There are a million different advice columns on what you should or should not do when pregnant. After all, you’re growing a baby which is difficult work. Regardless, it begs the question what should you do when you’re trying to get pregnant? How can you prepare your mind and body for pregnancy?
Preparing for pregnancy doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to become a bodybuilder or start starving yourself to lose weight. On the other hand, taking a folic acid supplement is the least you should do.
As a functional medicine practitioner, holistic health and fertility coach, and mom of six my passion is to help women nourish their bodies and prepare for pregnancy. It’s sacred work. You want your mind, body, and spirit to be in the best shape possible!
With that in mind, here’s what you’ll find in this article:
- When should you start preparing for pregnancy?
- How to prepare your body for pregnancy naturally?
- Lab work
- How can I prepare my mind for birth?
When should you start preparing for pregnancy?
If you want to become pregnant there is no better time to start preparing for pregnancy than today. We often put our individual health on the back burner, but if you are of reproductive age and desire a pregnancy then it’s time to optimize your health.
At the least, you should begin preparing three months or 90 days before you plan to begin trying to conceive. That includes stopping all forms of hormonal birth control. If you’re ahead of the game, it’s wise to stop six months to a year before conception.
Now, you can begin optimizing your health for pregnancy at any moment so don’t feel discouraged if your timeline looks different.
How to prepare your body for pregnancy naturally?
You want to become pregnant. Talk to any conventional health practitioner and they’ll give you the same advice:
- Stop drinking alcohol
- Stop using tobacco and any recreational drugs
- And make sure you’re getting enough folic acid
- Increasing your calcium consumption
- Weaning yourself off coffee
- And taking a prenatal
The fact of the matter is that this is good advice! Yep, it’s all good advice. It’s just desperately basic advice. There is so much we now know about how the health of the mother impacts her child that we can do better.
In addition to the standard advice given, here are five ways you can prepare your mind and body for pregnancy:
- Lab Work
Functional lab work helps you get a bird’s-eye view of your overall health, hormonal balance, and nutrition. A functional medicine practitioner can order these types of labs for you and help interpret the results. Here are a few of the areas in which functional lab work reveals information about your health:
- Inflammatory levels can indicate the presence of or trends toward chronic conditions.
- Hormonal health of the reproductive system and thyroid.
- Digestive health and how it affects your entire body.
- Nutrient deficiencies you may have can hinder conception and cause a variety of symptoms.
- Food sensitivities you may have that can promote inflammation.
A nutrient-dense diet is the best way to support your body for preconception and during pregnancy. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Simply focus on whole, fresh foods and stay away from most processed foods.
You should begin preparing three months or 90 days before you plan to begin trying to conceive.
Chronic stress is a massive roadblock to optimizing preconception health, getting pregnant, and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. In addition to disrupting your health it makes you feel anxious, sad, and exhausted.
Here’s the deal, when you’re stressed out all the time, your body enters a chronic state of fight or flight. This elevates the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which throw off your hormonal balance and fertility.
Fight-or-flight is a completely normal and appropriate response to a dangerous situation. However, if it’s sustained for more than a few minutes at a time without any burst of movement to burn up that adrenaline and cortisol, its effects are draining and damaging.
Sleep deprivation has a huge impact on reproductive health and hormonal balance. For example, insomnia has been shown to affect the production of the following hormones:
- Luteinizing hormone (LH) – if this rises too sharply or is elevated, it can impact fertility.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) – is responsible for healthy eggs and ovulation. FSH has been shown to decrease by 20% in women who are short-sleepers vs. long-sleepers.
- Prolactin – plays a crucial role in the formation of breast milk, and also in overall reproductive health.
- Testerone – while mostly discussed in the context of men’s health, it is also believed to be a follicular regulator in women.
- Estradiol – plays an essential role in ovulation by regulating FSH and LH levels.
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) – absolutely crucial to fertility, healthy metabolism, sleep cycles, and a variety of other bodily functions.
- Cortisol – cortisol is your master stress hormone, and imbalances can cause a cascade of hormonal-related symptoms which could impact fertility.
- Leptin – is an appetite-regulating hormone. An imbalance can also result in intense food cravings. Leptin balance is nearly impossible to maintain without adequate sleep.
Supplements cannot replace the nutrients found in fresh food. However, they can help quickly boost levels of vitamins and minerals in your body and prevent nutritional deficiencies from developing. For example, if lab work shows that you are deficient in iron you can boost levels much faster by adding an iron supplement into your diet in addition to eating more iron-rich foods.
Here are some of the most recommended supplements for women preparing for pregnancy:
- Vitamin B12 – Due to the prevalence of genetic mutations which affect absorption, it is often recommended to take the methylcobalamin form of B12.
- Iron – iron deficiencies often show up in women’s lab work. Our monthly cycles and diet are usually the reasons for this. If you’re unsure what supplement to take, turn to iron-rich foods like red meat, liver, and leafy greens, and up your Vitamin C intake.
- Folate – folic acid levels must be optimized to create the healthiest conditions for pregnancy. Unfortunately, folic acid is another one of those vitamins in which absorption may be hindered by genetic mutations like MTHFR. For that reason, it’s important to check with your doctor or practitioner about the right form of folate for you.
- Vitamin D – is essential to preconception health, a healthy pregnancy, and postpartum recovery. Due to our indoor-based lifestyles, supplementation is nearly always beneficial. But you’ll want to have your levels checked to see what amount is appropriate for you.
- Magnesium – it is often difficult to get enough from foods, magnesium is a supplement nearly everyone can benefit from taking.
- Choline – is crucial for baby brain development, healthy methylation, liver health, and beyond.
How can I prepare my mind for birth?
The physical aspect of pregnancy is only one part of the equation. The mental and emotional side is just as important to your overall health. Preparing for pregnancy and birth takes a mental toll. Here are a few ways you can prioritize your mind throughout your fertility journey:
- Spend time in nature – walking outdoors, gardening, hiking, sunbathing, camping, etc.
- Listen to music.
- Get grounded by gardening, walking on the beach, walking outside barefoot, or using a grounding mat.
- Practice deep breathing
- Get a massage or facial
- Nurture your spiritual side – this could mean going to church, praying, meditating, volunteering, or spending time in gratitude.
- Spend 20-30 minutes every day doing something you ENJOY.
Ultimately, when you are preparing for pregnancy you should practice abundant self-care. If you need support and are trying to conceive or want to optimize your overall health for whatever reason, reach out to me via my contact page.
I would love to partner with you during this important time of your life. Remember, you deserve to be nurtured, nourished, and cared for—during preconception and every season of your life!