While it is not always possible for couples to plan when they start a family, optimizing your health prior to getting pregnant can lead to many health benefits not just to your future baby but to you as mom and dad.
Preparing your body increases the chance of a healthy conception, pregnancy, baby and postpartum period. It is ideal to start optimizing your health three to four months prior to planned conception. This is because it can take 90-115 days for sperm to generate and approximately 100 days for an egg to mature. The goal is to protect the genetic material and create a healthy environment for the growing baby.
Here are some factors to consider for optimizing fertility and general health.
There are many ways to detox our bodies. Cutting out sugar, caffeine, and alcohol while increasing water, vegetables and antioxidants is a great place to start. As discussed in this post, a main cause of morning sickness has to do with your liver’s ability to process the rise in hormone levels. There are many supportive products on the market that encourage liver and kidney function but it is always best to speak with a healthcare professional to make sure it is right for you. If there is any chance you could be pregnant then stop all detox products unless guided by your healthcare provider.
2. Balance your hormones
When planning to conceive, many women start to track their cycles a little closer to determine when they are ovulating during the month. Noting when ovulation occurs and other symptoms throughout the month can provide insight on how balanced your sex hormones are and where areas of support may be needed. The majority of women do not perfectly ovulate on day 14 which is why it's so important to track. There are many signs your body gives to suggest ovulation has occurred including increased cervical mucus, a change in basal body temperature, abdominal pain (also known as mittleschmerz) and a positive signal on an ovulation strip. If you notice less than 10-12 days between ovulation and your next period, you may have what is called Luteal Phase Defect. If you have longer cycles, it may be more difficult to know when ovulation has occurred.
Timing for when to stop birth control is another consideration when deciding to get pregnant. It can take a few cycles for your body to normalize and in some cases, even up to a year start to ovulating again. Oral birth control also depletes the body of B vitamins in your body so increasing these important nutrients in their activated form is essential.
3. Focus on nutrition
There isn’t one diet that fits all. However, most people do well with a vegetable and protein rich diet. In a perfect world we would get all of our nutrients from our food, unfortunately our soil does not have the mineral and vitamin content it did 50 years ago and supplementation may be necessary for most people. Folic acid is one such nutrient and is also important for preventing neurological issues in children. However, most people do not realize it is ideal to start supplementing with a minimum 400mcg of the active form folate (5MTHF) three to four months BEFORE you get pregnant. Choosing a good quality prenatal should provide a base line for obtaining the necessary micronutrients. Consuming good quality fish 1-2 times per week is also a healthy addition to a balanced diet and has been shown to decrease your future child’s risk of asthma and eczema.* If you do not enjoy fish, I often recommend 1-3 grams of fish oil from a reputable company.
We know through animal studies when a mother eats a high sugar junk food diet during pregnancy, her offspring will be more risk of developing cardiovascular disease and obesity later in life.** Sugar also decreases your immune system, increases inflammation, and can lead to hormonal imbalances. Read this post for tips to reduce sugar in your diet and this post for managing alcohol consumption.
Starting a healthy diet and lifestyle prior to conception will not only improve the way you think and feel but will increase your chances of getting pregnant and optimizing the health of your future child.
For tips to improve overall health and wellbeing, nutrition, recipes and meal plans, visit Integrative Health.
*Romieu, et al., Maternal fish intake during pregnancy and atopy and asthma in infancy, 2007: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17430348
**Bayol, et al., Offspring from mothers fed a ‘junk food’ diet in pregnancy and lactation exhibit exacerbated adiposity that is more pronounced in females, 2008: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2538787/