I’ve had several ladies reach out this year asking for information to consider as they hope to conceive sometime in the next few months. As I started replying to some of these inquiries, I realized that it might be helpful for others in similar positions to have some of this information at their fingertips. My hope is that some of these suggestions can help you to achieve the healthiest pregnancy possible as you actively prepare your body for the amazing stress and strength that growing a baby places on your entire system-this is certainly worth seriously considering and prepping for, and I can guarantee you won’t regret any time and effort you invest before pregnancy!
Let’s start at the beginning:
- Educate Yourself on Your Hormones and Cycle:
- Understanding how your body works, and how to read your fertility signs (temperature, cervical mucous, etc.) can make a huge difference in both your ability to conceive and in determining an accurate due date. There are some disorders or challenges that can be identified early on if you have been keeping track of your fertility signs, and this can save you time, money and heartache if you know what to look for and when to get medical intervention. Simple things such as knowing you ovulate “late” compared to traditional due date calculators can save you the challenge of being considered “overdue” when you actually didn’t have an accurate due date to start with!
- For better understanding, I highly recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. This guide helps you to really get to know how the women’s body works, how to chart your cycle, and how to understand all the information you are pulling together. The TCOYF app is also a great way to track your cycle, and it’s free! Another helpful book on the subject is The Fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack (as a disclaimer, I JUST ordered this book and have it sitting in my “to read” pile-it looks great, but I haven’t read through it yet!).
- For those particularly wanting to use fertility tracking as a guide to Natural Family Planning, the Art of Natural Family Planning Student Guide is a good way to delve into some of the details, which can also be an aid in achieving pregnancy.
- Birth Control/Hormonal Contraception:
- If you’ve been on hormonal contraceptives, it’s important to remember that it can take up to three months for normal cycles and fertility to return. The sooner you can get off any hormonal BC the better for your overall health! Aviva Romm has a great article on fertility issues after hormonal contraceptives and getting off the pill here: Post Pill Reset and I highly recommend the new documentary The Business of Birth Control for better understanding of how hormonal contraceptives can negatively affect your overall fertility and health while providing an introduction to other non-hormonal options.
- Deal with Any Current Health Concerns Now
- Do you have weight you need to gain or loose? Start understanding healthful eating, and work on that now BEFORE you add pregnancy to the mix! I’ll add more on diet below, but healthful eating habits should begin now, and will provide a great foundation for the demands of pregnancy on your body.
- Are you currently on any medication that could have a negative effect on a developing baby? Many health challenges (such as elevated BP) can be managed by diet, lifestyle and supplement changes, and these are best achieved before pregnancy. If you’re hoping to have a low-risk delivery at home, this is even more important to consider, as any compilation of medications can increase your risk and rule out homebirth. Also, remember that you should be under the care of a physician or medical provider before attempting to wean off any medications, especially for BP, anxiety, depression, etc. You need to do this safely, and sometimes these changes can take time!
- Thyroid health: many women these days experience thyroid imbalances, and it can make a huge difference on your ability to carry a healthy pregnancy if you are on top of these imbalances before pregnancy, and have a provider who can work with any sort of needed thyroid medication especially during the early days of pregnancy. Learn more about thyroid and it’s effect on pregnancy by reading Aviva Romm: Thyroid in Pregnancy
- Learn more about healthy food choices:
- There are so many things to learn about how food and our daily choices affect the way in which our body works! From supporting the organs, optimizing brain function, regulating blood sugar…the food we eat has so much to do with how our entire body operates. Add to this the growth and development of an additional entire human body and placental organ, and you’ll start to get a glimpse of how important solid nutrition is to your body and that of your future baby! The best book on the subject that I have read is Lily Nichol’s Real Food For Pregnancy, and I would encourage any woman who is pregnant or considering pregnancy to read it and really digest her wisdom and suggestions. Lily covers more than just diet, and her overall suggestions when it comes to regulating blood sugar, exercise guideline, and prenatal vitamin recommendations are all amazing and educational.
- Did you know that Gestational Diabetes is a real issue for many women during pregnancy? This can also be changed through diet, and Lily has a specific post on this topic here: Gestational Diabetes & Preconception Nutrition
- Support your Liver!
- This might seem like an odd topic, but did you know that your liver performs under extra stress during pregnancy? There are many pregnancy complications that can arise when the liver is not functioning well, and there are some studies that suggest that a healthy, supported liver can reduce the amount of morning sickness a mom might experience. With all of these factors on the table, I highly recommend either purchasing a liver cleanse and using it a few months before getting pregnant, or at least taking a high-quality Milk Thistle supplement for a month or two before conception, and continuing to take it during the first trimester. Here is an article that addresses this further: Milk Thistle for Morning Sickness
- Prenatal Vitamins:
- Start your research on prenatal vitamins now, and begin taking them daily. Remember, the critical time for baby’s development are in the early weeks, so your body needs to start getting a good foundation of nutrients so that your body is ready to nourish the developing brain, organ and other nutrient needs of a growing tiny baby. Many moms end up sick enough that they cannot continue taking prenatal vitamins during part of the first trimester, so having this foundation laid ahead of time is key!
- Not all supplements are the same: do your research and be willing to pay for quality. Making sure your prenatal vitamin has bio-available nutrients (for instance, folate instead of synthetic folic acid!) can make a huge difference in how much actual benefit you receive from them. Some helpful links: Folate vs. Folic Acid, Prenatal Vitamins by Aviva Romm and some information with recommendation links: Basic Supplements for a Healthy Pregnancy
- Further Reading:
- If you’re wanting to read more about how to optimize your fertility and prepare well, many providers recommend the book It Starts with The Egg. Rebecca Fett goes into detail about diet, supplements and other foundational principles of helping your body to achieve healthy conception!
- Another post by Aviva Romm: 7 Things to Do to Have a Healthy Baby Someday
In closing, I hope you’ve found these suggestions informative! I’d love to hear what else you would add to this list, and what has helped you as you’ve prepared for pregnancy. Maybe you’re not pregnant yet, but you’ve found a great resource…or maybe you followed some preconception guidelines and are currently in the middle of pregnancy…either way, I’d love to hear what you found most helpful!