When deliberately planning to create a new life, there are numerous things that one can do in order to facilitate and promote a healthy conception and pregnancy. The following are steps which I personally chose to follow pre-conception, in an attempt to ready my body to the best of my ability:
1. Take yourself in for a tune-up – Letting your general practitioner and/or gynecologist know that you are thinking about conception in the near future is a good way to start the process off. Any routine or special blood work and exams that are due (for both partners) can be taken care of, as well as checks for STDs which might prevent conception or could affect the resulting fetus. Noted deficiencies or highlighted problems can safely be taken care of before conception. This goes for routine and more involved dental work, as well!
2. Begin prenatals – Many experts recommend starting prenatal vitamins and other supplements, especially folic acid, many months before even ‘trying to conceive’ (TTC). If you already take a daily multivitamin, it should be no extra effort to swap it out with a prenatal version. Of course, talk to your physician or nutritionist for advice on this issue, if necessary.
3. Speak with a nutritionist – Particularly if you have any special dietary requirements, whether due to food allergies, religious beliefs, or ethical viewpoints, a nutritionist should be able to help you prepare your body through your diet for optimum conception and a healthy pregnancy. As your body’s nutritional needs will change greatly when a baby is forming inside your womb, it can be helpful to get a jump start on tailoring your food and supplement intake ahead of time, so that you are not hit with stressful lifestyle changes when you discover you actually are pregnant. Examples of nutrients that you will need more of when carrying a baby include protein, calcium and healthy fatty acids for brain development (i.e., DHA and EPA).
4. Kick the habit – As well as taking into account what your physician and nutritionist will tell you to do, it is well-known that healthy conception and smoking and excessive alcohol consumption (by either or both participating partners) do not go hand and hand. Some sources add caffeine consumption to this as well, so consider cutting back on your double-shot lattes or soft drinks, if not quitting completely.
5. Reduce personal toxicity – Produce sprayed with pesticides, fish laden with heavy metals, an overload of perfumed personal care products, excess use of drugs (whether legal or illegal), working in an environment where you are exposed to industrial chemicals – all of these things can potentially add to your body’s overall chemical load. Switching to natural personal care products, eating organic when possible, and choosing small, short-lived fish are all things which can help to lessen the toxic burden on an overloaded body.
6. Reduce toxicity of the household – Clear out those harsh cleaning products under the kitchen sink and ditch the heavily scented detergents and dryer sheets in favor of gentle, people- and planet-friendly formulations (or make your own from baking soda or vinegar and essential oils, for example). Air purifiers and filters can help with inside air quality if you live in a polluted urban area.
7. Get your hormones in order – If you are taking oral contraceptives, it is safe to say that you will need to discontinue their use at some point. It often takes months for your cycle to self-regulate without chemical ‘help’, so thinking about this ahead of time is a good idea. You can track your ovulation dates using online software, by taking your basal temperature, or by using test strips which you urinate on, in order to give you a good idea of which days of the month you are most likely to conceive.
8. Exercise – The easiest time to get in shape is before pregnancy! You never know how your pregnancy will go, and tiredness, nausea and body aches may make the thought of starting a fitness routine quite daunting. A strong body will make it easier to carry your baby weight and continue your daily activities without struggling to comfortably move.
9. Read TTC books – There are many well-written and informative books on the market which detail what both partners should be doing to promote fertility and physical health in general in preparation for easy and successful conception. The information presented ranges from advice tailored to already healthy individuals, to those who face the risk of difficulties due to genetic predispositions, age or a previous history of health problems. Conception advice books also typically touch on the clinical options available should the ‘natural’ process of making a baby not be taking its course as expected.
10. Start checking out doctors so you know where to go – This can be especially important if you are living in a new town or city, or if you do not have many friends or relatives who have had babies and can recommend practitioners. As long as you are open to the possibility of having to pay for a consultation fee or office visit, you can easily book yourself an appointment with an obstetrician to get a feel for their practice and birth philosophy, if not flat out interview them with a list of questions or concerns that you may have. You may find that it will make you much more at ease if you already have someone lined up as your go-to physician when you discover that you are pregnant.
(photo of Jennifer at 22 weeks)
Check back over the next few weeks for more on how Jennifer prepared for her pregnancy and on creating a green nursery. You can also learn more about her life in India and Thailand from Jennifer's blog The Robertsons of Mumbai at http://www.therobertsonsofmumbai.com