Getting your body ready to get pregnant
So you’re going to have a baby….someday. We had more trouble than I expected getting pregnant. My (brilliant) husband told me after a particularly mopey afternoon that I should use the months before being pregnant to get more ready to be a mother. I was already healthy and fairly crunchy but I took his advice and became very conscious of making myself as baby-ready as possible. And I’m so glad I did!
Once I was pregnant I felt powerful – I was totally ready to build this kid. I didn’t run panicking to the vitamin aisle or throw away half of my pantry. I just said a bittersweet goodby to my red wine and bought a bigger bra.
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Why start before getting pregnant?
Getting pregnant is accidental for some but it’s a lot of work for many others. You really need the perfect conditions to get (and keep) a pregnancy. Toxins, nutritional deficiencies, acidic environment and stress are all the enemy of pregnancy. Working on these areas physically improves your body which is incredibly important. But knowing that even when you’re not ovulating that you are working everyday to improve your chances and make your body the best environment for your baby was ESSENTIAL to maintaining my mental health. Every negative month I just found a new way to add nutrients or to de-stress.
Once you’re pregnant your body is going to make a whole human being – organs, bones, brain, the works. This takes A LOT of nutrients and energy. You can’t just ‘poof’ calcium and magnesium out of nowhere to make some bones. Temporary bone loss (osteoporosis) is often found after pregnancy and breastfeeding!
Many common issues related to pregnancy can be avoided or lessened with diet and lifestyle changes.
Morning sickness, anemia, restless leg syndrome, muscle cramps, stretch marks, joint pain, hemorrhoids and even vaginal tears in labor can all be dealt with pre-pregnancy.
So I don’t work out. I have an actual fear of working out. Nearly a decade ago, one intro CrossFit class led to my first inflammatory arthritis flair. I couldn’t walk for days. I’ve had no flairs in over 4 years (more about that here) but since then I’ve had a lingering fear causing another flair. I was worried that once I got pregnant it would be too much for my body and the pain would come back. I was eating very well and was still a size 0 but I knew I wasn’t fit.
During a New Years vacation my husband and I went to a rock climbing gym to escape the cold. When we returned we joined a local gym and I climbed until the day I found out I was pregnant. (Next time I’ll keep climbing!)
Climbing was incredibly empowering & made me significantly stronger than I had ever been. Having stamina is so important for pregnancy, labor and postpartum and isn’t something you want to be working towards while you’re trying to build a baby.
– Find your groove
Swimming, climbing, zoomba, ballet – find something that’s just as much fun as it is fitness. Don’t start a marathon training program the month before you want to start trying to get pregnant. Be kind to your body.
– Check your weight
Weight can have a huge impact on fertility and pregnancy. Being underweight can stop ovulation. Fat cells store estrogen and veing overweight can make you estrogen dominate – makeing conception difficult. Excess weight that’s hard to loose can be a sign of PCOS, a complicated hormonal imbalance that can make getting pregnant extremely difficult or impossible.
During pregnancy excess weight increases your risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure which can both be very serious for mom and baby. Many birth centers and midwives will not take on clients who are categorized as obese due to these and other health risks.
Phase out coffee and sweets
Love coffee more than life? Make sure when you get pregnant you’re not going to be going through withdraws of your favorite things. When pregnant you’ll want to limit your total caffeine intake to around 250mg daily – which studies show is perfectly safe. A grande drip at Starbucks is about 200mg, a black tea is around 80. If you’re used to much more than that gradually decrease or you’re in for a killer headache (& most painkillers are also no-nos). High caffeine consumption increases risk of high blood pressure, premature labor and even birth defects.
If your coffee comes frozen with whip or ice cream is your nightly wind-down, you’ll want to cut that down as well. Two very common issues in pregnancy are yeast infections and gestational diabetes – both are linked with sugar intake. Yeast feeds on sugar and during pregnancy your pH changes allowing yeast to grow faster. Gestational diabetes is increasingly common and can be dangerous for mom & baby, leading to early birth and increased c-sections. Lowering your sugar and carb intake helps to cut your risk.
Get Rid of Hormone Killers and Cancer Causers
Newborn babies have an average of 200 chemicals in their umbilical cord at birth.
Those are coming from you and it takes a while to remove them from your system. Heavy metals often don’t leave your body at all under normal circumstances. Start learning to identify and avoid the many everyday things that are incredibly toxic and known to cause cancer and birth defects. Start here if you’re unsure.
Hormones are the only thing that will get you pregnant and they are very sensitive. Low dose birth control pills only have 0.01 milligrams of Estrogen! Hormone disrupting chemicals are in pretty much everything commercially made. Plastics, chemical stabilizers and fragrance are the worst offenders. Shampoo will last for YEARS on the shelf. How many times have you left lotion or makeup in your hot car or steamy bathroom for days, weeks, even months? Did it go bad? Nope. Those chemicals that keep everything fresh and new and smelling great can cause cancer, kill your thyroid and reek havoc on your hormones.
– Check the Environmental Working Group
EWG.org has tons of great information of staying safe from seriously harmful chemicals in everyday products. Their App – Healthy Living – allows you to scan bar codes or enter products and commercial foods and immediately get a list of ingredients with a FULL report on how toxic those ingredients are. You don’t need to memorize all 200,000 toxins – it does it all for you.
–Stop using plastic
BPA is a serious enemy of hormones. It actually binds to estrogen receptors, thyroid receptors and testosterone receptors and stops the body from making more correct levels of hormone. This chemical has actually been shown to physically feminize boys and cause early puberty in girls. BPA is in nearly all plastic products and in the lining of metal (food) cans. Stop using plastic water bottles, plates, non-stick cookware and disposable cutlery. And NEVER EVER microwave in plastic containers.
– DON’T BREATH
Fumes from paint and gasoline are both cancer causing and linked to birth defects. When you get pregnant this become much more important. You do not need to pump your own gas if possible. Call me crazy but I did actually hold my breath the few times I filled up by myself.
– I really hope I don’t need to tell you not to smoke and to avoid close contact with people who smoke regularly… Just Google it.
Iron-deficient anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency – up to 25% of pregnant women are iron-deficient. This is the one thing I didn’t pay much attention to before getting pregnant and I became so anemic I was nearly kicked out of the birth center I wanted to deliver at! I was able to get my iron up but I should have focused a little more on getting my stores up before getting pregnant! Low iron is also linked to restless leg syndrome and dizziness in pregnancy.
Iron is actually very easy (and tasty) to keep up.
–Cook in cast iron. It’s actually iron! Le Cruset and Lodge are my favorites (Lodge is super affordable – I have this one). The cast iron will leach a small amount of iron into your food. You can make anything in cast iron if it’s seasoned. I make cheesy eggs in mine several times a week no problem.
–Look beyond meat. Red meat is great but you can only eat so much steak. Spinach is an iron power house. Chickpeas (think Hummus) has 5mg per cup! All varieties of beans and (my favorite) pumpkin and sunflower seeds are very high in iron. And a little goes a long way – 1 ounce of pumpkin seeds has as much iron as a serving of beef!
–Liver. I know, it sounds bad but hear me out. I don’t eat liver – I plan to but I’m putting it off because I’m a picky eater and it sounds scary. But I do take liver. These grass-fed freeze dried beef liver capsules are the ones I take daily. I started when my iron plummeted mid-pregnancy and even my midwife was shocked how fast my numbers came up. I will eat liver one day but until then I’m thrilled it’s in pill form.
–Beets! I LOVE beet, ginger and carrot juices. I like it really spicy. Lucky for me beets not only have iron but also an easily-adsorbed form of folic acid (see below), vitamins C, A, and K. Yum.
I DON’T recommend most iron supplements
Unless you are diagnosed as anemic you do not need extra iron (in pill form) before conception. Not only can this constipate you like crazy and can give you terrible stomach aches, it can be dangerous to have too much iron in your system. Eating iron that is bound in food allows the body to choose how much it needs and it can get rid of the rest. Multivitamins are good to take if you are taking a good quality, food-based variety. were my favorites! Rainbow Light’s PrenatalOne were also great – they have added enzymes and probiotics if you are prone to tummy problems or indigestion.
If you ARE diagnosed with anemia discuss with your doctor what the best and most gentle forms of iron supplementation are for you. Floridix is my personal favorite – it’s a liquid supplement that is much nicer on your system. Sloe FE is a pill made to be more tummy-friendly but you should still discuss getting dulcolax or miralax to keep you moving.
This is essential in EARLY pregnancy. Low folic acid is strongly linked with abnormal formation of the skull and with spina bifida which can be superficial, crippling or fatal. At the time when folic acid is the most important, the first 4 weeks, many women are not even aware they are pregnant. This is why most OB’s and primary care docs will recommend “all women of childbearing years” take a women’s multivitamin containing 400mcg of folic acid. Unless you have a history of spina bifida in a previous pregnancy or family history you do not need more than 400mcg daily. Discuss your particular risks with your doctor.
If you’re reading this and you don’t live near the ocean you are probably low in magnesium. Roughly 75% of Americans are deficient in magnesium to some degree. Prancing around in the ocean is pretty much the best way to soak up this crazy mineral. It’s best adsorbed through skin – mix some dried magnesium in your lotion/coconut oil or buy it premade. Food wise, fish (from the ocean, obviously), dark greens and pumpkin seeds and are your go-to. This mineral is involved in several hundred chemical processes in your body. Most notably for prenatal and pregnant ladies it helps muscles work and relax, aids in bowel movements, and helps you sleep. Magnesium may also help stop morning sickness. I had been drinking a magnesium powder occasionally and using magnesium lotion daily for months before getting pregnant. Drinking it at night before bed helped turn down my overly-anxious mind and get some sleep. Since I was rock-climbing 3-4x week I was getting very sore and using the lotion daily stopped this in it’s tracks. As I said, I was NOT the most athletic person so the amount we were climbing was pretty intense for me. But a lot of water and my lotion allowed me to climb as much as I wanted.
As I stated before, I really like red wine. Now I can only drink about one glass (two if I eat a big dinner and have lots of water) but it’s yummy. You’re about to embark on at least 9 months (then add breastfeeding time) of total sobriety before getting pregnant. I went a full 16 months sans alcohol. Drinking a few glasses of wine / beer a week before getting pregnant is NOT going to harm you. And don’t think that because you’re trying means absolutely no alcohol for you either. Unless you’re taking fertility medications or are instructed by your doctor for other reasons, drinking around the time of conception up til that positive test will not harm baby. Their circulatory system isn’t connected to yours for a couple weeks. This does not mean binge drink. You need your liver to be working on cleaning out all the other toxins you absorb everyday – but if you like it, enjoy it.
Now Start Trying!