October 21, 2020 | By: Dr. Patti Haebe, N.M.D
You may have spent close to a year planning your wedding, or months planning your last vacation, but how much time have you spent preparing your body to grow life?
No matter where you are in the process, now is the perfect time to start optimizing your body for conception!
But how do you prepare for pregnancy? We’ll walk you through some of the essential steps!
1. Stop Hormonal Contraceptives
While oral contraceptives, like birth control pills, and hormonal IUDs do an incredible job at preventing pregnancy, they also shut down the hormonal communication between your brain and ovaries. Sometimes after stopping contraceptives it can take anywhere from 1-6 months for cycles to begin again -- and sometimes even longer to begin cycling regularly. If you have a timeline for getting pregnant, it’s a good idea to consider allowing your hormones to regulate naturally, well before your desired date of conception.
It’s important to talk to your doctor before stopping any medication. Also, ensure that you have a backup method of birth control, such a condoms, while your body regulates.
2. Prepare With Prenatal Vitamins
Did you know that oral contraceptive pills actually deplete our nutrient stores? It has been found that they commonly deplete vitamins B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc -- just to name a few nutrients! In addition, it’s difficult to ensure you are maximizing your nutrient stores by diet alone, and many people are missing the mark on essential baby-making nutrients!
Consider talking to your doctor about finding a good quality prenatal early. Many fertility specialists recommend beginning a prenatal multivitamin at least 3-6 months before you begin trying to conceive.
Here are some key nutrients to make sure your prenatal contains:
- Vitamin B9 (Folate): Research has recently supported a methylated form of B9 (5MTHF) in place of folic acid, which is a synthetic form of B9. Methylated folate is growing in popularity because research has found that 1/3 of women may have a genetic variant called the MTHFR mutation that requires methylated folate, instead of folic acid, so that their bodies can best utilize the nutrient! Either way, folate is absolutely essential for pregnancy to ensure healthy neural tube development!
- Choline: This is also an essential nutrient to look for in your prenatal. Choline aides in the conception process and early pregnancy by promoting gene expression, methyl group donation, and even brain development. It’s commonly found in egg yolks, but most Americans tend to be largely deficient. So, if your prenatal contains choline, it gets bonus points!
- DHA: DHA is an Omega-3 fatty acid that helps to support the development of baby’s brain and nervous system. It can be found in food sources, such as wild-caught fatty fish. However, many don’t consume adequate amounts regularly, so it’s another key nutrient to look for in a multivitamin.
3. Start Tracking Your Menstrual Cycle
If you haven’t already, it’s essential that you begin tracking your cycle to gain essential insight into your fertile window. Download the Premom app and start logging today!
As your hormones begin to regulate you’ll see things like changes in cervical mucus, BBT spikes after ovulation, and LH surges before ovulation. These all contain important information about your cycle and fertile window to help you to conceive or to avoid conception until you are ready. Some essential tools to begin tracking in your Premom app with are:
- Easy@home ovulation tests or Premom quantitative ovulation tests
- A basal body temperature thermometer
- PdG urinary progesterone test strips
- The Premom phone app
- HCG pregnancy tests
4. What’s at the End of Your Fork?
Nutrition is also an essential component of preparing your body for conception. You can’t out-supplement a bad diet. Just because you may be taking a prenatal doesn’t mean you should throw nutrition to the curb! Besides, any healthy eating habits you begin now can help you maintain both a healthy weight and blood sugar throughout your pregnancy.
It’s great to eliminate alcohol early, in addition to any recreational marijuana or drug use. Oftentimes whole foods based diets -- such as Whole 30 or Paleolithic -- can help you balance your blood sugar, optimize nutrients, and eliminate processed foods -- while focusing on nutrient-dense organic vegetables, low glycemic fruits, free-range eggs and meats and wild caught fish. Not only does this keep you from ingesting unnecessary amounts of pesticides, it also keeps you away from unnecessary chemical additives and food colorings that your body doesn’t need.
5. Move That Body, Before the Bump
Most everyone can agree that exercise is beneficial to maintain a healthy weight, build muscle mass, support metabolism and boost mood -- but what types of exercise are best for pre-conception? It’s different for every person, but it’s generally considered that 30-60 minutes of gentle exercise is most beneficial across the board. However, high intensity workout routines such a spin classes and overly intense high-intensity interval training (HIIT) gym classes can actually cause physical stress in women TTC and can sometimes throw off menstrual cycles. When trying to conceive, it’s best to find a happy medium of light cardio, walking, Pilates and yoga to maintain physical strength and endurance, while not adding unnecessary stressors to the body.
6. Sleep Hygiene
Good sleep habits are essential for encouraging healthy hormonal cycling. Menstrual cycles are often influenced by the circadian rhythm, the natural sleep-wake cycle repeated every 24 hours based on light and dark. Do your best to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night in a completely dark environment. Blue lights, such as those emitted by cell phones, tvs and other devices, can stop your body’s natural melatonin production and negatively impact your circadian rhythm. Consider unplugging 1-2 hours before you are ready to go to bed, try to go to sleep and wake at the same time each day, keep your room cool to encourage good sleep -- and if you must watch TV -- consider adding some orange-tinted glasses to negate the effects of blue light. When you support your circadian rhythm, you are also encouraging healthy hormonal cycling.
7. Involve your partner!
Conception involves an egg and a sperm; it’s a 50:50 split. Consider using these 3-6 months before trying to conceive to prepare your bodies together! For men, too, diet, a good multivitamin, sleep and physical movement are all essential pillars for male fertility, and it’s important that they too are as healthy as can be prior to conception. Did you know that male factor infertility causes fertility issues 30-50% of the time? Use this time to bond with your partner while making healthy lifestyle changes and teaching them about your cycle and fertile signs!
While this may sound like a lot of work, try incorporating one healthy habit at a time. Perhaps it’s easy for you to implement a prenatal vitamin, but ovulation tests, basal body temperature (BBT) and cervical mucus tracking seem overwhelming! Consider adding one new habit every week -- and before you know it, you’ll be a health machine! Need support? Consider seeking the counsel of a fertility specialist through a Premom virtual consultation to help you get started! Learning to take care of yourself before conceiving will empower you to continue caring for yourself after conception, so you can feel your best while caring for your little one. Wellness begins with a solid foundation. So don’t delay, begin wherever you are!
Schedule a consultation with Dr. Haebe right through your Premom app!
Dr. Patti Haebe is a results-obsessed naturopathic doctor. She specializes in pre-conception preparation, fertility and hormone optimization. She is committed to root-cause healing through therapeutic supplementation as well as targeted diet and lifestyle modifications. Her virtual practice, Ocotillo Integrative Medicine, provides integrative consultations worldwide via webcam for those looking to incorporate natural, proactive approaches to their healthcare and fertility journey. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Haebe right through your Premom app!