Dad's role in a healthy pregnancy
Fathers have an important role in bringing a healthy baby into the world.
It may seem like future fathers don't get much attention during a pregnancy.
But remember, men, the responsibility for producing a healthy baby is not your partner's alone. It takes two to make a bouncing baby, and you're half the equation. You should make sure your baby gets every conceivable advantage, from the time he or she is just a gleam in your eye.
You probably know that your unborn child can be affected if the mother-to-be smokes, drinks alcohol or doesn't eat a healthy diet while she's pregnant. But you may not realize that what you put into your body and expose it to can affect the health of your future children too.
Some substances and conditions, called reproductive hazards, can reduce your risk of producing healthy children, or of producing children at all.
One chemical that can harm your reproductive system is lead, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It can alter your sexual performance and can alter your sperm in ways that raise the risk of birth defects.
And if you carry particles of lead home on your skin, hair, clothes, shoes, toolbox or car, it can raise your unborn child's risk of birth defects.
One place you may be exposed to harmful chemicals is at work. If you plan to have a family, find out about any potential hazards in your workplace and do your best to limit your exposure.
Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are leading causes of infertility. Chlamydia and gonorrhea, for example, can cause scarring, which may block one of the tubes that carries sperm.
Practicing safe sex now protects your ability to have children later, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
Sometimes infertility can be caused by things you might not think about. Soaking in a hot tub, for example, may temporarily lower sperm production. Using a computer on your lap or wearing tight underwear may also decrease sperm production by raising the temperature in your scrotum, according to the ASRM. Protect your fertility by protecting yourself from high-heat situations.
Drugs, such as steroids, tobacco, marijuana and alcohol, can cause fertility problems for you and, in some cases, health problems for your partner and your baby.
Steroids. Abusing steroids can shrink your testicles, warns the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Steroid abuse also reduces sperm production and can cause infertility, according to the NIDA.
Tobacco. Smoking appears to reduce fertility, says the ASRM. Heavy smoking seems to change the shape and the activity level of sperm. The degree of harm to fertility is unclear, but studies show couples who smoke take longer to conceive. And although you're not the one who's pregnant, your smoking puts your partner and your unborn child at risk. Secondhand smoke that a woman breathes while she's pregnant increases the risk of low birth weight. In other words, for the sake of the baby—if for no other reason—both partners should quit smoking.
Alcohol. No quantity of alcohol has been shown to be safe for a pregnant woman. And though what you drink may not hurt her or your baby directly, you can show your support by not consuming alcohol.
Drugs. Using drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, can temporarily reduce your sperm count and increase the number of abnormally shaped sperm. For the sake of your own health, and for the well-being of your partner and baby, don't use drugs.