10 Health Changes to Make if You Plan to Get Pregnant in the New Year
They say you’re never quite ready for everything motherhood throws your way--as much as you try. However, if you’re hoping this new year is THE year you’ll get pregnant (fingers and toes crossed!) there are some ways to prep your body for baby. Here’s some health advice from the pros to consider if you’ve got babies on the brain!
More: TTC? 5 Things to Consider First
Change your mindset
According to HeHe Stewart, of Tranquility by HeHe, a Boston-area, concierge birthing and doula service, now’s the time to “reframe the wiring in your brain.” “Approach things from a place of gratitude and confidence,” explains Stewart. “This confidence includes confidence in yourself, your body, your baby, the universal timing, God's plan, your spiritual guides--whatever you put your faith in....you need to trust it.” Reframe your mindset to know that what is meant for you will not pass you by. “You might have to dig deep and navigate sticky emotions, but keep in mind that mindset is a muscle--something that needs constant practice.”
Pay attention to gut health
“From your child's immune system to their dental health, to their sleep, your gut health impacts your baby in every way,” says Stewart. “It’s very helpful to meet with a nutritionist to learn which foods are supportive of gut health and trying to conceive.” Also, talk to your doctor about a probiotic that helps support your gut health and repair any damage that may have been done. “Then, once you have a baby, speaking with your child's pediatrician is wise, as probiotics can be helpful for infants, too,” adds Stewart. “Protecting your baby's microbiome should be an intentional process, and that starts with now your gut health.”
Wear natural deodorant
Use code HEHE10 for 10% off for readers who are serious about making changes and want to try natural deodorant-- it's a very strange transition for many people so it sometimes hard to spend $16 on one stick of deodorant.
This seems really random, but according to Stewart, it’s important. “In my opinion, deodorant is one of the ickiest products on the market; filled with all sorts of hormone disruptors and antiperspirants containing metals and other ingredients to stop your sweat, resulting in clogged pores.” If you are trying to create the perfect environment for a baby to be conceived and grow, clogged pores (especially sweat glands) should be one of the first to go, explains Stewart. “Switching to natural deodorant has many benefits especially when trying to balance hormones for fertility. Any skin care products that contain ‘fragrance’ or ‘perfume/parfum,’ is likely creating disruption in your hormones.” Check those labels!
Stop smoking and drinking NOW
You’ve heard it once, twice, and now you’ll hear it again--toss those cigarette butts. It can be hard, but do whatever you can to kick the habit. “Smoking can decrease fertility and increase miscarriage rates and childhood problems,” says OBGYN Dr. Burton Brodsky, a Sylvania, OH-based ProMedica physician. Also, stop excessive drinking. Says Dr. Brodsky: limit alcohol to less than 5 drinks a week.
Fun fact from Dr. Brodsky: Get moving! “Exercise can improve fertility and decrease body weight, which is a risk factor for infertility. This will also improve mental health.”
Easier said than done for sure. But keep this in mind: According to Dr. Brodsky, women with high stress levels have a harder time getting pregnant due to high levels of certain enzymes. “Higher stress levels have been shown to decrease pregnancy rates.” Also, go to bed--literally--and stop letting anxiety keep you up at night. “Sleep disturbances can cause problems with ovulation and reproduction. Regulating your sleep can help avoid these problems and improve well-being.”
More: Top 10 Tips to Boost Your Chances of Getting Pregnant
Take prenatal vitamins
According to ProMedica Physicians Gynecologist Dr. Heather Wahl, You should start taking a prenatal vitamin (which contains folic acid) before (yes, before) you become pregnant. “The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention recommends taking 400 mcg of folic acid every day for at least one month before getting pregnant to help prevent birth defects.” Adds Dr. Wahl: “Women with certain medical conditions or on certain medications, may need higher doses of folic acid, so they should talk to their doctor to determine what is the best dose for them.”
Stop your birth control pill
“It may take time for you to figure out the length of your menstrual cycle after stopping birth control, especially if you have been on the pill for years or you have taken the pill continuously (skipping periods),” says Dr. Wahl. “I recommend women discontinue birth control two to three months prior to when they would like to conceive, realizing they could conceive within this time period, to determine their menstrual regularity.” This way ovulation, which is when a woman is most likely to conceive (fertile) and should have intercourse, can be determined.
Acknowledge importance of a healthy body weight
Some math is coming your way, but it’s great to know, so open your phone’s calculator, and follow along. Says Dr. Wahl: “In medicine, we refer to an individual's body mass index (BMI) which is weight in kilogram over body surface area in meters squared.” A normal BMI is 19 to 24.9 kg/m2. “Extremes of body weight, either overweight (BMI >25) or underweight (BMI 25) or obese (BMI >30) , losing 5 to 10% of body weight prior to attempting conception can improve fertility according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.”
Don’t neglect your doctor appointments, especially if you’re struggling with fertility
And remember, adds Dr. Wahl, fertility issues are not always related to the woman: men can be the cause of infertility in the relationship. “For women under 35 years old, it is normal for it to take up to one year to get pregnant when having regular, unprotected, intercourse.” For women 35 years and older, advises Dr. Wahl, consider an infertility evaluation if you do not conceive after 6 months of regular, unprotected, intercourse. “Keep in mind that the best way to increase your odds of pregnancy is to have intercourse around the time of ovulation.”
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Rachel is a NY-based mom of two daughters and a nationally-published writer.