Pregnancy: Preparing for Pregnancy (cont.)

MEMBER QUESTION:
Can stress affect conceiving? Every month I wait for the result to show positive, but I've heard that stress plays a role. Is it true?

CURTIS:
The questions about relaxing and letting it happen are very good questions, and I think first of all it is important for those trying to get pregnant to know that even in the best of situations, where everything is normal with both partners and they have regular intercourse, pregnancy can take anywhere from eight months to a year to happen. I say that because frequently patients will come in to see me, upset and discouraged, and you can tell there's been a fight, an argument. They've been trying to get pregnant for two months without success and now they're discouraged and certain that it's not going to happen. Most couples, if they try for more than a year and up to two years, will find they are successful.

Now, chances are that many who are participating today are those who have been through infertility tests or infertility surgery and are discouraged. I don't blame you, because those tests can be expensive and discouraging, but I think it helps in trying to get pregnant if somehow you can keep a positive attitude. I think another key is somehow keeping the romance in the attempts to get pregnant and not letting this become a lab experiment. That is going to take support from both partners, and perhaps this is an area where you can ask your partner for help.

Another factor involved is family. Family can put a lot of pressure or stress on a couple. They can even be critical of a couple that has not conceived.

I do believe stress can be a factor, and the easy answer is to not let this stress you out. I really think this is another place to work with your partner together to not let the pressure and stress get to you. When you see your doctor and talk about getting pregnant, ask for time periods to try different strategies, so that you know a strategy might take six months or a year to work and it might be easier to survive when it doesn't work the first month or two.

MODERATOR:
If nothing else, stress can make you feel like not making love, and that's a REAL impediment to pregnancy, I'd say.

"Another key is somehow keeping the romance in the attempts to get pregnant and not letting this become a lab experiment."

MEMBER QUESTION:
If you had to pick just three things to do to help a woman get pregnant, what would they be?

CURTIS:
No. 1: Find the right guy. No. 2: Like that right guy and make sure he likes you. No. 3: Make sure you get together often enough during the time when you can get pregnant.

More seriously, getting pregnant is a very individual thing -- individual for each woman and for each couple -- and it will take working together and cooperation and getting along in order to conceive. I think each couple can pick out three things that will work for them. So I think it's a difficult question to answer on an individual basis.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Can being underweight affect fertility?

CURTIS:
Yes, it can. One of the main ways that being underweight can affect getting pregnant is it can change your periods, or even make it so that you don't have periods at all. This can be a problem, especially for athletes who are training heavily and stop having periods. Along with not having periods, they are also not ovulating, which means they are not making eggs and won't get pregnant.

A woman that is underweight and trying to get pregnant, or gets pregnant, should try to gain more weight during her pregnancy and even before she gets pregnant. Doing this will give her baby a better chance at being healthy during pregnancy and after birth.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Drinking alcohol: How much does this really affect TTC and fertility in both men and women? What is too much?

CURTIS:
The issue of alcohol and pregnancy has changed over the years. When we wrote books 20 years ago about pregnancy, the message was it was OK to drink a little bit and maybe a glass of wine with dinner was OK. Around that same time we began to learn about fetal alcohol syndrome and the affects of alcohol on pregnancy.

So the best answer I can give to this question is one that isn't going to be very popular, and that is at this point we do not think there is a safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. More and more studies indicate that even moderate drinking may affect the unborn fetus. We certainly know that alcohol crosses the placenta and the fetus is exposed, and in extreme cases there are defects to the baby that are called the fetal alcohol syndrome, or abbreviated as FAS.

I believe that this is also an issue when you are trying to conceive because my feeling is when you are trying to conceive you should eat, exercise, and take care of yourself the same way you would while you were pregnant, because you don't know exactly when conception will occur. It is true that many women drink small or moderate amounts during pregnancy and things are OK, but if you really want to do what is the lowest risk for your baby, it would be best to keep the amount of alcohol exposure as low as possible.