Preparing your body for pregnancy is crucial to ensure a healthy and prosperous journey into motherhood. From optimizing your overall health to making necessary lifestyle changes, here is a comprehensive guide on preparing your body for pregnancy. While medical professionals can offer individualized guidance, you can take several general steps to optimize your overall health and increase your chances of conceiving.
1. Achieve a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for fertility and pregnancy. Both being underweight and overweight can adversely affect your chances of conceiving. Research has shown that women with a body mass index (BMI) outside the normal range may experience irregular menstrual cycles and hormonal imbalances, leading to difficulties in getting pregnant. Aim to achieve a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. A study in 2018 looked at obesity’s relationship to fertility and found that for obese women, weight loss programs that focused on lifestyle changes helped restore menstrual cycle regularity and ovulation, ultimately improving the odds of conceiving.
2. Optimize Nutrition
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in essential nutrients is vital for preparing your body for pregnancy. You should follow a healthy plate by eating this:
- Fruits and vegetables(including fresh, frozen, tinned, dried produce, or a glass of juice) – aim for at least five portions daily. Eating lots of different fruit and vegetables will help ensure you get the full range of vitamins and minerals, as different varieties contain different combinations. Brightly colored fruit and vegetables have many vitamins A, C, and E. Dark green, leafy vegetables are a good source of iron and folate.
- Starchy foods, such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes (choose wholegrain options where possible). Foods from this group are a good source of energy, fiber, and B vitamins. You should aim to make these foods the basis of meals. Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, and other starchy foods like cereals are low in fat.
- Healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are also vital for good hormone balance and are a healthy choice. Two-thirds of the fat consumed should be from either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fatty acids and should be consumed in moderation. Monounsaturated fats can be found in avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, and olive oils. Polyunsaturated fats are found in sunflower, corn, soybean, flaxseed oils, fish, walnuts, and flax seeds.
- Protein-rich food, such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and pulses (beans and lentils), are also needed for hormonal regulation. Low protein intake surrounding conception can negatively impact embryo development; dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, contain calcium. Interestingly, studies have found that full-fat dairy products such as yogurt, whole milk, and cheese increase your chances of getting pregnant. In contrast, low-fat dairy products like skim milk have opposite fertility effects. Whole-fat dairy reduces the risk of ovulatory infertility by 50%, whereas low-fat milk increases the risk by 11%. The suggested reason was that high-fat milk produces more estrogens and contributes to lower increases in IGF1 compared to low-fat products.
3. Take Prenatal Vitamins
According to the Centre for Disease Control, Folic Acid is a powerful tool to prevent neural tube defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida. It is recommended that anyone who would conceive (whether trying or not) take a supplement of 4oo mcg of folic acid every day. While folic acid is added to some foods (enriched cereals, pasta, rice, and bread), it can also be found in foods such as beans, peas, oranges, broccoli, and dark green leafy vegetables. The easiest way to ensure you get enough is to consume rich food sources and prenatal vitamins!
4. Regular Exercise
Engaging in regular physical activity can improve fertility and overall health. Moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling, can help maintain a healthy weight and regulate hormonal balance. However, avoid intense workouts or excessive exercise, which may negatively impact fertility. Consult your healthcare provider to determine the most suitable exercise routine for your needs.
5. Lifestyle Changes
Certain lifestyle factors can affect fertility and pregnancy outcomes. Minimize or eliminate alcohol consumption, smoking, and illicit drug use, as they can harm fertility and fetal development. Reduce your caffeine intake to a moderate level, as high caffeine consumption may be associated with a higher risk of miscarriage. Aim for regular, restful sleep to promote overall well-being.
6. Preconception Check-ups
Schedule a preconception visit with your healthcare provider to address any underlying health conditions affecting fertility or pregnancy. Discuss your medical history, current medications, and vaccinations during this visit. Your healthcare provider may recommend specific tests to help you identify any potential health issues that may delay conception or affect pregnancy outcomes.
7. Manage Stress
Chronic stress can disrupt hormonal balance and interfere with fertility. Reducing stress levels is crucial for preparing your body for pregnancy. High pressure can disrupt the hormonal balance and menstrual cycle, affecting fertility. Explore stress management options such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engaging in hobbies that bring you joy.
By following these tips, you can help prepare your body for pregnancy and increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Remember to consult your healthcare provider before making significant changes to your diet or exercise routine.
World Health Organization. (2020). BMI classification. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2013). Clinical guideline [CG62]: Antenatal care: Routine care for the healthy pregnant woman. Retrieved from https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62/chapter/1-Guidance#nutritional-interventions
ACOG Committee Opinion No. 650. (2015). Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2015/12/physical-activity-and-exercise-during-pregnancy-and-the-postpartum-period
American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (2017). Optimizing natural fertility: a committee opinion. Retrieved from https://www.asrm.org/globalassets/asrm/asrm-content/news-and-publications/practice-guidelines/for-non-members/optimizing_natural_fertility_noprint.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Smoking and Tobacco Use: Smoking and Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gove/tobacco/datastatistics/sgr/50th-anniversary /pdfs/fs smoking pregnancy 508.pdf
Silvestris E, de Pergola G, Rosania R, Loverro G. Obesity as disruptor of the female fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. 2018;16(1)1-13. doi: 10.1186/s12958-018-0336-z Accessed January 17, 2023. https://rbej.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12958-018-0336- z
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Folic acid: the best tool to prevent neural tube defects. Updated September 9, 2022. Accessed January 17, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/features/folic-acid-helps-prevent-some-birth- defects.html