Nutrition-wise blog

Healthy choices for couples trying to conceive

By Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. May 5, 2016

For women who are planning and hoping to become pregnant, success may involve more than just timing.

Certain lifestyle factors prior to conception and early in pregnancy may improve the odds of a healthy pregnancy. And it may not be only a woman's lifestyle choices that play a role.

A recent study followed 344 couples who became pregnant. The couples enrolled in the study prior to conception and recorded their lifestyle behaviors throughout the pregnancy. Both men and women were given diaries to record daily lifestyle habits, such as caffeinated and alcoholic beverage intake. Women also noted whether they took over-the-counter or prenatal vitamins.

Of these couples, 28 percent experienced a miscarriage. While the study was not designed to prove cause and effect, miscarriage appeared to be associated with a woman's age. Women age 35 or older had nearly twice the miscarriage risk of younger women.

In addition, there were interesting findings related to multivitamins and caffeine:

  • Women who routinely took multivitamin-mineral supplements before conception and during early pregnancy had a much lower risk of miscarriage.
  • Among women, drinking more than two caffeinated beverages a day during the weeks before conception and the first several weeks of pregnancy appeared to be associated with a higher risk of miscarriage.
  • Men's preconception caffeine consumption also appeared to impact pregnancy. Drinking more than two caffeinated beverages a day during the weeks before conception appeared to be associated with a higher risk of pregnancy loss.

It's not always clear why miscarriage happens. Because miscarriage is common, it's difficult to determine whether there is a relationship between caffeine and miscarriage.

Alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking did not appear to be associated with miscarriage in this study, but other studies do link alcohol and smoking to pregnancy loss. Women trying to become pregnant should still follow current recommendations not to smoke or drink alcohol. Their partners also should not smoke or drink excessive amounts of alcohol, which can cause infertility.

If you're planning to become pregnant, why not view it as an opportunity to make a few positive lifestyle changes?

You and your partner can support each other in adopting healthy habits. And you'll have a head start on being good role models for your kids.

May 05, 2016