Hi everyone, Happy Fertile Friday! Today I’m going to outline a preconception checklist – 10 points to look at and act on even before starting to get pregnant. Preparations for pregnancy should happen 3-6 months prior to even starting – the longer the better, to get the body in the best possible health, not only setting the stage for a healthy pregnancy, but also to make getting pregnant easier.
Here are ten things to get in place months before pregnancy occurs:
1). Work on your nutrition – cut out sugars and processed foods, eat more lean proteins, veggies and healthy fats. If possible, get food sensitivity testing done so that you know which foods your immune system is reactive to, and those foods will be inflammatory for your body if you eat them. Start drinking lots of water if you don’t already!
2). Start/ amend your exercise regimen – the rule of thumb with exercise during pregnancy is that you can usually continue whatever you were doing before. So don’t wait to start that exercise class until after you’re pregnant, chances are you will be advised not to. But exercise is very important during pregnancy, so start now – whether it be brisk walking, swimming, yoga or Pilates – all will help you during your pregnancy. I loved to run prior to being pregnant, and continued to do so until about 25 weeks; but I could only safely do that because I’d been running regularly prior.
3). Get a complete physical and lab work done – get a complete health check and lab work up to see if there are any imbalances that need correcting. Low vitamin D, wonky thyroid levels and low iron are all examples of things that would show up in basic blood work, and that could be very important for getting pregnant and growing a healthy baby. Labs including ANA and RA factor would also show any signs of auto-immunity, which could impact fertility and pregnancy too.
4.). Review your medications and supplements – look for things that are not considered safe in pregnancy and try to find an alternative well prior to getting pregnant. Stop medications that are not necessary. Have a good look at natural supplements and herbs too – many of those (especially herbs) are not advised in pregnancy, so unless it’s something you’re taking to help fertility, it might be best left off the list. Give up the Botox and the Retin-A!
5). Examine your hormones – unless you’re having problems with getting pregnant, you might not want to get obsessive about charting every little detail – sometimes putting too much energy into that becomes stressful and takes the enjoyment out of the process. But at least noting day one of your cycle and counting how many days your cycle length is, just to make sure you’re pretty regular. Some women like to track ovulation either by body temperature or those little ovulation sticks, just to make sure the timing is optimal. Women who are over 35 might want to get hormone tests done just to make sure their levels are good – day 3 estradiol and FSH, day 19 progesterone. I also like to see adrenal hormones tested – the saliva test for cortisol – since adrenals have so much impact on reproductive hormones.
6). Test for heavy metals – I honestly don’t recommend doing this unless conception is a year away. If levels are high, it usually takes about six months to bring them down, and you don’t want to be chelating heavy metals the month before you get pregnant. I do have women that come to me to look at chelation as part of their preconception health care program, especially those who have known exposures like lots of amalgam fillings; and it’s great to do so long as there’s enough time.
7). Start a good prenatal – this one is so important given that most birth defects occur in the first six weeks of gestational development. A good quality prenatal that includes methyl-folate is crucial. I like the Wellness Essentials for Pregnancy by Metagenics – they’re little packets that come with the vitamin/ mineral, omega-3’s, extra calcium/ magnesium, and extra choline, which is beneficial for the neurological development of the baby. And of course, it contains methyl-folate.
8). Check your environment for toxic exposures. I recommend switching to non-toxic cleaning products and personal care products. Tide might leave your clothes smelling great but there are perfumes and chemicals in there that can absorb into your skin. Even shower gels, body washes, facial moisturizers and deodorants can be a source of toxins. I also recommend checking your environment for any mold exposure since mold can be neurotoxic – a good quality air filter such as Blue Air is a good investment to clean up the air in your house.
9). Look inwards and assess how things are going emotionally and spiritually. Are there any issues between you and your partner that need to be addressed – regarding pregnancy, finances, parenting – anything at all. Do you have any childhood wounds or traumas to work through? Try to bring as many of those things to the light as possible before getting pregnant, so that they don’t come up as issues during or after pregnancy. The sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn does not always have us being our best selves, and it’s certainly not the time to be working through issues with our partner about financial responsibility, whether mum is going to go back to work and when, whether the baby will be sleeping in the marital bed etc.
10). Start planning logistics – talk to people about different options for prenatal care – do you want and OB or a midwife? Hospital birth or home birth? If you know where you want to do your prenatal care and birth, check to make sure your insurance covers those places/ doctors. Start saving for maternity leave, and/ or check into family leave policies with employers.
These things can all make for easier conception and happier, healthier pregnancy – the earlier you start, the better!