So, you’ve decided you want to try and get pregnant. There’s a lot to think about during this time and one of the things that should be top of mind is your health. How healthy you are pre-pregnancy will greatly influence your health during pregnancy.
Preconception health is the term used to describe your health before you get pregnant. Not only can having optimal preconception health increase your chances of getting pregnant, but it will also contribute to the health of your future child. March of Dimes has a comprehensive guide on preconception health, but here are a few highlights on how to prepare your body for pregnancy.
1. See Your Doctor
You should see your doctor for a preconception check-up to assess your general health and wellness. Depending on your current health, your doctor can make recommendations for steps to take to increase preconception health. Make sure to talk to your doctor about the following:
- Vaccinations: make sure you’re up to date. If you are unsure, then blood tests can sometimes be done to see if you are protected against certain illnesses.
- Current medications: Check to see if any medication you are currently on might interfere with trying to get pregnant or be harmful to a baby if you get pregnant. Your doctor may suggest alternatives or give you a plan to gradually decrease your dosage at a safe rate.
- Family and personal history: If you have a family or personal history of certain conditions that can complicate fertility or pregnancy, let your doctor know. For instance, if you had complications during a previous pregnancy, let the doctor know so you can take steps to avoid them in the future if possible.
2. Discontinue Birth Control
If you’ve been using birth control, then you already know you will need to stop using it to get pregnant. How long it takes for your menstrual cycle to return to normal can depend on the type of birth control you used. With most birth control pills, you will get your period within 30 days of stopping so you can start trying to conceive without taking a break. But if you want to have a better idea of when you ovulate, you can stop taking your birth control a few months before you start trying to conceive and use condoms while your cycle returns to normal. Some long-term birth control methods, like progestin injections, will require a longer period between stopping and getting pregnant. Talk to your doctor about your specific situation.
3. Get to a Healthy Weight
If you are overweight or underweight, it might be more difficult for you to conceive. Excess weight is often related to fertility issues as well as complications in pregnancy, including gestational diabetes. Being underweight is also risky, as it can interfere with your menstrual cycle.
Losing weight while pregnant is generally not recommended, so doing so before you start trying to conceive is in your best interest. Losing weight can be difficult, but it can make a big difference to talk to your doctor if you need help. Focus on being active and eating healthy foods and find a nutrition plan that works for you.
4. Adjust Your Diet
Even if you do not need to lose or gain weight, adjusting your diet to be more nutritious can help prepare your body for pregnancy. Focus on whole foods and limit processed and packaged products, including things with excess sugar, sodium, or nitrates. Not only will a healthy diet help you when trying to conceive, but getting into the habit before you’re pregnant will prepare you for when you are.
5. Get Moving
Along with a healthy diet, regular exercise can also help you during preconception. It is recommended that adults get 2.5 hours a week of moderate-intensity physical activity. Break up the 2.5 hours over several days in the week, and work both cardiovascular exercise and strength training. If you’re already physically active, keep it up. If you’re not currently active, take things slowly at first.
6. Stop Drinking
Alcohol consumption can harm your chances of getting pregnant and can be dangerous to the baby once you are pregnant. Sometimes a woman can be pregnant for a little while before she even knows it, so any drinking during that time could cause harm.
7. Limit Caffeine
When trying to get pregnant, you should limit your caffeine consumption. Women who had more than 300 mg of caffeine daily have a harder time getting pregnant and increased risks of miscarriage. So, limit your intake to less than 200 mg each day. Plus, it will get you in the habit of having lower amounts so that when you do get pregnant, it will not be as big of an adjustment.
8. Quit Smoking
Smoking is not only bad for overall health, but it also reduces fertility. Infertility rates in smokers are about twice those of nonsmokers, and pregnancy is still less likely for smokers even with fertility treatments. Smoking can also limit a woman’s reproductive window and menopause usually occurs one to four years earlier in women who smoke. In men, smoking has been linked to erectile dysfunction and decreased sperm quality.
The chemicals released into the body through smoking can damage genetic materials in eggs and sperm, meaning that even after conception the risk of miscarriage and birth defects is higher for smokers. So, you should quit smoking before you start trying to get pregnant. The good news is that after you quit smoking, your body begins to reverse some of the effects and your fertility may improve.
It’s often very difficult to stop smoking, so if you have concerns about doing so before you start trying to conceive, you can talk with your healthcare provider about things that will help. Often joining a support group will increase chances of success. Certain medications or nicotine replacements may be taken temporarily, but these methods should still be used before getting pregnant. If you are already pregnant and need to stop smoking, talk to your doctor right away.
9. Start Taking Certain Supplements
Many doctors will recommend starting a prenatal vitamin when you start trying to conceive. Make sure you take a prenatal vitamin or supplement with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. Folic acid is vital to the formation of the baby’s neural tube, which becomes the spine and brain. If you are at a high risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD) you should talk to your doctor about how to safely get enough folic acid to lower your risk.
If you’re ready to get pregnant but are struggling with fertility issues, Laurel Fertility Care is here to help. Our team of experts will be there for you every step of the way with a treatment plan that is customized for you. Making the decision to undergo fertility treatments is a big one, and we want to be there to assure you get the best care possible. We have three locations to make care accessible to those in Modesto, Fresno, and San Francisco. To make an appointment, you can call 415-673-9199 or request an appointment online