When it comes to babies, one of my favorite Scriptures in the Bible is, "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward." (Psalm 127:3—NKJV) It's a reminder that, whenever a woman gets pregnant, it's not only a physical manifestation but a very spiritual one too. It's a part of the reason why I became a doula, in fact—to help usher in the miracle of life, as comfortably as possible, for other women; especially Black women. And that begins with conception.
The reality is, if you're trying to conceive, the chances that you will are pretty high if you are between the ages of 20-35. If you're between 35-39 (or if you have some sort of fertility issue), you may need to give it a year. After 40, it's important to speak with your doctor, so that they can tell you want to expect while you're on the journey to make a little one. But no matter how old you are or what the prognosis on the state of your fertility may be, every health expert on the planet can agree on the fact that you need to prep your body beforehand. In order to help you out, I've provided 10 tips on how you can get your system into peak condition for conception.
1. Get a FULL Physical
As a doula, I know for a fact that, one of the things that caused some of my clients to have a difficult pregnancy is they underestimated just how important it is to get a physical prior to trying to get pregnant. That way, you can find out if you're a healthy weight (more on that later), if your hormone levels are balanced (especially when it comes to progesterone) and if there is any genetic history that could pose a few challenges either while trying to conceive or after you do. Something else that your doctor will be able to do is see if you've got any scarring on your fallopian tubes, any pelvic adhesions and/or if you've got an ovulation disorder that you might not be aware of. Also, if you're on some form of birth control, your physician can discuss with you how to get off of it without causing your body to go totally out of wack, while providing an estimate of when enough of the hormones are out of your system so that you can start trying to get pregnant without worrying if it happens takes a little longer than you would like.
(By the way, if you are under 35, give it a year of trying to conceive before getting too concerned about infertility. If you're over 35, have been having unprotected intercourse for at least six months without conception, it might be time to speak to your doctor about it. They might refer you to a fertility specialist.)
2. Eat Foods That Are High in Folic Acid
As far as folic acid goes, this is something that both you and your partner should add more of into your diet.
Because you'll be carrying your baby, folic acid is something that plays a significant role in helping to keep your child's birth defects at a minimum (it can help to decrease your chances of having a premature birth as well). As far as your partner is concerned, more folic acid in his system can help to increase the quality of his sperm.
Taking a folic acid supplement is smart, but you can also take foods that are high in folic acid too. Some of those include dark leafy greens, liver, whole grains, sunflower seeds, asparagus, eggs and citrus fruit.
3. Lower Your Java and Alcohol Intake
If you can't imagine starting your day with a cup of coffee or ending it with a glass of red wine, you might want to consider scaling back on both of those for a while. Since caffeine is a stimulant, consuming more than two cups a day could affect your fertility; that's because caffeine is able to alter your nervous system and constrict your blood vessels. And alcohol? Drinking it can result in ovulation disorders which can make it much harder to get pregnant.
4. Take a Prenatal Vitamin
You probably already know that you should take a prenatal vitamin on a daily basis once you are officially pregnant, but it's also important to add prenatal vitamins to your daily regimen while you're trying to conceive too. The main reason why is because having all of those vitamins and minerals in your system before you get pregnant can lower the risk of your baby having heart defects, limb deformities and even a cleft palate. Your doctor should be able to recommend (or even prescribe) the kind of prenatal that will be best for you. But if you'd like to do a little research on your own, click here.
5. Create a Clear Exercise Regimen
Something that can help to keep you in shape, your joints and muscles limber and toned, along with keeping your stress levels way down (more on that in just a sec too) is exercise. Only, when you're in the process of trying to get pregnant, it's important that you don't overdo it because that is something else that could affect the balance of your hormones. If you already are in a semi-rigorous workout routine, scale that back into jogging, walking, water aerobics or yoga. In fact, yoga is one of the best things that you can do because the breathing exercises will calm you and the positions can help to prepare your body for, not only caring a baby to term, but birthing your child too.
6. Remove Stressors from Your Space
Stress is never good for anyone, but if you're wanting to get pregnant any time soon, you definitely need to make de-stressing a top priority. The reasons why are almost countless. For now, I'll just say that I once read an article that stated 1) women who are stressed out tend to produce high levels of the stress-monitoring enzyme alpha-amylase which can make it almost 30 percent harder to conceive and 2) the more stressed you are, the less sex you may want to have and, as you well know, sex is important to the conceiving process. That's why, during this very fragile time, it's important to cultivate clear boundaries, to get lots of rest and to downsize your life in areas where you know, without a doubt, can trigger you to have feelings of stress, worry or anxiety—whether it's a person, place, thing or idea.
7. Watch Your Weight
Hopefully, you already know that a lot of thin people are unhealthy and a lot of full-figured people are just fine. So, when it comes to this particular tip, it's not about shaming anyone. It's just that, the more pounds you put on, the more that can affect your hormones—including the regularity of your menstrual cycle.
Even though I am a doula, I'm not going to state what an "advisable weight" is. That is something else that you should discuss with your physician; just make sure that you do. You also might want to consult with a nutritionist. Matter of fact, there is a site called The Prenatal Nutritionist that can offer up all sorts of tips on how you can alter your diet in order to get the pregnancy results that you desire.
8. Limit Toxin Exposure
Something that can make conceiving (and carrying a healthy baby to term) difficult, that isn't discussed nearly enough, is how important it is to limit the amount of toxins your body is exposed to. Because indoor air pollution is 2-5 times worse than outdoor pollution, be sure to open up your windows sometimes and to also take walks outside. You might want to switch over from perfume to essential oils because synthetic fragrances also have toxins in them. When it comes to the water that you drink, make sure that the plastic bottles are BPA-free. If you get your hair relaxed, you should lay off of that too. Oh, and you might want to consider having a nail tech come into your home and only getting a regular manicure as well; the fumes in nail shops, along with the toxins in acrylic and powders, can also be counterproductive to your conception goals.
9. Schedule Your Sex
Making a baby can be a lot of fun. But I won't lie to you, when you're intentional about conceiving, a little bit of sex scheduling needs to happen too. Yes, this includes investing in an ovulation kit and making sure that you definitely engage in unprotected sex when it tells you that you are your most fertile. But honestly, because sometimes our cycles can be all over the place, many fertility experts recommend having sex no less than 3-4 times a week (every other day, if you're up to it). Not only can it increase your chances of getting pregnant, but semen can also help to develop your embryo once you actually are; especially in the very beginning stages of conception.
10. Consult with a Doula
While this might seem like a shameless plug, it isn't. I'm merely shouting out doulas (birthing assistants) because there is documented proof of how beneficial they can be. Studies show that the presence of a doula, not only provides emotional support, but they help to decrease your chances of having a C-section, the need for Pitocin and, they can help you to have a natural-as-possible birth (if that's what you so desire). Because a lot of doulas tend to come onto the scene around your third trimester, they are also able to provide you with tips on how to make your final weeks more comfortable and healthier, for both you and your baby. And that's actually why I recommend consulting with one before you conceive as well. There are all kinds of tips and "tricks" that we know that you may only hear from a midwife; things that can help get your body ready and better prepare for your pregnancy. So, definitely consider at least meeting with one to ask questions about conception and the stages of pregnancy. It can make all of what you're about to embark upon so much easier for you. For info on how to find a doula, check out DONA.org.
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