic acid supplement. Diets that are very high or low in protein, sugar and fat should be avoided.
Can I have a very occasional cigarette?
There is no ‘safe’ level of exposure to tobacco smoke. The chemicals in tobacco smoke interfere with the functioning of fallopian tubes, increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, and low birth weight. In men, tobacco chemicals damage sperm DNA, which can reduce quality, and can lead to foetal development problems. We also know that tobacco chemicals interfere with blood flow, which can cause erectile dysfunction.
Do I need to give up the booze?
Alcohol consumption above recommended levels is never a good idea; among the long term effects is a reduction in liver function, which can alter levels of blood fats, affecting the development and quality of sperm and eggs.