Sunday, December 6, 2009

On the wagon

As part of our preparations for Project Baby, we're slowly giving up various unhealthy foods and drinks. Which is about as much fun as it sounds.

Because new sperm takes a while to be produced in the body, it's better for a man to get healthy well in advance of actually trying to conceive, but of course once the woman is actually pregnant, his biological input is over. Whereas from my point of view, I've been toting these eggs around my whole life, and I feel like any damage I'm likely to do to them has probably already been done, so it's not as urgent for me to stop drinking, etc., until closer to when we're actually trying. But it seems mean to make Don give things up when I can still eat what I like, and it also seems mean for him to drink tequila and eat sushi (although not simultaneously, because that's just wrong) while I'm pregnant. So we're trying to do this together: I'm quitting things when he does, and he's planning to stay on the various wagons as long as I do.

Well, we don't smoke or take drugs, so that's two major things we don't need to worry about. Yes, we are wusses. Processed foods are slowly, sadly, being weeded out within reason; I do like baking, though, so we can still have cake and things the odd time -- just trying to replace shop-bought with homemade as much as possible. They're nicer, anyway.

Next up: caffeine. Depending which study you believe, it's either bad for sperm motility or it makes them all caffeinated and hyperactive, which is... quite a mental image. Excess amounts in pregnancy seem to be associated with miscarriage, low birthweights and SIDS. Lovely. The risk isn't huge, but why take chances? So, time to quit coffee. Don is a total caffeine addict, which is just sad, because he actually hates the taste of coffee. I can take it or leave it, but never drank that much of it. After a few hairy days of detox, Don's now a tea-only guy, and I'm down to a very occasional latte, to be discontinued altogether closer to the wedding day. We're still drinking a lot of tea, which isn't ideal, and I suppose we'll have to cut that down* too -- which, since we're Irish, is going to be a massive culture shock for us, as well as automatically making us bad guests wherever we go.

*Not giving it up altogether. Let's not go mad here.

The big one: alcohol. In men, alcohol lowers testosterone and increases oestrogen, which can lower sperm counts and sex drive. Everyone knows that heavy drinking in pregnancy is dangerous for the foetus, and the NHS says it can make it harder to conceive in the first place. A small amount of drink, especially past the third month, is probably OK for a lot women; but nobody knows what the safe maximum is, if any. (Oh, and just to spice things up a bit, one study suggested that small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy could even be beneficial.) Recommendations vary between cultures -- the US government advocates strict abstinence, while the British government goes back and forth but is generally a bit more relaxed about it. Any time I try to research this issue in depth, my brain threatens to explode, but I'm thinking I'll aim for total abstinence and not beat myself up if I occasionally have half a glass after the first trimester. I mean, it's not like booze is good for you, anyway. (Except Guinness, har har.)

Well, but the evidence for effects on male fertility are fairly clear-cut, so Don is quitting, and that means that so am I. Pre-wifely solidarity and all that. The timing is awful (our two-year anniversary, Christmas, a lot of birthdays, New Year) but there'll never be a good time. Not that we're alcoholics or anything! I mean, we don't even really get drunk that much any more. But we like the odd drink, like most people. Anyway, we are cutting way down, and aiming to have stopped altogether by January.

We were at a party last night, and had already made up our minds not to drink at it, although as it happened, we were both full of painkillers* so couldn't have drunk even if we wanted to. (Don had backache, I had period pains. Pregnancy cannot come soon enough for me.) His friends kept at him to drink, and he cheerfully told them to feck off, and eventually someone confirmed that drinking on top of Difene is a really bad idea, so they left him alone. This time. Nobody nagged me about not drinking, but I'm horribly shy, particularly at parties, and being sober does NOT help with that. We left early because the stress of making conversation just wore me out.

*Which I know will also need to be quit at some point, but all in good time. We're only human.

So: Don needs to come up with new ways to distract his friends from the fact that he's not drinking (water? nah, it's vodka!) and I need to figure out how to talk -- sober -- to large numbers of people I barely know, or else stop going to parties.

This will all take a bit of getting used to, and let me tell you: I'm going to guilt-trip the hell out of this kid one day.

No comments: