I have had the pleasure of seeing and working with many women both during and after their pregnancies. This is such an important time for women and their health, and it can be a confusing time as well! What is allowed? What is safe? Is this normal? Will my body ever recover? These are really common questions many women have at this time, and I’ve received all of them over the years. After going through my own pregnancy, delivery and recovery, I understand firsthand how stressful this time can be, and how little information there is out there guiding us through the process!
This post is the first in a four-part series exploring what health looks like in the different stages of pre-natal and postpartum health:
1) Trying to get pregnant
I’m writing from my experience as a PT, a woman and a mom. These posts are about how to keep you as healthy as possible during these special times in your life. There are many aspects of getting pregnant, infertility, depression, the health of the baby, etc…that we won’t cover here. Don’t ever hesitate to take any questions or concerns to your doctor! If you have any unknown pain, if you have been trying to get pregnant for a while, or you have very specific questions about your own personal situation, talk to your physician and get the answers you need for you and your body. Let’s get started with our first topic: trying to get pregnant.
The “trying to get pregnant” phase can be an exciting and crazy one, full of ups and downs and confusing emotions. Whether you have a specific plan and schedule for starting to try, or you are just “not not trying”, it is important to do a few things now to take care of your body and prepare it for what’s to come.
If you are already active and have an exercise routine that works for you, you usually do not need to change it while trying to get pregnant. If you are not active or do not exercise regularly, now is the time to start! I can’t emphasize enough the importance of regular physical activity on your health while pregnant, during labor and for recovery. Take the time now to find a few activities you really enjoy and that motivate you. Find a routine, schedule it into your week, and stay consistent. Other than the obvious health benefits, studies show regular exercise improves our self-esteem, our mood and our sex life. Kind of important when trying to get pregnant!
Take a really good and honest look at your diet. Do you have any areas or bad habits that have really taken over? I don’t mean the occasional sweet treat or glass of wine. You don’t need to be an eating saint here, but you really want to take stock of your eating habits and start to realize that, fairly soon, you may be eating for two. It is much easier to adjust some of these habits now rather than later on when you have morning sickness or midnight cravings. Check the obvious things first: stop smoking and stop any recreational drug use. You may want to cut down on your alcohol intake if you are a big drinker. Sugar causes inflammation in your body, so limiting that will improve the state of your body. It may sound “scientific”, but your body is an incubator. You are preparing it to house another little human being. Feed it well!
Taking a high quality prenatal vitamin is one of the most important things you will do while pregnant. The CDC and AMA recommend any woman of childbearing age take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to prevent certain birth defects. Many women avoid taking prenatal vitamins because they can cause stomach upset. A very good, high quality vitamin shouldn’t cause stomach upset. If you are getting sick from taking your vitamins, they may not be very good vitamins. If you are considering becoming pregnant anytime in your life, it is hugely important to be taking a high quality prenatal vitamin now. They will help you stay healthy and strong during the physical roller coaster that is ahead, and they will improve the health of your future baby. I personally took the USANA HealthPak for years before even trying to get pregnant, and then switched to the USANA prenatal vitamins once they were developed. Both have the folic acid that is recommended, and the prenatals have additional iron. I chose them after researching many different vitamins on the market, and deciding they were the right ones for me. Your doctor might have a brand they recommend, as well.
My husband and I waited a while to start trying to get pregnant. The day we started, I was READY. In my head, I knew that, on average, it takes most women 9-12 months to get pregnant. I also knew that, being 34 years old, that time could easily increase for me. None of that mattered the day I saw the first negative test. Despite knowing better, I felt like something was wrong with me as a woman because I didn’t get pregnant the first month. There are some women who get pregnant the first month, and some who see 24 months of negative tests. There are so many different stories and all of them are justified and important. Don’t underestimate the importance of your attitude during this time. Stress levels can definitely impair your chances of getting pregnant. It becomes harder and harder to control that stress the longer you try with no results. I know this and I personally had a hard time balancing my positive attitude and decreased stress with the months of negative tests and not knowing. You need to find a way to keep things fun and find enjoyment in the present, instead of always living for the future and that positive test. I read everything that might help my chances, and considered giving up all coffee and wine for about 2.5 seconds. I realized that eliminating all alcohol and coffee would stress me MORE than keeping my normal routine, so I had coffee every day and a few glasses of wine a week. That is what worked for ME to find balance and not get stressed. I took advantage of free time to stay up late with my husband, workout whenever I wanted and take long walks by myself. I recommend you find a few tricks that help you focus on the positive and the joy in the present moment. Keep the lines of communication open with your partner and be honest if you are stressed or sad! Find some strategies together to keep things positive during this time.
Whether you are actively trying to get pregnant, or just considering the possibility sometime in the future, love and honor yourself and what you are feeling, and use this time to get your health and nutrition in order. You will be creating healthy habits that will stay with you and become cemented in your life!