Having a safe and healthy pregnancy doesn’t begin with prenatal care. In fact, you should start changing your lifestyle and habits during the preconception stage, which is about 3 to 6 months before you are ready to conceive.
So if you’ve decided to expand your family within the next few months, these tips can help you on the first steps of your fertility journey.
Improve Your Diet
What you eat can impact how easy or difficult it will be to get pregnant. Processed food ladened with salt and fat can negatively impact fertility in both men and women. Sugary beverages like sodas and sports drinks have similar effects.
On the other hand, a diet of lean proteins, vegetables, and healthy oils provides the body with the nutrients needed to support fetal development. There is also some evidence that couples who consume the recommended serving of seafood fall pregnant faster than those who avoid seafood. Talk with your doctor about designing a diet plan that enables you to obtain the nutritional benefits of seafood while minimizing your exposure to mercury.
Be More Active
Since the ability to exercise can become limited during the later stages of pregnancy, doctors recommend starting an exercise routine well before conception. Engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate activity every day is enough to yield health benefits like increased endurance and improved cardiovascular health.
As an added bonus, there is some evidence that babies born to women who were active during their pregnancy have better muscle strength and coordination. As they grow, these children are also more likely to be active themselves. If you need a little inspiration to start an exercise routine, think about the lifelong health benefits you will be passing on to your unborn child!
Schedule a Checkup
As common health issues, like anemia and high blood pressure, can raise the risk of prenatal complications, it’s important to get these conditions under control before becoming pregnant.
Growing fetuses are sensitive to many prescription and over-the-counter medications.
If you have a chronic illness, your doctor will tell you if you need to change your dose, drug type, or pause your medication altogether.
Otherwise healthy women who are categorized as high risk should inform their primary care doctor about their intention to get pregnant at least three months before conception. This includes women 35 and older, and women who have experienced complications with prior pregnancies.
Fertility and fetal development can also be affected by a preexisting infection. Most doctors recommend a full panel of STI screenings, including a thin prep pap test to diagnose and treat any infections impacting the reproductive system.
Take Prenatal Vitamins
If you have used oral contraceptives for a prolonged period of time, you may be deficient in vitamins that are essential for a healthy pregnancy.
Birth control introduces excess levels of the hormones estrogen and progestin into the body, which alters how you absorb nutrients. After being on birth control for several months or years, women are more likely to have low levels of Vitamin D, zinc, and essential B vitamins like folic acid.
Since it can take months for vitamin levels to be restored, you should start taking a preconception vitamin as soon as you decide you want to try for a baby. However, once you do become pregnant, you will need to switch to a prenatal vitamin, which is specially formulated to support fetal growth.
Manage Your Stress
Pregnancy comes with a lot of physical and hormonal changes that can greatly impact your mood and your stress levels. Learning stress management techniques before getting pregnant will give you a toolbox of healthy coping skills you can pull from when you go through a difficult day.
Chronic stress can also make it harder to conceive in the first place. The stress response causes the hormone cortisol to surge through the body. In excess levels, cortisol can affect your ovulation schedule, making it more difficult to predict your fertile periods. Calming activities like yoga can help reduce stress. If you can, reduce your workload and try to leave more time in your schedule for rest and relaxation.
Navigating fertility problems is also a source of stress. In this case, attending a support group with other couples facing similar issues or working with a therapist can help.