Let’s face it, we’re flooded with information about staying healthy during pregnancy and losing weight after giving birth, but what about before the baby bump? Preparing your body for pregnancy is important not only for fertility and the health of your baby but also for your own health and post-pregnancy recovery. It can be a little overwhelming when you first make the decision to add to your family but luckily there are a few ways to get started without stressing out too much.
1. Preconception Appointment
The first step should always be scheduling a pre-conception appointment with your doctor. They will be able to give you personalized information about your current health and future concerns, and help you devise a pregnancy plan to ensure that your body is ready for the new little human. They’ll check your weight and blood pressure, advise you on any risks, and recommend medication and vitamins. If you have any conditions that might affect (or be affected by) pregnancy your doctor might be able to suggest ways to manage them better. The doctor can also help you get started on your search for a good OB/GYN, who will be there through every step of your pregnancy and recovery.
2. Check your Meds
While your doctor should be fully aware of your prescription meds, you should also make sure they know what over-the-counter (OTC) medications you’re taking as well. They can check any interactions and offer you alternatives for those that might impede fertility or be unhealthy for you or your future baby.
3. Birth Control
The next likely step is to stop your hormonal birth control. Some women ovulate as early as two weeks after stopping the pill, for others it could be months. If you are using the implant or injections, fertility might take longer to rebound though most women conceive within 12 months after ceasing hormonal birth control. Just be sure to use another form of contraception so that you control exactly when you get pregnant and are fully prepared when you do.
4. Weight and Nutrition
Managing your diet and weight before pregnancy leads to a safer, healthier pregnancy, and make it easier to shed those baby pounds after giving birth. Both obesity and being underweight can impede fertility and pose danger to both mom and baby—causing conditions such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. According to the National Institutes of Health, women with a normal BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 have fewer issues with fertility and healthier pregnancies. A balanced diet can be one of the most effective ways of preparing your body for that future baby and will get you started on the right track to staying healthy for the rest of your pregnancy.
Getting fit before you conceive has major health benefits beyond just looking good. The average pregnancy adds, on average, 35 extra pounds of weight to your body, which strains your muscles and ligaments. Strengthening your body early can help you adjust to the additional weight, maintain fitness throughout your pregnancy, and ease labor and childbirth. Regular exercise can also reduce stress through the release of endorphins (happy hormones), and help with sleep, which doctors say can increase the likelihood of conception.
6. Kegel Exercises
Strong pelvic floor muscles (also known as Kegel muscles) are absolutely crucial to having a healthy, safe pregnancy as well as to maintaining intimate health throughout your lifetime. They support all of your pelvic organs and are some of the muscles you use to push during childbirth. The added weight of pregnancy and the strain of childbirth can damage these muscles, causing bladder leaks and possible tearing, so it’s important to strengthen them—just like every other muscle in your body. Before pregnancy it’s best to use a good Kegel exerciser to help get the most out of your routine, but during pregnancy it’s recommended that you exercise your pelvic floor without a device.
Vitamin supplements are a key part of gearing your body up for supporting another person for nine months. Women trying to get pregnant need higher levels of many vitamins and minerals—especially folic acid, which helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, like spina bifida. These defects generally happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, before you know you’re expecting, so if you’re hoping to conceive start taking the recommended 400 mcg of folic acid now and speak to your doctor about other vitamins you should be taking.
We all know that smoking and drinking while pregnant are big no-noes, but toxins can also have a large effect on conception. Avoid general pollution, second hand smoke, cleaning chemicals, and paint fumes to keep your body and your future baby healthy. Sometimes even daily rituals, like a cup of coffee, have to be evaluated when trying to conceive or during pregnancy. Doctors recommend that pregnant women drink no more than 200mg (about 12 ounces) of coffee per day so it might be time to start weaning yourself now—just think of it as a test run!
9. See a Dentist
It might seem strange to include the dentist on your list of people to see before you get pregnant, but research increasingly shows that oral hygiene can have a huge impact on your overall health and pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones can weaken your oral health making your gums more susceptible to plaque and bacteria, which can sometimes lead to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). If left untreated gingivitis can develop into a more serious gum condition called periodontitis, which has been linked to several pregnancy complications including premature labor, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes. Dentists also generally try to avoid x-rays, fillings, and surgeries with their pregnant patients so get those done well before you start trying to conceive.
Planning your pregnancy is very important—the healthier you are when you conceive, the more likely your baby will be healthy. It might seem like a lot to think about right now, but every step you take towards a healthier lifestyle makes a difference. And don’t forget to get your partner involved, motivate each other to make the changes necessary to build a happy, healthy family together. In the end, it will all be worth it!
Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.
A collective group of “lady experts” at Intimina who love sharing our personal experiences, even when they are a little too personal. We believe it’s time to start breaking down the taboos around menstruation, motherhood, and menopause, and start owning our female health.