We hear a lot about the lifestyle changes pregnant women need to make in the name of a healthy pregnancy. Expert advice demands that women take their prenatal vitamins – specifically folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, eliminate coffee, soft cheeses, and cured meats, and so much more. What these dictates overlook, though, are the many behavioral changes women can benefit from while trying to conceive. While most of these will also carry over into pregnancy, making these changes before you conceive can support your fertility and give your pregnancy a healthy foundation.
Mind Your Weight
Pregnant women need to gain weight, but as your obstetrician will tell you, it’s important not to gain too much weight or else you increase your risk of gestational diabetes. In reality, though, weight isn’t just a pregnancy issue; being significantly over- or underweight can negatively impact your fertility, making it harder to conceive. It’s important for both you and your spouse to maintain a healthy weight (yes, it impacts male fertility, too) for the best chance of conceiving naturally.
Take Time To De-Stress
Stress is bad for your body whether or not you’re pregnant. It causes increased inflammation, can fuel unhealthy eating habits, and disrupt your sleep, among other issues. Add into that the stress of the TTC process and you’re asking for physical manifestations of psychological strain. So, what can you do about it?
While we all experience some amount of stress, addressing stress related to TTC is a particular process and one of the best things you can do is talk to other people who are in the same boat. Seek out a community of TTC women, online or in your real life, who you can share your experience with. Additionally, you may benefit from finding a therapist or trying a yoga or meditation practice that helps you relax.
Exercise, at least in moderation, is great for your fertility. That doesn’t mean you should start training for a marathon or take on a strenuous fitness routine, but research has found that moderate daily exercise increases women’s fertility. Exercising can also help you manage stress levels and improve sleep quality, so there are benefits across the board. As long as your doctor gives the green light, you can maintain a moderate exercise routine throughout your pregnancy, as long as you’re comfortable and have no significant risk factors.
Cut The Caffeine – And More
Yes, you’ll need to significantly cut back on or even eliminate caffeine once you’re pregnant, but many doctors recommend ditching caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and certain herbal teas when you’re TTC. That’s because caffeine has been linked with lower fertility, as well as an increased risk of miscarriage, while alcohol can interfere with your menstrual cycle. As for herbal teas, while many of these are safe, some contain pregnancy-unfriendly herbs like red raspberry leaf and juniper. It’s also best to avoid green tea products, since they can make folic acid less effective. Black tea is fine, however, and can be a great stepping stone for women who want to reduce their caffeine intake without eliminating it entirely.
If making all of these lifestyle changes sounds overwhelming, don’t worry – you can take it one step at a time, rather than trying to tackle them all at once. And while many of these changes are good for your health whether or not you’re TTC or pregnant, post-pregnancy you’re allowed to reclaim the pleasure of an extra cup of coffee or a great cocktail. Until then, though, it’s all about getting to your goal: a healthy baby.