We all know that trying to keep healthy during pregnancy is important, but women’s health in the months (and even years!) before they become pregnant can have an impact on their health during pregnancy and fetal development.
Forming healthy habits before conceiving is a great way to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes, while also increasing your chances of getting pregnant. We’ve made a list of 5 things you can do to help prep your body for being pregnant. The sooner you start practicing a healthier lifestyle and kick those bad habits, the better it is for you, your pregnancy, and your baby.
If you think being pregnant means nine months of unlimited cheat days, we’re sorry to disappoint! Studies show that many women’s diets are typically high in refined grains and sugars but lack important nutrients such as magnesium, folic acid, iron, iodine, and vitamin D. In fact, the intake levels for these important nutrients for the majority of women of reproductive age were below daily recommendations for pregnancy.
Research shows obesity and poor nutrition can increase the risk of pregnancy complications such as:
- Gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
What helps? Research shows women with a healthy, balanced diet in the years leading up to pregnancy are less likely to suffer from the complications above.
Diet Influences Body Weight & Nutrition
Eating a balanced diet with plenty of nutrients is essential for both a healthy mom and a healthy baby.
Try limiting your intake of sugars, enriched grains, and red and processed meat while also increasing your intake of these healthy foods to balance your diet:
- Legumes and nuts
- Fish lower in mercury like salmon, tilapia, and cod
Additionally, taking folic acid supplements in the 2 to 3 months before and after conception can greatly reduce the risk of defects in the brain, spine, and spinal cord (with spina bifida being the most common). Because of this, folic acid supplements are part of established guidelines for women planning to have children.
If you’ve already begun planning your family, it’s also time to start working on your fitness routine. Take advantage of the protective role physical activity plays for women and their babies and cut your risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes by incorporating the recommended levels of exercise into your lifestyle.
You don’t have to turn yourself into a fitness fanatic to glean the benefits of a healthy exercise routine – just 4 hours of low to moderate levels of exercise a week is enough to lower the risk of gestational diabetes. Another study indicated that you only have to meet the standard recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week can lower the risk of gestational diabetes by more than 20 percent – that’s only 2 and a half hours weekly!
Keep in mind that too much body fat (more than 28%), as well as too little (15-18%), can impair your ability to get pregnant. Too much fat produces too much insulin along with a host of other hormonal and stress-induced negative effects on your body. Losing just 5-10 pounds can make a difference. Too little body fat can inhibit ovulation.
While adequate hydration is especially important during and after pregnancy, it is also a good idea that women establish healthy hydration habits before pregnancy, as pregnant women have different hydration needs compared to non-pregnant women. According to the Mayo Clinic, women should consume about 10 cups of water each day during pregnancy to meet the increased demands of your baby.
If you find it hard to meet your daily water quota, try fruit and herb flavor-infused water for variety and to keep your taste buds interested. Some tasty flavors include mint, lime, cherry, strawberry, watermelon, and more.
#4 Rest & Relaxation
Doctors may not know the exact links between stress and fertility, but growing research shows that a connection is hard to ignore. Some studies have found that when stress-reduction techniques were used, some women were able to get pregnant when they couldn’t get pregnant before.
Although research on whether stress reduces your chances for success is inconclusive, studies have shown that stress does affect the dropout rate from fertility treatment. Most patients enter treatment feeling stressed, and those who continue to feel stressed tend to give up sooner.
Getting a full night’s rest is one of the best ways to control stress levels. Achieving a full 8 hours can be hard, but tracking your sleep habits and making sure you go to bed and wake up at consistently the same time is a great start. Finding a relaxation technique that works for you, such as exercise, yoga, acupuncture, family support, or psychological counseling, can help women get their stress levels under control.
#5 No Smoking, Drug Use, or Alcohol Consumption
It’s a well-known fact that smoking and high alcohol consumption are bad for you, but they both also make conception harder to achieve. Giving up cigarettes, vaping, and marijuana before you start trying to conceive is a great way to put you and your baby on the right track for a healthy life.
Most women don’t realize they are pregnant for several weeks – hence why cutting alcohol consumption from your diet before you try to get pregnant is ideal. Additionally, some studies have revealed that women who drank between 1 and 5 alcoholic beverages when trying to conceive for the first time were considerably less likely to conceive within 6 months compared to women who consumed no alcohol.
Lastly, if you’re taking a prescription drug, let your doctor know right away. Before trying to get pregnant you must stop taking all Class D or X drugs.
Get a Head Start Today
Women need time to reach health or lifestyle objectives well before conception. Reaching a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, creating and sticking to an exercise routine that works for you, and kicking bad habits before pregnancy can reduce or may even eliminate the risks of some birth defects that occur early in pregnancy. The fetus is most vulnerable during the first trimester of pregnancy, so starting your pregnancy on a healthy foot increases your chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Help If You Need It – Vios Cares About Making Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True
Everyone’s fertility journey is different. If the you’re less than 35 years old and you have been trying for 12 months, or if you’re older than 35 years old and you have been trying for 6 months, it may be time to seek help.
At Vios, our team approach is to educate and bring awareness to your fertility health while helping you navigate the journey and make your dreams of parenthood a reality. We believe that by understanding how your body works and your future goals for family building at a younger age, women and men can take control of their fertility health.