Preparing Your Body For Pregnancy
- When planning to get pregnant, there are several factors to consider about your personal health
- This includes existing medical conditions, menstrual health, family history, weight management, etc.
- These factors can impact your chances of getting pregnant and even the health of your baby and you during and after pregnancy
- Talking to your healthcare provider about these is important as they can recommend ways to avoid these problems and offer helpful solutions
Congratulations to you and your partner on taking a step towards building your family! It is truly an amazing time for the two of you. If you are overwhelmed with emotions and information being bombarded on you, don't worry. We understand. And we are here to simplify this process for you. Right from the start. So let us see how to prepare your body for pregnancy before you get pregnant.
It is possible that amidst the stresses of life, your work, family, partner, and a billion other things you have to worry about, you have lost track of your health. But pregnancy is a time when you need to focus solely on the needs of you and your unborn child. This is why we encourage you to take some time and analyze a few things you need to know and do for preparing your body for pregnancy naturally.
When to start preparing for pregnancy?
They say that there's no better time to start something than today. However, if you have decided to try and get pregnant, it might be advisable to pause and think for a minute. You and your partner might be mentally ready to take on the challenges of parenthood. But is your body ready and up to this task? And if not, how much time do you think it will take? The answer depends on person to person. If your physical and mental health is all in shape, you can go ahead and start right away. But if you have certain concerns, like weight, nutritional deficiencies, irregular periods, etc., you might have to take some steps to remedy the situation. This can take as little as 30 to 90 days but in some cases, it could even take 6 months or a year.
How to start preparing your body for pregnancy?
Now that you know when the ideal time to start is, you might want to look into some other factors that can influence your decisions. Here are some things for you to look into to get your body pregnancy-ready.
1. Family History
How well do you know your roots, or where you come from? Do you know your family well enough? Do you have a detailed idea of all the disorders and medical history in your lineage? When starting to plan for a pregnancy, these are the questions you need to familiarize yourself with.
Family history is a very important tool in pre-conception counseling and is something you need to provide your healthcare provider. You can start by getting more information from your parents, your doctor may even ask you to run some tests. Your doctor might make a pedigree with the required information and use it to analyze potential problems with pregnancy and the health of your child.
Knowing your family history is important for the following reasons:
- Understanding the risk of inherited disorders in your child: There are certain disorders such as sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, etc. which are usually recessive; however, if both parents have the genes for the disorder, there is a high risk that the offspring will develop them.
- Preparing for fertility problems with pregnancy beforehand: Having a history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, etc. amongst the women in your family can affect your fertility. Your doctor might use this information to take the necessary steps in advance.
- Assessing risk for complications during pregnancy: Having a family history of diabetes, hypertension, etc. can make you more prone to developing complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and more during your pregnancy. These disorders can impact both you and your child. Hence, taking the necessary precautions, undergoing screening and diagnosis on time, and managing your lifestyle are some of the preemptive measures your doctor might recommend you to start with.
2. Birth Control
Contraception is commonly used by women in the reproductive age group. Nearly 90% of women can get pregnant but don't wish to use some form of contraception. Also, to give you further clarity about the use of contraceptives in avoiding pregnancy, up to 85% of women who have unprotected intercourse will experience an unintended pregnancy within a year. This makes it amply clear that if you want to get pregnant through intercourse, you will have to go off your regular contraception or birth control methods.
The question is, when should you go off birth control? This depends highly on the type of contraception you are using. For example, if you have an IUD, you can get pregnant within the same month. For some people, it may even take 3 months, or 6, or even a year. If you're on the pill, the story remains the same. You can get pregnant within days, or even weeks or months. On average, it may take 3-4 months to get pregnant once you're off contraception. However, remember that it can happen within a matter of days too, and you must be mentally prepared for this.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you are on oral contraceptives (the pill) to treat hormonal disorders like PCOS, it could hamper your chances of getting pregnant too. Have a word with your doctor about this aspect as well.
3. Knowing your cycle
We are talking about your menstrual cycle. It is important to understand the number of days in your cycle, and what phase occurs when.
Fertility depends on the menstrual cycle. In each cycle, there is a "fertile window" during which women can conceive. This can decide when you are the most fertile, and increase your chances of getting pregnant. This can also help you get pregnant in a shorter period.
Let's have a look at the phases of the menstrual cycle:
- Menstrual phase: This is when bleeding occurs. It may last from 3 to 5 days. This is the longest phase in the cycle. It starts from Day 1 of your period and ends with ovulation. It can last for 11 days or more.
- Ovulation phase: This is usually the 14th day, and is the day ovulation occurs. This means that the egg is released from the ovaries.
- Luteal phase: In this phase, the uterus begins its preparation to receive the fertilized egg. If fertilization does not happen, we return to square one, i.e. the menstrual/bleeding phase.
Now, if you were to guess, what would be the best time to try getting pregnant? Yes, it's the ovulation phase and a couple of days before that.
Studies suggest that the fertile window starts 5 days before ovulation and ends on the day of ovulation. Hence, keeping a track of your cycle can help you.
Here are some ways to determine your fertile window:
- Phone apps or cycle tracking: These apps keep track of your menstrual cycle and calculate your fertile window based on the same. If you have a fairly regular cycle, these apps can be useful.
- Ovulation predictor strips: These are over-the-counter strips. With the help of your urine, they can analyze if you are fertile at the given moment or not. These are extremely helpful and fairly accurate.
4. Starting prenatal vitamins
The best way to get vitamins and minerals usually is through your diet. But when you are planning to get pregnant, the situation is a bit different. The healthy food recipe diet you are on may or may not be sufficient to support your needs and the baby's growth. This is why you may be asked to take certain prenatal vitamins.
Some of the prenatal vitamins and minerals are:
- Folic Acid: It can reduce the risk of birth defects in your child. It is especially important for your child's spinal column development and the prevention of spinal disorders. Talk to your doctor about choosing a supplement that provides about 0.4 milligrams (400 micrograms) of folic acid.
- Iron:Iron deficiency and anemia are very common during pregnancy. Hence you may want to take some iron supplements before you get pregnant.
- Calcium and Vitamin D: These are important for the development of the baby's bone structure and teeth.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: If you do not eat or enjoy fish, you may have to take supplements for omega-3.
- Other vitamins and minerals: Look for a prenatal vitamin that contains vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, and iodine.
Make sure you talk to your doctor about the risk of taking high dosages of these prenatal vitamins as well as taking more than recommended amounts which can lead to birth defects.
5. Stress and mental health
These days, it seems like stress has become a part of our lives. And studies are showing that this stress has become a bane of our health. It comes as no surprise, that mental health plays a role in pregnancy and fertility.
Pregnancy is not just an emotional decision, it is also a financial one. It comes with an increase in expenses, be it hospital and doctor visits, ultrasounds, functions and events, and even the expenses of having another tiny individual added to your family. This can increase the financial pressure on the couple, which could lead to stress and anxiety.
It is estimated that 1 in 8 couples find it difficult to conceive. Another surprising fact is that up to 60% of infertile individuals report psychiatric symptoms and that their levels of anxiety and depression are significantly higher than fertile individuals. Furthermore, stress levels can also impact your menstrual cycles. This should speak volumes about the fact that fertility is very much dependent on your mental health status.
So what can be done? First of all, relax. You are about to enter the journey of a lifetime, make sure you enjoy every part of it! Talk to your doctor about what can be done to relieve your anxiety and stress. Psychological interventions have been shown to reduce distress levels and improve the chances of pregnancies. A cognitive-behavioral group approach may help in achieving both these goals.
6. Managing weight
Having an ideal weight is very important for a healthy pregnancy. Making sure that you are fit is one of the first things you should look into before trying to get pregnant. Being underweight or overweight can be deleterious to your and your baby's health.
You should not try to lose weight during pregnancy. But you should strive to attain a healthy pregnancy body weight before conceiving.
Your ovulation chances can dive if you have a BMI of 30 or higher, in which case you might be obese.
Obesity has several associated risk factors when it comes to pregnancy:
- An increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and recurrent miscarriage
- Gestational diabetes, wherein you have a high blood sugar level
- Preeclampsia, where you have increased blood pressure and protein in your urine, indicating kidney problems
- Chronic hypertension
- Cardiac dysfunction
- Sleep apnea
- A difficult vaginal delivery
- The need for a C-section
During pregnancy, your weight is bound to increase. If your BMI is 30 or more, your health care provider will recommend gaining not more than 5 to 9 kgs.
Being underweight is also associated with menstrual problems like irregular periods, lean PCOS, and preterm delivery when you get pregnant. Hence, it is recommended to speak to your doctor about weight gain pre-conception.
You must strive to eat a healthy balanced diet that provides ample nutrients. This must be continued throughout the pregnancy, those the proportions of each food might change.
Here are some tips you should consider:
- Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products in your diet
- Eat foods rich in proteins and healthy fats
- Lower your carbohydrate intake
- Reduce the amounts of unhealthy fats and empty calories, including sweets, pastries, candies, etc.
When you're in the grocery store, you can look for all sorts of brightly colored fruits and vegetables as they are rich in both macro and micronutrients.
It is advisable to have some types of fish, as they are rich in healthy fats like omega-3, however, there are some fish you need to stay away from. This includes predator fish, such as tuna, which can expose you to increased levels of heavy metals, including mercury and cadmium.
Wondering about your exercise regime? Do you need to give it up during pregnancy? Here are some answers for you.
Most women can continue their exercise routine almost throughout the pregnancy. It is recommended that you exercise regularly before and during pregnancy. A sedentary lifestyle before and during pregnancy is associated with several complications, including deep vein thrombosis, gestational diabetes, obesity, etc. Despite recommendations, only about 40% of women exercise during pregnancy. This should not be the situation, given that physical exercise can help with some common discomforts and even prepare one's body for labor and delivery.
How should your exercise routine look? Ideally, 150 min per week should suffice. This can be broken into smaller sessions- for example, 30 minutes per day for five days each week. If you have never exercised before, and are just about to begin an exercise routine, you should not jump to a high-intensity exercise. Start with 10-15 minutes of exercise first, and then increase the duration gradually over a few days.
You can take up exercises like walking, cycling, stair steppers, ellipticals, swimming, aerobic dance, and yoga.
Take steps to prevent overheating and dehydration. Walking on an indoor track or a treadmill is a good alternative to walking outdoors. While cycling, you can choose a stationary bike over cycling tracks as they are safer, and have fewer chances of injury. Yoga and Pilates are excellent stretching and strengthening exercises for your muscles, including those in the pelvic region.
9. Things to quit
There are some things you might have to give up on before trying to get pregnant. This is because:
- They can reduce your chances of getting pregnant
- Or result in miscarriage
- Alcohol: Alcohol is bad for your baby's growth. It can lead to long-term problems like long-term problems for your baby, such as intellectual disability, behavioral issues, learning disabilities, and facial and heart defects.
- Caffeine: If you consume more than 2 cups of coffee then you have a lower chance of getting pregnant, and a high risk of miscarriage.
- Smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for infertility. Also, women who smoke have a higher chance of having a low-weight baby.
- Medications: Some medications can lower your chances of getting pregnant or even harm the fetus once you do get pregnant. This includes medicines like warfarin, methotrexate, ACE inhibitors, valproic acid, etc. If you are on some form of life-saving medicine, your doctor can guide you towards more suitable alternatives.
Pregnancy might seem like a time full of compromise and sacrifice. But the reward is worth it.
With this, we believe that you have a comprehensive idea about what to look into before trying to conceive. Having a conversation with your doctor about the potential problems that can arise during pregnancy is extremely important. All of the above pointers can help you make an informed decision about your pregnancy. They can advise you on the risks based on your family history, weight, existing medical conditions, etc. that can pose potential problems when you are pregnant.
Don't be afraid of questions like how to prepare your body for pregnancy or how to get your body ready for pregnancy or you might be concerned about preparing your body for pregnancy naturally. Worry not! If you and your healthcare provider have considered the above factors, and yet you find it difficult to conceive for over a year or 6 months if you are 35 or older, it might be time to consider the possibility of infertility. In this case, you might have to look at other options available to you. We reiterate that having a clear conversation with your partner and doctor is the best way ahead.
Did you like our Article?
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Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Aug, 23 2023
Dr. Kulyk Alexander Petrovich