Is 2022 The Year of The Baby?
Dr. Yen and Dr. Marsheh give prospective parents pre-conception guidance
For many couples, having a baby comes after they’ve checked some boxes in life. Perhaps they’ve completed college or grad school, bought a home and saved a specific amount of money. Only then do they decide with their partners that the time is right to take on the enormous responsibility of bringing a new life into the world.
Esmond Yen, M.D., says that, if 2022 is the year to get pregnant and have a baby, there’s more planning that need to be done - and preparations should start right now.
“We like to see couples begin preparing their bodies - both male and female - to conceive and carry a baby about a year out from conception, but we also know that 90 days of preparation is an enormous help too,” says Dr. Yen, of Premier Suburban Medical Group. The group is now available for patient visits at the Silver Cross Pavilion A in New Lenox.
See Your Doctor
Husam Marsheh, M.D., who practices with Dr. Yen, agrees. “The very first thing to do is to visit your ob/gyn to discuss your health. We’ll want to review any prescription medications you are currently taking, discuss your family history and your own health history before conception. If you have high blood pressure, a family history of gestational diabetes, a genetic tendency towards blood clots, we’ll want to screen you for these conditions, treat them and then keep a close watch on them as your pregnancy occurs and develops.”
Dr. Yen stresses that both partners should be fully vaccinated and boosted before attempting conception. “COVID-19 is dangerous both during pregnancy and during delivery. Unvaccinated pregnant people with COVID-19 are more likely to deliver early and experience a stillbirth. They are also more likely to experience serious COVID-19 complications.” Getting vaccinated also helps the baby, says Dr. Yen. “When vaccinated people deliver babies, studies show there is some transfer of the immunity, which helps protect the baby for a time.”
Watch What You Put In Your Body
“We may recommend you begin taking prenatal vitamins,” Lisa Abu-Samra, Certified Nurse Midwife, says. “These are specially formulated to be high in folic acid which is vital to the formation of a healthy spine in your baby. Spina bifida is nearly 100% prevented when mom takes the proper amount of folic acid, about 400 micrograms daily, during pregnancy.” He notes that being pregnant moves nutrients from mother to baby, so it’s important that mom is taking the proper supplements not just for baby, but also to keep her own health as robust as possible.
Alyssa Monsivais, Certified Nurse Midwife says regular over-the-counter vitamins don’t satisfy all the nutritional needs for mom and baby, and can sometimes cause more harm than good when the supplements are not formulated specifically for pregnancy.
Both the physicians and certified nurse midwives stress that both parents should stop smoking, stop using tobacco and marijuana, and stop any and all illicit drug use as soon as they are considering having a baby. “These substances have a profound negative effect on the quality and vitality of eggs and sperm. It’s more difficult to get pregnant, miscarriages are more likely and babies suffer more health problems when parents continue to use these substances,” says Ms. Monsivais.
Dr. Marsheh says, “Ask your ob/gyn or primary care doctor for help in quitting, or for a referral for a reputable program to quit. The sooner parents get these substances cleaned out of their systems, the better it is for fertility, conception and pregnancy.”
Eat A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is important for both parents. “Some studies show that a higher BMI (Body Mass Index) in men is linked to a lower sperm count and less robust sperm movement,” says Dr. Yen.
Eating healthy foods is vital to improve egg quality and to improve general health through pregnancy. Both physicians and midwives recommend eating a version of the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fresh vegetables, lots of fruits, lean proteins and whole grain carbohydrates. Fish such as salmon, cod and freshwater trout should be harvested from wild sources as much as possible, with parents avoiding large fish such as shark and uncooked fish such as sushi. It’s also recommended that pregnant people eat just 6 ounces of tuna just once a week.
Dr. Yen says that despite previous warnings, light alcohol intake can be allowed. “A couple of drinks - two glasses of wine or a few beers - each week has not been shown to have any real impact on fertility or on baby’s development. However, heavier drinking does harm your baby, causing fetal alcohol syndrome.”
Heavy coffee drinkers, says Dr. Marsheh, should change their habits as soon as possible. “Five cups of coffee or more each day has been shown to negatively affect fertility. High caffeine intake is also linked to an increase in the risk of miscarriage. We recommend prospective parents have only one or two caffeinated drink each day.”
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Positive mental health habits are also important, says Ms. Abu-Samra. “Stress can decrease sperm production and negatively impact sexual function in men. Mental health issues in pregnant people can result in an overload of stress hormones, which negatively impact the developing baby and raise the risk of a lower birth weight. Pregnant people are also more likely to smoke, drink and use street drugs, further impacting the baby.”
“Before you get pregnant, talk to your ob/gyn if you’ve been diagnosed with depression, sanxiety, bipolar disorder or any other mental health issues,” says Ms. Monsivais. “It’s important that medications are screened and symptoms are carefully assessed and monitored before you get pregnant, while you are pregnant and after you deliver.”
Be Sure To Move
Exercise is important for both partners. For men, physical activity generates antioxidant enzymes which may protect sperm health. It also increase blood flow to the genitals, enhancing sexual function. For women, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity such as brisk walking or swimming at least five days a week can improve fertility and increase healthy ovulation. Dr. Yen warns women against very intense and aggressive exercise as that can decrease ovulation.
Dr. Marsheh says, “It’s not an old wives tale about boxer shorts being better underwear for fertility. When the scrotal temperature goes up, it’s been indicated that sperm production goes down. Wear loose-fitting underwear, don’t keep your laptop on your groin for extended periods of times, and avoid saunas and hot tubs to keep sperm counts healthy.”
“You’ll also want to avoid using most synthetic lubricants during sex,” says Dr. Yen. “Some studies have indicated that lubricants can have a negative effect on fertility. Ask your ob/gyn about using natural alternatives such as canola oil, mineral oil or even egg white when you’re trying to conceive.”
When partners are ready to have a baby, when they have decided they have the emotional, financial and relationship readiness to create a new, real live person, Dr. Yen and Dr. Marsheh reiterate that seeing your ob/gyn and primary care doctors are the most important way to begin this journey.
Dr. Yen says, “Having everything in place and improving your health before you conceive means that, when you do bring a baby home in 2022, it’s the healthiest child it can possibly be, ready for a bright, happy and positive future.”