For every woman who wants to start a family, the time will inevitably come when you stop just thinking about it and start actively trying.
Whether you’ve been hoping for kids for most of your life or even if you’ve only recently decided that you want kids, getting pregnant can be a daunting task. For some, it takes no time at all, and for others, it might take more. While every woman is different, there are steps we can take beforehand to optimize our chances of conceiving. Here’s how to prepare your body when you’re ready to get pregnant.
Go Back to the Basics
When you’re first beginning the process of trying to get pregnant, it can be extremely tempting to overly complicate things right away. Buying ovulation kits and getting caught up in your cycle are steps you can take down the road to make sure things are going smoothly, but try starting your process by first taking inventory of your lifestyle, namely, how you’re sleeping, eating, exercising, and how much of a role stress is playing in your life.
Wanting to get pregnant is a beautifully natural and healthy, inherent desire we have as women, but agonizing over what you’re doing or not doing and shaming yourself for your habits won’t help. In fact, stress may put a strain on your relationship and make getting pregnant more difficult, even if you’re taking all the recommended steps. It’s perfectly natural to worry and to want to shift your habits in a healthier direction if you notice that your lifestyle isn't suiting you, but remember this won't be an overnight process. Additionally, if your job or personal life is putting a particularly worrisome strain on you, start by minimizing those triggers as much as you can.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. A study conducted in 2019 found that women who worked at least two night shifts a week had an elevated risk of miscarriage. Sleep feeds your brain and your body, and an inadequate amount can make it harder to get pregnant.
You don’t have to be out running marathons every weekend, but adequate exercise is essential for a healthy reproductive system. Not only is exercise good for ameliorating stress, sleep issues, and bettering our mental health, but it also helps with weight management. Being overweight – or even underweight – can affect ovulation, which profoundly affects your chances of getting pregnant. This isn’t to say you need to exercise with the vigor of an Olympic athlete, but 30 minutes daily or a few hours weekly certainly won’t hurt. Intense exercise or exercising obsessively is definitely discouraged, so keep it light.
Take inventory of your lifestyle: how you’re sleeping, eating, exercising, and your stress levels.
Diet is equally crucial. Many women will give up both alcohol and caffeine altogether while they’re trying to get pregnant, especially because you could become pregnant quickly and not know it until your first positive test, while your baby is already developing. Ditch the treats and the junk food (at least until those pregnancy cravings hit) and try foods that will benefit your egg quality and cervical mucus production, like eggs, leafy greens, salmon, olive oil, nuts, legumes, avocados, and other fertility-rich superfoods. Not only are they good, they’re good for you. And don’t forget to take your prenatal vitamin!
Get Your Man on Track
Just like parenthood, the burden isn’t entirely on you, Mom. In fact, your man’s fertility is just as crucial to the equation as yours is, though it might seem like we overly emphasize the responsibility of female fertility when it comes to a successful or unsuccessful pregnancy. For optimizing your chances of conceiving – and not only that, but conceiving a healthy baby and having a healthy pregnancy – make sure your husband is well aware of his role. If both of you are on the same page as far as health and wellness are concerned, you’ll both be committed to doing as much as you can throughout the process.
Your husband can make just as many changes as you can, especially in terms of his lifestyle and daily regimen. For one, he can start by ditching the polyester briefs and opting for cotton boxers. Briefs, as opposed to boxers, keep the scrotum closer to the body thereby raising its temperature, when it should ideally be several degrees lower than the average body temperature. A slightly cooler environment keeps up a high sperm count and ensures they’re moving and thriving. It’s also recommended that men avoid spaces like hot tubs, heated pools, and saunas for the same reason, as a high temperature environment can reduce sperm count.
Also, be aware of keeping his phone in his pocket or his laptop in his lap, as devices that emit electromagnetic waves can have a negative impact on male fertility. A study from the University of Maryland Medical Center discovered that 90% of male infertility is due to poor sperm quality or low sperm count, meaning chances of conception are definitely higher when both are being addressed. Routine exercise, as well as a good diet and high testosterone levels, can also contribute to better male fertility.
Invest in Body Literacy
Knowing your body is just as paramount as what you’re putting into it. Body literacy should be essential to us as women, not just when we’re trying to get pregnant. However, the journey of trying to have a baby gives us the perfect opportunity to become body literate if we’re not already.
This is accomplished in a few different ways. We should first approach the process knowing the fundamentals: our cycle. Every woman and every cycle is different, but knowing yours and all its quirks can only help you in planning around fertile windows and days of ovulation. Using fertility awareness based methods, or FABM, is the perfect way through which to do this. FABM not only helps us track our cycle, but also tune into other aspects of our body, like mood and emotional and mental health. Really all you need to begin FABM is a basal body thermometer and a piece of paper. Start out by taking your BBT each day at the same time, preferably before you’ve gotten out of bed and before you’ve urinated. Give FABM a few months at the very least before you use it for conceiving purposes, and when in doubt, turn to fertility awareness experts.
FABM not only helps us track our cycle but tune into our mood and emotional and mental health.
Most of us probably don’t know our cycles or our ovulatory windows as well as we think we do, but that’s a pretty crucial aspect of trying to get pregnant. The whole goal behind FABM is to help us recognize our ovulatory windows, or on paper, where there is a significant uptick in our basal body temperature. Other symptoms of ovulation include a higher sex drive, breast tenderness, abdominal pain, and clear, stretchy cervical mucus.
Obviously, being off birth control is critical to conception, and here’s where body literacy comes into play once again. Though you might have no difficulty conceiving once you’re off birth control, it might take time for you to pick up on your body’s natural cues as they come off an artificial cycle. This is an exciting opportunity for every woman, though. As your body reverts back to its natural state, you get to observe how your cycle was always meant to function. If it’s abnormal, painful, overly lengthy, or even short, that just means it’s trying to tell you something and that birth control has previously masked those indicators.
With a FABM, you can also track when and how often you’re having sex. If you’re trying, sex once a day during your ovulatory window is a good place to start, especially as it can take several days for an egg to be fertilized. While women are only really able to get pregnant about five days out of every cycle, that doesn’t mean you should only be having sex during your ovulatory window. Why take all the fun out of it?
Also, keep in mind that it can take up to three months for changes in both sperm health and egg quality to happen, so don’t be distressed if you’ve implemented significant changes with little to no results immediately after. While it never hurts for your care provider to know you’re trying to get pregnant, you should see a doctor if you’ve been trying for a year with no results. If you’re over age 35, schedule an appointment after six months of trying. If you have irregular cycles, don’t wait to talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Congratulations on beginning this exciting new chapter of your life. While this stage of things can be nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing, it’s also exciting. Invest in your body, your physical and mental health, and make sure the father-to-be does as well. As long as the two of you are in it to win it, you can’t go wrong.
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