So, you and your partner have talked and decided you’re ready to make a baby. Now what? Stop taking birth control, take a prenatal vitamin and you’re good to go, right? I say not so fast. Infertility is majorly on the rise, and it’s more crucial than ever that you take the time to ensure sure you’re as healthy as possible before trying to conceive.
There are things you can do to increase fertility, lower your risk of miscarriage and help create a healthy baby. We can’t control everything, and obviously you can try all of these things and still run into a wall (which we are SO sensitive to), but here’s where to start:
Track your cycle
Whether you’ve been on the pill since high school to regulate your flow or you don’t have regular cycles, some of us are pretty out of touch with our period. Now is the the perfect time to get extra friendly with your monthly visitor.
Regular menstrual and ovulation cycles are key to getting pregnant. There are a handful of apps out there that make tracking it pretty easy (my favorite is MyFlo). I recommend tracking your cycle for at least five months before you want to start trying. This will give you a good idea of when you ovulate, aka the 12-48 hours when the egg drops and prime time to make a baby. If you end up having any issues getting pregnant, the first thing medical practitioners will ask you is for details on your cycle, so it’s a good idea all around to track it.
Balance your hormones
Related to tracking your monthly cycle, get a panel run to see what your hormones are doing every month. If you have any PMS at all, you likely have some sort of hormonal imbalance. Naturopaths, acupuncturists and many other medical practitioners can test your hormones and interpret the results for you. Then, they can give you a plan on how to balance your hormones (usually through diet), lowering stress and supplementation.
I recommend working with the functional medical practitioners I mentioned above because most OBGYN’s do not specialize in balancing hormones and don’t have access to in depth hormone tests. Of course, it never hurts to ask your OBGYN first!
Build your meals around vegetables, fruit and healthy fats. Focus on fresh vegetables and fruit, and follow the “dirty dozen” grocery list to know what to buy organic. If you eat meat, make sure you are getting the best quality out there, like grass-fed and finished organic beef, pasture-raised and organic chicken, wild-caught freshwater fish and pasture-raised eggs. Other sources of healthy fats are avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed butter and nuts. Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar and processed foods. All of these not only cause inflammation in our body, but also can negatively affect our hormones.
If you have been on hormonal birth control, it’s especially important to supplement as you get ready for pregnancy since birth control depletes key nutrients like B vitamins, C, magnesium and zinc. While you can go crazy with supplements, here are the basics I think are non-negotiable: prenatal, probiotic, folate (not folic acid), Vitamin D and fish oil (unless you eat fatty fish multiple times a week).
When I was looking to have a baby a little over two years ago, I did a number of tests. Including a full nutrient panel, through my Naturopathic doctor, to see if I was deficient in anything so I knew exactly what I needed to supplement. Once you are pregnant, baby will take what it needs, so it’s important to supplement and build nutrient stores in your body so you don’t become depleted.
Lower your exposure to chemicals and toxins to lessen the strain these put on your reproductive systems. In addition to my favorite ways to detox daily, look at what products you’re putting on your skin everyday and using in your home. Do you know what the ingredients are in all of them? Switch to non-toxic personal care products and cleaning products. This site is crazy helpful when checking the safety of your products and here is a quick list of top ingredients to avoid. Limit your exposure to plastic and, if you use plastic water bottles, tupperware or anything else, switch to glass or stainless steel. (More of our tips on detoxing your home here!)
Get your partner involved
The field of epigenetics shows that DNA expression is affected by your environment and stress, and that both affect your baby’s health. This means that the 50% of baby’s DNA that comes from the father can be optimized! All of the recommendations above are just as important for the men in your life to follow, too. Personally, it was easier and more fun to be extra healthy with some moral support!
Everyone’s body is different, but this is where I recommend starting. As always, talk to your doctor first!
Questions? Leave them in the comments.