Looking to become pregnant? For many women it requires a little pre-planning and coordination in order to achieve a positive test. There are some important health steps to consider during this process.
1) Rethink your birth control. If you’re looking to become pregnant in the next 6 months, stop your hormones (pill, patch, ring, or implant), have your IUD removed and get your cycle back on track naturally. Some women can take months to return to normal. Unfortunately if you aren’t ready quite yet for a baby, you’ll have to use a barrier method like a condom.
2) Start your pre-natal vitamins now. The folic acid in those vitamins helps protect against neural tube defects. This occurs in about 1 in 1,000 babies around the third or fourth week of pregnancy. During that time the neural tube begins to close and fuse. Folic acid can help reduce your chance of problems.
3) Start taking a good quality fish oil with at least 300mg of DHA (read the back of the label). DHA has been linked to healthier brain development in utero and I know we all want smart babies!
4) Stop smoking as soon as possible! If you know it’s going to be difficult for you to quit, pregnant or not, then you need to start right now before you become pregnant. Cigarette smoke really impacts the quality of the egg (and sperm if your partner smokes) and the development of the fetus.
5) Chart your cycle. You already know when you start your period, that first day is considered day one of your cycle. Pay attention to ovulation signs which generally occurs 10-18 days after that first day. Look for changes in mucus to a more stretchy consistency, and consider doing ovulation predictor kits until you see a positive. Make sure you’re having plenty of sex during this time!
6) Keep your weight in check. Too low and too high body weight can really impact your chances of fertility. Cut out sugar and eat a high protein, low simple carbohydrate diet, and exercise most days of the week.
7) Have some blood testing done. Make sure to have your complete thyroid levels, iron levels, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and hormones drawn (after you ovulate) to see if everything is healthy and balanced. If not, this could affect your chances of pregnancy.
8) Make space in your life. If you’re running at a million miles a minute, have too many balls in the air, and are working 10 hours a day with little down time then your head is not in the game. You and your partner can’t decide to make changes in your lifestyle eight months into the pregnancy, it needs to happen sooner. Start preparing for what a baby will do to your life.
9) Sperm are 50 percent of the equation. Women put a lot on themselves to become pregnant while not much attention is paid to the health of the sperm (or the man they belong to). He should also be of a healthy weight, stop smoking, focusing on lifestyle, be making changes and getting tested.
10) Don’t look at a calendar. I have had a number of friends and patients who wanted to be pregnant by a certain month, only to have those plans go astray. Just last week a patient didn’t want to be pregnant next month because it would interfere with a trip in the summer and another patient didn’t want her baby born during the holidays. Another patient wanted to "try" for a few months to enjoy it and ended up pregnant the first try. They were happy but surprised. While I understand its fun to peek at the calendar and plan a bit – please don’t remain 100 percent attached to that thought because it might not work out that way.