Preparing For Pregnancy

How To Prepare Your Body for Pregnancy

Planning and preparing your body for pregnancy is a wonderful opportunity to ensure that you and your new baby get the best head-start.  While we understand that not every woman gets the luxury to prepare her body before becoming pregnant, if you do, we can help you make the most of it by developing some new healthy behaviors or eliminating those that may interfere with you either becoming pregnant or having a healthy pregnancy!

When deciding how to prepare your body for pregnancy, there are a number of things to consider including, but not limited to: training/exercise, nutrition, stress management and regular, high-quality sleep. All of these things are components of anyone’s healthy lifestyle, but become even more important for a healthy, happy pregnancy! Of course, plenty of women become pregnant without these considerations and often experience difficulties during or after pregnancy that might have been avoided.

Girls Gone Strong aims to help you prepare your body for pregnancy with the same commitment that you have to all the other areas of your life!

All of your current lifestyle factors should be taken into consideration when you want to prepare your body for pregnancy. Even if you adopt just one simple habit, you will be taking a positive step forward that will benefit both you and your baby and potentially increase your chances of becoming pregnant! We will discuss strategies to prepare for pregnancy, as well as factors that may interfere with pregnancy below.

Adjust Your Strength Training And Exercise Routines To Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

Whether you have been exercising for years, or are considering starting an exercise program, there are some key focal points that your exercise regimen should be based on when you’re trying to conceive.

These include:

  • Improving posture and alignment to minimize pregnancy aches and pains and increase your chances of carrying your baby in a good position.
  • Gaining strength and possibly lean mass, specifically in the glutes, hamstrings, anterior core, and upper back, to help take some of the load off your joints, tendons, and ligaments as your belly grows.
  • Preparing the core and pelvic floor to maintain strength, integrity, and a balanced tone throughout pregnancy.
  • Developing a solid aerobic base through low and moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise.
  • Allowing for adequate recovery so your overall stress load is low.
  • Achieving or maintaining healthy levels of body fat to optimize chance of conception.

All of these goals can be achieved through a balanced combination of strength training, and cardio of varied intensity based on your fitness level. It’s important to base your training schedule on your ability levels, schedule, goals, and what you find enjoyable.  The goal here is preparing your body for pregnancy and improve your chances of getting pregnant. Below is a template that we have found works well for women with this goal.

Choose whichever column pertains to the hours per week that you have available to exercise, and then pick your fitness level to determine where to start. Keep in mind that the more prepared your body is before pregnancy, the easier exercise will be during pregnancy, which has numerous health benefits for mother and child.

To Get Pregnant You Need To Get Some Sleep

We all know well the benefits of regular, restful sleep. If you have ever lost even one night’s sleep, you without a doubt felt sluggish and not all together present throughout the day.  Long term, inadequate sleep, whether in quantity or quality, will adversely affect your health. Poor sleep is associated with immune dysfunction, increased obesity risk, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, gastric problems and hormonal disorders, to name a few!1 It should then come as no surprise that sleep may affect fertility.

One of the first steps you should take when you prepare your body for pregnancy is to evaluate your sleep, and if needed, start developing better sleep habits.

Simple strategies you can use to develop better sleep habits include:

  1. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, and not deviating from it whenever possible. Most importantly, if you lay down and do not fall asleep within 15 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing, such as reading or journaling. Trying to stay in bed can create even more anxiety about the fact that you aren’t successfully falling asleep!
  2. Eliminating caffeine and alcohol several hours before bedtime.
  3. Creating a bedtime ritual, such as deep stretching, meditation, a hot bath, journaling or reading. Try to avoid electronic devices
  4. Managing your stress. We will dive into this more in the next section, but anxiety and worry will literally keep you up at night. Talk things through if possible with your partner, friend, or family member. ‘
  5. Being physically active. Regular physical activity promotes better sleep, but try not to exercise too close to bedtime.
  6. Creating a comfortable environment for sleep. Make sure to limit light in the bedroom, invest in bedding that is very comfortable, and make sure the temperature is right. It is difficult to fall asleep in a warm environment, so a fan or drop in temperature in the house is helpful. Try not to work or engage in leisure time activities in the same room as you sleep.

Mayo Clinic offers some more tips for getting better sleep. Whether or not you want to prepare your body for pregnancy, or simply improve your overall health, sleep is critical for your overall well-being.

There Is A Link Between Stress And Fertility

Learning to manage your stress effectively is invaluable for women who are trying to conceive. When you’re over-stressed, your body may assume it’s not a good time to get pregnant and you may have a harder time getting pregnant. Remember that this can be any kind of stress including psychological, emotional, or physical. Yes, your stressful financial situation or lack of sleep could affect your ability to conceive! The link between stress and fertility is significant. As mentioned previously, a lack of sleep is a type of stressor on the body. There are many other types of stress that we can experience, some of which may interfere with our sleep! Thus, sleep and stress can create a vicious cycle, both resulting in disturbances in normal ovulation and menstruation via similar mechanisms.

There is a link between stress and infertility. Research has shown increased levels of stress markers in the blood of women experiencing infertility.3 It is difficult to determine whether this stress is caused by the infertility itself, or the previous life stressors caused the infertility. Regardless, both impact the ability to conceive through disruptions in the normal release of gonadotropic hormones.  We have all heard stories of women who tried for years to get pregnant, and only finally did when they stopped actively trying. Or, you’ve heard of women who tried to do everything perfectly to the point of rigidity, and finally relaxed, had a glass of wine, and bam! baby. Although the research is mixed on the exact mechanism by which stress causes fertility, it is widely accepted that there is a relationship between the two.3-8

Of course, managing stress isn’t as simple as saying “just relax”! In fact, this probably makes you even more tense and aggravated. While there may be many demands on your time and energy in your daily life, what you can control is your emotional response to those demands, and do your best to take care of your body and mind through exercise, a healthy diet and sufficient sleep. Strategies to reduce stress will be highly individual, but many people have successfully reduced their stress levels through cognitive behavioral therapy or other forms of talk therapy, more calming physical practices such as yoga and meditation, or simply learning to make small to do lists for the day. When all tasks are accomplished, relaxation and enjoyable activities are a must. Or, put an enjoyable activity right on that to do list!

A Healthy Pre-Pregnancy Diet Can Improve Your Chances of A Healthy Pregnancy

When discussing a healthy pre-pregnancy diet, it’s important to remember that your nutrition will literally be the building blocks of life for your new baby. It only makes sense to feed yourself well, and ensure that your baby has all the nutrients necessary for optimal development. This will certainly carry over into your pregnancy diet.

Prenatal vitamins are an important consideration to maximize the health of you and your baby during pregnancy. WebMD, recommends the following based on the available evidence, all of which can be found in a complex prenatal vitamin:

  • 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid
  • 400 IU of vitamin D
  • 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) of calcium
  • 70 mg of vitamin C
  • 3 mg of thiamine
  • 2 mg of riboflavin
  • 20 mg of niacin
  • 6 mcg of vitamin B12
  • 10 mg of vitamin E
  • 15 mg of zinc
  • 17 mg of iron

There are other supplements you may want to include in your diet beyond just a prenatal vitamin, and they include fish oil, vitamin D, probiotics, and choline.

A healthy pre-pregnancy diet means eating adequate protein, lots of veggies and fruits, healthful fats (especially omega-3’s), and unprocessed or minimally processed starches.  Good nutritional sources include lean protein, raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and starches. Remember, all of these recommendations will hold true during your pregnancy as well. You will simply need more!

Does Weight Affect Fertility?

Good nutrition while trying to conceive also means eating enough calories to maintain a healthy, normal body weight for your height and body size.  If you’re underweight and/or you consistently under eat, you may have a more difficult time getting pregnant.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to be underweight for your fertility to be affected. The effect of calorie restriction can occur independent of body fat levels. Women engaging in high levels of physical activity may still be in an energy imbalance, even at a “normal” body weight. Also, nutritional deficiencies, even at appropriate calorie intakes, may decrease fertility, so the quantity of food and quality are both important.

Being overweight or obese can also influence your ability to conceive. Numerous studies have demonstrated a relationship between BMI and fertility, and indicate an increased chance of conception when overweight or obese women lose weight and attain a healthy body mass, regardless of their calorie intake or physical activity levels.12-14 So, to answer the question, “does weight affect fertility,” it appears that it can. Thus, calorie restriction while trying to become pregnant may be fine if it brings you from a higher to a normal BMI, but should be accomplished gradually.

If you experience any menstrual irregularities and have a history of high levels of physical activity, dieting, or are overweight, talk to your doctor and if possible, a nutritionist.

Additional Resources About Preparation for Pregnancy:

  1. Beccuti, G., & Pannain, S. (2011). Sleep and obesity. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 14(4), 402–412.
  2. Sleep Tips: 7 Tips for Better Sleep.
  3. Dolmar, A (2015). Psychological Stress and Infertility.
  4. Jacobs M., Boynton-Jarrett R & Harville E. (2015). Adverse childhood event experiences, fertility difficulties and menstrual cycle characteristics. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 36(2).
  5. Lynch CD, Sundaram R, Maisog JM, Sweeney AM, Buck Louis GM. (2014). Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study–the LIFE study. Human Reproduction, 29(5):1067-75.
  6. Koopman J. (2013). The Experimental Effects of Stress on Fertility. Berkely Scientific Journal, 18(1).
  7. Damti OB, Sarid O, Sheiner E, Zilberstein T, Cwikel J. (2009). Stress and distress in infertility among women. Harefuah 147(3) 256-60, 276.
  8. Macfarlane, et al (2000).. Effect of duration of infusion of stress-like concentrations of cortisol on follicular development and the preovulatory surge of LH in sheep. Animal Reproduction Science, 63 (3–4): 167-175.
  9. Hosseini B, Eslamian  G (2014).  Association of Dietary Factors With Male and Female Infertility: Review of Current Evidence. Thrita, 3(3).
  10. Langley S (2014). A Nutrition Screening Form for Female Infertility Patients. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 75:195-201.
  11. Ladan G (2014). Symposiums: Nutrition and Infertility: Fertile Field of Research and Intervention with Preventive Value. Nutrition and Food Sciences Research, 1(1).
  12. Khashkeli M, Baloch S, Baloch A (2013). Infertility and Weight Reduction: Influence and Outcome. Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan, 23(11): 798-801.
  13. Ramezanzadeh, F. et al (2012). Impact of body mass index versus physical activity and calorie intake on assisted reproduction outcomes. European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 163(1): 52 – 56.
  14. Pandey S (2010). The Impact of Female Obesity on the Outcome of Fertility Treatment. Journal of Human Reproduction Science, 3(2): 62-67.
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