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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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:
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!
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.