You’ve checked out car seats, made plans for a nursery and even put together a list of potential names. You’re planning to get pregnant and excited that a baby could soon be on the way. So, where should you start? Rosie Li, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist with ProMedica Physicians, shares simple tips that may improve your chances for successfully conceiving and having a healthy baby.
1. Make your health a priority.
Taking good care of yourself now will help you take good care of your baby. Here are a few ideas:
- Ask your doctor about your medications. Certain medications can affect your ability to become pregnant. And some, including specific drugs for blood pressure, seizures and mood disorders, may be harmful for a developing baby. While you should never stop your medications on your own, it’s important to have a conversation about your medicines with your healthcare provider.
- Control chronic conditions. When both parents are in good health, conception is more likely. This means if you have a chronic medical condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, it’s best to make sure it’s well controlled.
- Reach a healthy weight. If you’re seriously overweight, losing weight may help you conceive. Shedding pounds may also lower your risk of pregnancy complications, although losing weight isn’t usually recommended once you become pregnant.
2. Lead a healthy lifestyle.
There are many aspects of a healthy lifestyle, and when planning to conceive, it’s important to consider them all:
- Eat a balanced diet. Aim for meals consisting of nutritious foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins and dairy products. And try to limit empty calories, like sweets.
- Get regular exercise. Regular physical activity that raises your heart rate offers many benefits. The best activities are those you enjoy and will stick to, preferably daily. Walking, for example, is a really good exercise for your muscles and something that’s sustainable before, during and after pregnancy. At a minimum, Dr. Li recommends 30 minutes of activity at least three times a week.
- Limit alcohol. While drinking alcohol on occasion is okay, if you drink daily, cutting back may help you conceive. And, of course, once you become pregnant, we recommend not drinking alcohol at all.
- Stop smoking. If you smoke, it’s best to kick your tobacco habit since nicotine can decrease fertility. Stopping smoking can definitely increase your chances of conceiving.
3. Take a prenatal vitamin.
Dr. Li recommends that all women of reproductive age start on a prenatal vitamin, which provides important nutrients, including folic acid to help prevent certain birth defects. They offer benefits beyond that, as well. For example, there are studies that show taking a prenatal vitamin can increase your chances of conception, and at the same time, help with first trimester sickness once you are pregnant.
According to Dr. Li, the greatest benefits occur in women who have taken the vitamins three to four months before conception.
4. Manage your stress.
It’s true that stress is a normal part of life, but it can interfere with your ability to get pregnant. When your body is stressed, it can produce stress hormones, and those hormones can potentially alter the frequency of your periods. Getting regular exercise, sleeping at least eight hours each night and talking to a counselor can all be effective strategies for managing stress.
5. Track your cycles.
Since you’re most fertile five days before ovulation and two days after, it’s important to track your cycles. And if you aren’t the paper calendar type, there are many apps to help you identify your fertile window based on your previous periods. Find them by searching “menstrual tracking” on the internet or in your app store.
6. Talk with your doctor early and often.
People usually don’t think about working with an OB-GYN until after they become pregnant. But OB-GYNs can be a tremendous resource when you’re trying to conceive. There’s science behind pregnancy, and OB-GYNs are experts in that science.
You should also seek medical advice if you’re having trouble conceiving. Dr. Li recommends:
- If you’re having regular periods and are younger than 35 years old, seek help after a year of trying to get pregnant.
- If you’re older than 35, seek help after six months.
Often, doctors can identify causes for infertility, and once treated, pregnancy is more probable. But even if no cause is found, you shouldn’t be discouraged. If you want to grow your family there are many options to help you conceive, such as in vitro fertilization.
“Reach out if you have any questions,” says Dr. Li. “We’re always here to help.”
Learn more about maternity services at ProMedica.