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14 Tips to Make Pregnancy and Conceiving Easier

August 23, 2018
Katie Visco

Research shows that preparing before you conceive can be truly beneficial for both the mother and the baby. Here are some things to keep in mind...

1. Folic Acid Supplements

supplements
Image provided by health.harvard

Take a supplement containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid before getting pregnant. It can reduce the risk of complications such as neural tube defects (NTDs)—abnormalities that can occur in the brain, spine, or spinal column of a developing fetus and are present at birth, according to a recent study.  Increasing your intake of folic acid helps in producing and maintaining new cells. This is very important in pregnancy since cells are dividing and growing rapidly during the fertilization stage.

The United States Public Health Service recommends that all pregnant women and "women of childbearing age [15 to 44 years] in the United States who are capable of becoming pregnant should consume [a supplement containing] 0.4 mg of folic acid per day for the purpose of reducing their risk of having a pregnancy affected with spina bifida or other NTDs.”

2. Adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle

girl running

Trying a healthier diet and lifestyle can do wonders in reducing the chance that you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes (high blood sugar diagnosed during pregnancy). Gestational diabetes can increase the risk to you and your infant’s health as well. In addition, pre-pregnancy exercises are also associated with a lower risk of gestational diabetes, and the benefit increases with more vigorous levels of exercise. Even a 30-minute walk and stretching can be marvelous for restoring your body. Doing some pre-pregnancy exercises can help manage stress, repair your muscles after a hard workout, and they can even cultivate creativity! Here are some dietary suggestions for women who are planning to conceive…

  • Increase your intake of fiber.
  • Reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened cola.
  • Eat less red meat, processed meats, and animal fats and cholesterol.
  • Replace animal protein with protein from nuts to lower your risk of gestational diabetes.

3. Get up to date on vaccines

needles

Make sure to ask your healthcare provider if you need a booster for any vaccines. Some vaccines can be given during pregnancy, but others (such as rubella and chickenpox vaccines) should be gotten before pregnancy.

4. Strive to reach a healthy weight before trying to get pregnant:

Obesity can make it more difficult to become pregnant. Studies show that being overweight or obese also puts you at risk for complications during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and stillbirth. Obesity can also increase the chances of having a cesarean delivery.

  • A study also shows that obesity can increase your child's risk of a congenital heart defect (a problem with the heart that is present at birth) by 15%. Research has also uncovered a link between obesity and NTDs.

5. Learn about your family’s health history:

If certain conditions run in your family or if a family member was born with a physical abnormality or an intellectual and developmental disability then you may be referred for genetic counseling by your healthcare provider.

Get Mentally Healthy!

Sheep and Cup

6. Don’t let pregnancy take a toll on your mental health!

Pregnancy is tough but it’s totally worth it! Good mental health means you feel good about yourself and your family. While it’s natural to feel sad, anxious, or stressed at times, it’s not healthy to feel like that all of the time. If you do feel bad a lot, make sure to seek professional help before getting pregnant. Hormonal changes and other situations during pregnancy can worsen depression.

Undergoing fertility treatments can be an exhausting process. Not only is your body being bombarded with hormones or medications, but you are on a constant emotional roller coaster ride: hope and doubt, fear and excitement, relief and disappointment. Amidst all these feelings, you might feel like you are drowning.

Thankfully, there are plenty of steps you can to take to keep your spirits up during this time. Take a look at some of our tips on coping with depression while undergoing fertility treatments.

7. Get Moving

If you are experiencing depression, you might be struggling to get out of bed, let alone get yourself to the gym. But if you can gain some momentum, you will feel the enormous benefits that exercise has to offer.

As Elle Wood explains, “exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Endorphins are natural cannabis-like brain chemicals that enhance your overall sense of well-being. Additionally, the time spent exercising will get your mind off your other worries. Even adding a ten-minute walk to your routine could make a difference in how you are feeling.

8. Talk to Someone

Not everyone is trained in dealing with infertility etiquette. People might not know what to say to you or they may put their foot in their mouth. While it may be tempting to shove the next person who says, “It will happen! Just wait your turn!”, a better solution might be to talk to a professional.

If you are uncomfortable with the one-on-one format, you might look into local support groups (someone at your clinic will be able to provide you with this information). You could also try online support groups for people coping with infertility.

9. Give Yourself a Break

If you are struggling to get pregnant, navigating social media can feel like crossing a minefield. When you are having trouble building the family you want, seeing other people’s happy moments can feel like taking a bullet. Give yourself a break by unplugging for a while.

In the meantime, you can pamper yourself. Undergoing fertility treatments can be hard on your body. Treat yourself to a massage or maybe a facial. Just make sure you know it is something you will enjoy.

The stress of trying, waiting, and failing can be hard for even the strongest person to bear. If you are coping with depression while undergoing fertility treatments, realize that you are not alone. Getting help is not a sign of weakness, it just means you are taking charge of your happiness. And that’s something to celebrate.

Habits to Break

Some habits you’ll want avoid

cigarettes

You’ve probably heard that you should start healthier habits once you’re pregnant, but if you’re having trouble conceiving, you may want to start even earlier. These little things may be interfering with your fertility:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Diet
  • Stress

10. Smoking

It’s bad for you regardless, but it also reduces your fertility. Smoking raises your chance of sub-fertility up about 60% for both men and women. For women, smoking can also move menopause up by 1 to 4 years, which means a shorter limit for the biological clock. Miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy also becomes more likely. For men, smoking has been associated with less concentrated sperm and slower and more deformed swimmers. Together, couples who smoke may need up to twice the fertility treatments that nonsmokers would’ve needed.

11. Alcohol

Daily alcohol consumption of two or more drinks gives you about a 60% higher chance of sub-fertility. Several studies have also shown less success with 4-8 drinks per week.

Studies show that these activities can increase the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), preterm birth, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and NTDs. If you are trying to quit smoking, drinking, or doing drugs and you need help, talk to your healthcare provider about support groups or about medications.

Remember: alcohol is never really safe when you’re planning for pregnancy--every drink counts!

12. Caffeine

cup of coffee

Sorry, caffeine junkies. More than 200 mg per day could increase the risk for miscarriage, this decreases the chance of having a healthy pregnancy during any cycle by about 45%. For reference, a standard eight-ounce cup of coffee has between 80-95 mg of caffeine and a shot of espresso has about 64 mg. Tea has much less caffeine than coffee (at least half as much or lower) but still adds to that 200 mg count, so keep that in mind as well.

13. Diet

plate of fruits

Studies have shown lower fertility for obese women compared to those at a healthy weight. Whether you’re overweight or not, what you eat will matter when you try to conceive. As health and fitness fanatics probably tell you: processed foods are bad for you. Not specifically because of the higher chance for weight gain, but because certain ingredients could be interfering with your fertility. Try to focus on fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoid foods with possibly high mercury content like fish. Also, consider taking folic acid supplements to prevent neural tube defects.

14. Stress

Even if you’ve been having trouble conceiving, don’t be discouraged! To be fair, it’s a bit unclear on whether or not stress interferes with fertility treatment, but stress generally has a negative impact on your overall emotional and mental well-being. A few activities that could help minimize stress include meditation, acupuncture, yoga, exercise, or just talking out your concerns with a good support system. In short, what you consume can impact your fertility. Though old habits die hard, you may want to consider getting rid of some of these guilty pleasures in order to conceive.

In the end…

girl standing in front of sunset

Pregnancy isn’t an easy thing to do. When trying to convince, attempting to be healthier can benefit you greatly. Simple things like walks, folic acid and staying mentally healthy can do wonders for your chances of conceiving, plus being healthy will benefit you too!

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