Are you planning a baby in the sometime future? There are some things that can optimize your fertility, as well as make for a smoother pregnancy and birth.
01. Lose (or gain) 5-10 pounds. Being both over or under weight can disrupt your hormones and fertility. A few pounds makes a difference!
02. Begin charting your menstrual cycles. Having a record of your menstrual cycles will help you assess when you are ovulating, provide information for your healthcare provider, and help assess a more accurate EDD (estimate due date). If your cycles are at 24 days vs. 35 days, there will be a difference not only in ovulation but the date of conception. Your record can help prevent unnecessary elective early induction and the waterfall effect of interventions associated with induction.
03. Start on a good prenatal or daily vitamin NOW. Your body needs vitamins A, D, and B to ovulate, conceive, and sustain a pregnancy. Folic acid is important for preventing certain types of birth defects. Many cereals and breads are now fortified with folic acid, but it still may not be enough. If you wear sunscreen (which I hope you do), you may be low or deficient on Vitamin D. Proper amounts of Vitamin D wards off illnesses, weight imbalances, morning sickness, unhealthy skin — do we need more reason to take it? Also consider taking a mineral supplement with amino acids. Creating a new life requires certain building blocks.. make sure you are providing them to your baby and yourself.
04. Eat sensibly. In a perfect world, we would have time to carefully choose and consume our food and nutrition. Consider cutting back on animal fats and replace them with heart-healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Go through your cabinets and throw out or donate all refined flours. Aim for dense carbohydrates and dark green leafy vegetables. Substitute, substitute, substitute! By this I mean making healthier choices. Can’t give up pasta? Sneak in some iron-rich spinach into the sauce. Bored with broccoli? Visit your local farmer’s market or an Asian market and try a few new vegetables. Switch from processed cheese sauces to freshly grated parmesan. As a matter of fact, try to avoid as many processed foods as possible. Enlist your family for a weekly cooking day. Make your weekly meals and store or freeze proper sized portions. Most fruits are the perfect snack and can be taken anywhere with you.
05. Exercise. Yes, the dreaded “E” word. Begin or re-start an exercise method suited to your ability and liking. Commit what time you can (three hours a week, five, whatever you can manage) and begin a habit of exercise. If you have a desk job, make sure you stand and stretch every hour. Take the stairs. Park your car at the far corner of the parking lot. Even the most out of shape person can walk to the end of the driveway and back. If that’s the most you can do, do it! Find something to keep you happy during your exercise, whether that is watching TV/videos, listening to fast or calming music, finding an exercise buddy, running with your older children. Think positive, strong thoughts during your exercise such as “My body is capable of exercise. I am doing this for my baby. Each step I take makes me stronger.” The smallest efforts carry huge rewards. Consider hiring a personal trainer, if only for one session, to learn proper body mechanics and give you fresh ideas. Do you have an underlying injury or illness holding you back? Talk to your physician — ask for a referral to physical therapy, if necessary.
06. Breathe. This seems so simple, and for the most part, yes, our bodies will take care of breathing on its own. However, take a few minutes each day for some calming, deep breaths. This need not be some long, drawn out (and sometimes boring) meditation exercise — take 3-5 minutes before going to bed to sit in a calm place and focus on your breathing. Feel your pulse slowing, your blood pressure lowering, peace coming over you.
07. Address any potential health problems before trying to conceive or becoming pregnant. Gain control of diabetes, tackle that smoking habit, work on physical and emotional blockages. Seek the help of primary physicians as well as alternative practitioners. Consider seeing a chiropractor, massage therapist, nutritionist, herbalist or whoever can give you some insight and help with your optimal health.
This list is by no means all-inclusive or intended to replace the advice of your medical doctor. It IS meant to prompt thinking and action on your part for conception and pregnancy success!