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If Your Friend Jumped off a Bridge, Would You Do It, Too? Altering your lifestyle for fertility.

How many times do you remember telling your parents, “I did it because Susie did it”? And how many times do you remember your parents saying, “If Susie jumped off of a bridge, would you do it, too”? This usually was met with a muffled “no” and a trip to your room. Bottom line, the “because my friend did it” response never got you anything more than a grounding. And while our moms may no longer discipline us, our doctors do. And telling us that you have picked up bad habits because Susie has them is not going to go over well.

Saying that habits are hard to break might be the understatement of the century. They become a part of us, our routines, our cultures, and the essence of who we are. Whether it be smoking, drinking, drugging, or doing lots and lots of exercise, they become a part of who we are and how we see ourselves. Because of the latter, it makes them really hard to taper or totally take out. Even the best of habits (exercise, eating healthfully, or engaging in some sort of activity) can become excessive, and while they may not need to be eliminated, they may need to be reduced.

Substituting is a great concept and often works well. For cardio junkies who can’t turn up the torque during IVF stimulation, we recommend a long stroll in the park or an inclined walk on the treadmill. You don’t have to lie on the couch and eat bon bons (although it is nice to give yourself a break!); you can still do something that will build a sweat.

While some habits can be halved or quartered, smoking and drug use need to be out out completely. There is no healthy amount of smoking or toking; it’s got to go. It’s not good for your ovaries or any of your vital organs, so take this as an opportunity to go cold turkey.

When it comes to alcohol, we are definitely more lenient. I think someone said a glass a day will keep the doctor away. Although this is probably more wishful thinking than reality, a glass of wine from time to time (it even rhymes!) is nothing to stress about. You don’t have to cork the bottle when you’re trying to get pregnant.

Food is a fairly big issue when it comes to fertility. Although nothing has been proven definitively, there is a lot out there on the internet and blogs, as well as in friendly conversations, about what is best to eat. Should I can the carbs, should I forget about fat, should I say goodbye to gluten? We say no, no, and no, not unless you have been diagnosed with celiac disease (true gluten intolerance) or have been directed to follow an anti-inflammatory diet.

Dietary variety is a good thing. We need proteins, fats, and those carbs (we have such a love-hate relationship with the lattermost). While everything in moderation is the right way to go and no one ever overdosed on fruits and veggies, eliminating foods to boost your fertility probably isn’t the best idea.

What works best for you and your body may be very different than what worked best for your BFF or your pseudo BFF. As much as we may think our bodies are the same, they are not. Yes, we all have bones, brains, and muscles, but after the basics, there is a lot of variety. So while Sally had to cut out sugar and Georgia had to remove gluten, you don’t necessarily need to follow their menu plan.

Despite what you hear, fertility treatments do NOT mean you have just seen the finale of your favorite things; telephone is a dangerous game! Exercise, caffeine, and alcohol plus are okay when trying to conceive. While we may ask you to tone it down, we will infrequently ever ask you to turn it off completely. Although your friends and those who have made the fertility journey before you are a good source of information, they do not have the final word. Just because they were told to do something or had to change something doesn’t mean the same applies to you.

Lighting up Will Make You Lose Your Eggs!

There are not many things in this world you can be sure of. In the words of Ben Franklin (shout out to all our fellow Penn alums), “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” And while we love you, Mr. American, we would like to add a third: cigarettes are bad for you! Despite the Marlboro Man’s best efforts, we all know nothing good can come out of lighting up. The litany of negatives when it comes to tobacco is so long, it couldn’t even fit on one page! Brain, lungs, heart, blood vessels, esophagus, stomach, hands, and feet are all victimized by the tar and tobacco filling that little white stick. While this may have been obvious to you, you may not have known how bad smoking is for your reproductive system.

Simply stated, smoking sucks for your reproductive system. Years of data have shown that smoking can lead to infertility and early menopause. In fact, women who smoke will go through menopause one to four years earlier than nonsmoking women. (Who wants hot flashes, headaches, and vaginal dryness before you need them?) And it seems that, the more you smoke, the more damage you do; with every puff you take, you are not only burning out your lungs but also your egg supply. Additionally, women who smoke are more likely to miscarry once pregnant. The chemicals in cigarettes can damage the DNA (genetic information) inside your egg and lead to a miscarriage. But it’s not only eggs that fizzle in the face of cigarettes; the fallopian tubes also sustain damage. Think of the tubes as tunnels. Their job (most of us have two!) is to transport the sperm to the egg and the fertilized embryo to the uterus. If blocked or damaged, the sperm or egg either never get together, or if they do, the embryo is more likely to get stuck on its way to the uterus. That’s called an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy located outside of the uterus). Ectopics can be life threatening if not treated appropriately. How and why does this happen? Well, there are little hairs called cilia (we have them in our nose as well) that line the inside of our tubes. Imagine a car wash; think of the wipers that come beating down on the car when the wash first starts. That’s sort of like what the cilia look like, but rather than beating the dirt off your car, they are propelling the sperm to the egg and the embryo to the uterus. If they don’t work, you have a problem.

But get this. Even if you don’t smoke but your partner does, you are also in trouble. There are significant effects on a woman’s fertility from passive smoking (a.k.a. second-hand smoke). The effects of smoking on male infertility are less clear. Sperm function tests are poorer in smokers. There is not clear, conclusive evidence that men who smoke are more likely to be infertile, but given the impact it has on your female partner, guys, we urge you to put it out!

So let’s say you can’t quit and you find yourself pregnant and smoking. Then what? What impact is your habit having on your unborn child? If you have ever taken biology, you probably guessed it: not a very positive one! Babies born to women who smoked are at risk for growth restriction (stunted growth) inside the uterus, small birth weight, early/preterm delivery, stillbirth, and problems with the placenta.

But we get it. Despite all that, going cold turkey can be hard. Habits, no matter how bad, are hard to break. And because of all the “yuck” that is inhaled, it is actually not only okay but preferable to start nicotine replacement therapies (the patch, the gum, etc.) during pregnancy and when trying to conceive rather than continuing to smoke. Yes, they have their effects and are no prenatal vitamins, but they are way better than the tar and tobacco that you are inhaling. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it, butts are bad for your lungs, bad for your heart, bad for your brain, bad for your skin, bad for your ovaries, and unbelievably bad for your unborn baby. You will burn through your wallet, your lungs, and your eggs. So take it from us. Put out that cigarette, and never pick one up again!