Trying to Conceive? What to do to Prepare, and Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant
Are you thinking of starting a family?
There is a lot to do to prepare! Read on for info about your pre-pregnancy must do’s and don’ts to increase your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.
Planning for a family can be one of the most stressful life events. As we all probably know by now, life doesn’t always happen according to our plans. Sometimes an “oops” pregnancy occurs, and we miss the chance for everything that comes with planning ahead. But, for couples planning to get pregnant soon, there are many things to think about, and to start (and STOP!) doing now – before you conceive.
First things first – see a doctor!
The first step to getting your body ready for pregnancy is to schedule a preconception checkup with a doctor or midwife. It is always a good idea to make sure your general and reproductive health are in good standing, so you can have the best chances for fertility. Also, you’ll want to lose weight if you are overweight, or put on some pounds if you are underweight. These factors can affect your ability to become pregnant. Lastly, your doctor should tell you that taking a folic acid supplement about a month before trying to conceive is a good idea. Studies show that taking folic acid (400 micrograms) before, and during early pregnancy reduce your chances of neural tube defects by up to 70%. He or she will also tell you to stop smoking and to limit your drinking! …Which brings us to our next to-do:
STOP smoking & drinking!!
It is never a good idea to smoke while pregnant. It lowers the amount of oxygen available to you and your growing baby, increases your baby’s heart rate, increases the chances of miscarriage and stillbirth, increases the risk of premature labor and low birth rate, and finally, it increases your baby’s risk of developing respiratory problems. If your health wasn’t a good enough reason to quit smoking, your baby’s health should be. Drinking should also be avoided while pregnant, so if it is a big habit of yours, cut back now. Lastly, and hopefully obviously, any recreational drugs you may use need to also be put to a halt before you start trying to have a baby.
Coming off birth control...
Most women have been using some type of birth control before they decide to start trying for a baby. Some women have even been on birth control for years. If you have been taking hormonal forms of birth control ie: the pill, patch, or vaginal ring, keep in mind that it may take some time for your body to begin ovulating on its own again. Every woman is different, but it can take some women a few months for their fertility to return. Once you’re getting regular periods, you’ll know your ovulation is back.
The fun part. Doin’ the ‘deed’…..
Now you’re ready to actually start trying to make a baby. This is the fun part! Remember that. Some couples can turn trying to conceive into a chore and it often times involves a lot of pressure and anxiety. Don’t let this be you. Remember to have fun with it, and remember why you’re doing this in the first place! You and your husband love each other and want to create a family. Making a baby is about love – don’t make it a ‘duty.’ Remember that stress and emotional health can also play a big part in your chances of conceiving.
Most couples get pregnant within three months. Timelines can be longer due to age, bad habits (like smoking!), or conditions that can impair fertility. If you have not gotten pregnant in a year’s worth of trying, contact a fertility specialist.
Stick to “fertility-friendly” positions that will keep sperm inside you longer. The missionary position is usually best. Stay away from positions with the woman on top – sperm can leak out this way. Try putting a pillow under your hips in the missionary position, and don’t get up right away afterwards. Relax and allow the sperm to be in you as long as possible.
The scoop on Ovulation
Start keeping an ovulation calendar, so you know when your chances are highest. Ovulation calculators can be helpful, too. Remember that you can only get pregnant when you ovulate, and studies show that couples who have sex before and during ovulation get pregnant the fastest. The absolute best time to have sex is two to three days before ovulation, through the day you actually ovulate. Don’t rely just on ovulation, though. It is a good practice to have sex generally three times a week, but focusing heavily on the ovulation days.
The easiest way to estimate when you’ll ovulate is to count back. First, figure out what day your next period will most likely start. This only works for “clock-work” menstrual cycles. From that day, count back 12 days and then another 4. You will most likely ovulate during this five-day timeframe.
How will I know when I’m ovulating beyond the calendar? Here are some subtle symptoms of ovulation:
· Breast tenderness
· Slight feelings of discomfort in your middle abdomen
· Increased vaginal discharge – the appearance will be thinner, wetter, like egg-whites almost
What should I eat/take?
Start prepping your body for your baby by beginning to eat healthy now. Generally a low fat, high nutrients diet is best. Some dietary specialists advise even a whole year for dietary changes to take root. But if that’s not you, don’t worry - it’s never too late to start now.
LOTS OF FRUITS & VEGETABLES: Make sure you are eating your recommended daily serving of fruits and veggies. This will put your body at its optimal nutrition when you conceive. Fruits and vegetables are packed with crucial vitamins and minerals, and free-radical fighting antioxidants. Brightly colored fruits and veggies like blueberries, red peppers, kale, and tomatoes are the best. The more vivid the hue, the more nutrients the food has to offer you.
IRON: Make sure you’re getting enough iron before you get pregnant, especially if you have heavy periods. Too little iron at the start of your pregnancy can put you at risk for postpartum anemia, which causes your red blood cells to fall below normal and will deplete your energy. Taking a multivitamin enriched with iron is best.
VITAMINS: It can be difficult to get all the nutrients you need for optimal fertility just by food alone, so taking a prenatal vitamin or regular multivitamin is advised. If taking a multivitamin instead of a prenatal vitamin, make sure it contains folic acid, doesn’t contain more than the recommended daily dose of vitamin A, and has a good dose of vitamin B12.
What to avoid?
Aside from the known avoidances such as smoking, alcohol, and drugs, there are some other things to avoid for optimal fertility.
LARGE AMOUNTS OF CAFFEINE: There is still inconclusive evidence that caffeine effects fertility, but experts do agree staying on a low to moderate consumption pattern. It might be a good idea to curb this now, however, since drinking caffeine while pregnant should be avoided.
FISH: Mercury in fish is toxic to a developing fetus, and can linger in a woman’s bloodstream for more than a year. So it is best to avoid it in high doses, now. However, your body needs omega-3 fatty acids for optimal fertility, so opt for supplements instead of the real deal. If you must have fish, the FDA says that women can safely eat up to 12 ounces a week (roughly two entres) of low-mercury fish, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, or catfish. The FDA advises avoiding canned white tuna, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, tuna steaks, shark, orange roughy, Spanish mackerel, marlin, and grouper.
LISTERIA: This is a harmful bacteria found in deli meats, soft cheeses, and unpasteurized dairy products. Pregnant women are twenty times more likely to get sick from food that contains it. Use caution even while trying to conceive. The infection Listeria causes can cause miscarriages early on. To reduce the risk of contracting the bacteria, don’t eat any food that’s been at room temperature for more than two hours, heat high-risk foods in the microwave until they’re steaming hot, and avoid raw sushi, smoked seafood, and unpasteurized dairy products.
CERTAIN MEDICATIONS: It is always best to consult a doctor regarding medications you may be taking, and trying to get pregnant. There are a lot of medicines that should not be taken while pregnant, and some of them should be avoided even while trying to conceive, as they can stay in your system for awhile after discontinuing.
STRESS: As mentioned previously, stress can definitely affect conception. Stress can affect your hypothalamus – the glad in the brain that regulates appetite, emotions, and the release of the eggs by your ovaries. Typically the body is pretty good at adapting to every day stress, but extreme stress, or a life-altering even (death of a loved one, divorce, etc) can definitely throw off your cycle and interfere with ovulation and conception. Again, every woman is different.
HOT TUBS: This one is considered ok before you conceive, but not during pregnancy. Although, as we’ll discuss later, the guys may want to stay clear of hot tubs and sauna’s due to interference with sperm growth. Some studies have shown that raising your body temperature too much during early pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects, and can cause miscarriage.
So much to remember for me, but what about him?!
Men always seem to get off so easy when it comes to pregnancy! But not so fast! There are some things for them to stay away from, and do as well. The sperm your partner ejaculates today was actually created 90 days ago making it important to plan ahead. Some ob-gyn’s recommend that fathers-to-be take a daily multivitamin that contains zinc and selenium for at least three months before conception. Studies suggest these minerals aid in healthy sperm development. Studies also show that poor eating habits can affect the quality and quantity of sperm, so start getting him to eat better now. The best practice is to have him eat just as healthy as you. Your child to be does come from half of him, doesn’t it? Also, have him cut back on his alcohol consumption, too. Studies have shown that daily consumption of alcohol can reduce testosterone levels and sperm counts, and can raise the number of abnormal sperm in his ejaculate.
What about my financial health?
Being financially stable and healthy is one of the biggest reasons couples wait to have a baby. Make sure you’re set up with good medical insurance (you’ll be soon needing it!), life insurance, a will, and a good savings. Children are not cheap! Make sure you have a plan for what to do when you’re baby arrives, too. Do you plan to go back to work? Does your employer have maternity leave coverage? If not, can your partner’s income support you both, plus baby? If not, you’ll definitely want to start to accumulate a good amount of savings! And don’t forget about the medical costs not covered by insurance, everything you’ll need to buy for your new one, room décor, diapers, food, etc. Time will fly, so it’s never too late to start saving for college as well.
Finally, how will I know when I’m pregnant?
Besides taking the at home pregnancy test, or a blood test administered by your doctor, there are other ways your body can hint at you that it is carrying. The following are some signs that you may be pregnant.
· A missed period – the most reliable sign!
· Tender, swollen, or enlarged breasts – this can be experienced before your period, as well as after a few missed birth control pills, but is also a sign you may be expecting.
· Nausea or vomiting – For some women, morning sickness doesn’t appear until a month or more, but some can experience the fun symptom as quick as a few weeks after conception.
· Heightened sensitivity to odors – You may all of a sudden realize that certain smells repulse you – your usual morning cup of coffee, cigarette smoke, perfumes, etc. Certain foods you used to love may not seem so appetizing anymore. This may be a side effect of rapidly increasing levels of estrogen in your body.
· Frequent urination – getting up more than once a night to pee? Going more than usual during the day? This could be a sign you are plus one. Hormonal changes affect the amount of blood that flows through your kidneys, and can cause you to urinate more often than usual.
· Extreme fatigue – this is a common one. Do you feel way more run down than usual? Do you catch yourself falling asleep on the couch, or needing an afternoon nap? Extreme exhaustion is often the very first sign of conception.
· Implantation bleeding – no one knows exactly why this happens, and it doesn’t happen to all women. It is said that some women experience a day or two of spotting right after the egg is fertilized, and sometimes the blood isn’t the typical red, but can be more of a dark brown.
If you are experiencing some of these signs, and have missed a period, it is recommended to take an at home pregnancy test. Keep in mind, they are not always 100% accurate, and timing of conception, your period, and the administration of the test can all play a part in false-negative results. If you are experiencing some of the signs of pregnancy, and have missed a period, it is always best to visit a doctor to confirm pregnancy.
This is all great advice to follow if you are hoping to conceive. Remember that this is a very exciting time for you, and that your life will change dramatically as soon as your baby arrives. The more planning you can do to prepare for the changes, and to prepare for your new little one, the healthier and happier you and your baby will be once he or she arrives.
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