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Making a stop at procreation station? Using your body as a portal to the universe? We all know what to expect when we’re expecting: mood swings, weight gain, crazy cravings, aches and pains, and maybe some new zits. But what do we need to expect when we’re expecting to expect?
Many of the things we should be doing to prepare our bodies to be a tiny human habitat are the same things we need to do to take care of our bodies in general. Same goes for mental health, which should always be a priority, not just part of preconception health. If you’re ready to consciously create another life form, here’s how to get your body and mind in tip-top, human-growing shape.
Make Doctor Appointments
Let’s get (a) physical! First thing’s first, see your family doctor for a check-up. Discuss your family health history, make sure you’re up to date on your vaccinations, and check cholesterol levels. Talk with your doctor about any health concerns you may have. This is also a good time to talk about any prescribed or over-the-counter drugs you’re taking that may not be safe for baby. Your doctor can help come up with a plan to manage any health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or obesity) as well as any medications you may be on.
You may want to make a preconception appointment with your OB/GYN to ask any specific reproductive questions. It’s also a good idea to go ahead and see the dentist just in case you need any Xrays you’re not allowed to have when you’re preggers.
Quit Smoking and Drinking
File this one under a big DUH. Our moms may have known better when they were carrying us, but that didn’t stop many of them from puffing away. Gotta love those home videos with everyone smoking in a house full of kids. Maybe you’ve heard that it’s okay to have a glass of wine while you’re pregnant. However, according to the CDC, “There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.” Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) such as learning disabilities, speech and language delays, and intellectual disability or low IQ are entirely preventable by abstaining from alcohol. Go ahead and preheat the oven for your bun by quitting drinking and smoking now.
If you’re struggling to quit smoking or drinking, it may help to know that quitting will help your mental health, not just physical. According to the Office on Women’s Health, “The chemicals in tobacco and alcohol can change the chemicals in your brain, making you more likely to feel depressed or anxious.” Check out these tips on quitting smoking. We also have some helpful tips on how to lay off the booze.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Your body is about to get pretty large and in charge, so that means all the fast food and Oreos you want, right? Nah. Being overweight or obese can cause pregnancy complications, including a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and endometrial, breast, and colon cancers. Being underweight is also risky business, so make sure your BMI is within the normal range.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know we should eat right, especially when preparing our bodies for baby. You may be surprised to learn that what you eat affects not just physical, but also mental health. Eating habits not-so-healthy? Start eating better now. Here’s how according to the Office on Women’s Health:
- Getting the right balance of nutrients, including enough fiber and water, can help your mood stay stable.
- Sugary, processed foods increase your blood sugar and then make you feel tired and irritable when your blood sugar levels drop.
- Some vitamins and minerals (selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc) may help with the symptoms of depression.
How much caffeine do you really have in a day? Two cups of coffee in the morning, an afternoon tea, a carbonated beverage after work…that’s four servings a day! Preggo women are only allowed 12 ounces of coffee per day. Best to start weening yourself now, so the fetus doesn’t have to go through withdrawals with you.
It may take the thought of bringing another person into this world for us to finally start taking care of ourselves. Exercise is not only good for your physical health, but it can also affect mental health. Physical activity helps boost your mood and lowers anxiety and depression (thanks to endorphins!) and promotes better sleep. Shoot for 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or yoga. It’s also recommended to fit in some strength training at least a couple of days a week.
Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins
It’s recommended that women take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day at least one month before pregnancy. Per the CDC, this B vitamin can “help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.” However, different vitamins hit different bodies differently. So, go ahead and find a prenatal vitamin that works for you before baby is on board.
Options include vegan, vegetarian, and gummy varieties. Make sure the prenatal vitamin includes DHA, otherwise you may have to take an additional supplement. Your OB/GYN can also prescribe prenatal vitamins, so talk to them about what’s right for you.
Yeah right! The world doesn’t stop turning because you’re considering becoming a parent. Shit happens. It’s how we deal with that shit, (i.e. use it as fertilizer) that matters. Stress during pregnancy can lead to depression and high blood pressure, which puts you at risk for “preeclampsia, premature delivery, and having a low-birth-weight infant,” according to the Office on Women’s Health.
Managing stress is a part of life, but if undue stress is within your control, go ahead and cut that sh*t out before bringing a baby into the mix—even if that means quitting your job or leaving an abusive partner. Check out these Natural, Herbal, and Holistic Remedies for Stress and Anxiety. The Office on Women’s Health recommends these tips for dealing with stress in a positive way by:
- Deep breathing
- Practicing self-care
- Eating healthfully
- Getting regular exercise
- Avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms (such as drinking, doing drugs, or overeating)
- Finding healthy ways to cope, such as talking with a friend, family member, or therapist
- Getting organized
- Helping others
Sleep (While You Still Can!)
Rest up while you still can, because once that little bundle of joy arrives, you can say sayonara to sleep. Guess what? Getting plenty of sleep is good for both your physical and mental health. Need some help getting some zzz’s? Here are 7 Ways to Sleep Better.
Stay Away from Toxins
This also seems like a big “duh,” but there are harmful toxins everywhere! The CDC recommends avoiding “harmful chemicals, environmental contaminants, and other toxic substances such as synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and cat or rodent feces around the home and in the workplace.” These substances are no bueno for your reproductive system and can make it harder to get pregnant.
Heathline says to lower your exposure to toxic offenders by avoiding synthetic fragrances, going BPA-free, and purchasing chemical-free home and personal care products. Make your own glass cleaner, carpet cleaner, and disinfectant sprays and wipes. Eat organic as much as possible, especially when it comes to the dirty dozen. Use fragrance-free laundry detergents, such as Dropps, Seventh Generation, Swash, or Tide Free & Gentle.
Pregnancy and parenthood are going to be full of surprises, both good and bad. Genetic counseling can give you a heads up on what you and your partner could potentially pass on to your progeny.
Get Your Mind Right
The Office on Women’s Health reports that two out of three women have “have experienced at least one serious traumatic or negative event” such as abuse, neglect, violence, and natural disasters during childhood. Trauma such as this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop mental heath conditions, but it does increase the risk of adult health problems, including mental health conditions.
Verywell Family offers these strategies for taking care of your mental health:
- Prioritize your psychological health.
- Banish negative self-talk.
- Take time for yourself.
- Take a childbirth or parenting class.
- Talk to your partner about how you plan to parent.
- Also discuss how you will deal with challenges that might arise.
- Utilize stress management techniques to combat stress and anxiety.
Start Tracking Your Cycle
Start tracking Aunt Flo’s visits so you can tell when you’re ovulating, aka more libel to get knocked up. As we describe in our article, Common Misconceptions About Conception, the first day of a woman’s period kicks off her (normally) 28-day menstrual cycle. Ovulation occurs halfway through, around day 14. During ovulation, the ovary releases one mature egg, which then travels down one of the fallopian tubes. That egg has 12-24 hours to be fertilized.
Most fitness trackers have the ability to track your menses. There are also tons of ovulation tracking apps, like this highly rated Period Tracker, Ovulation Calendar & Fertility app. Happy humping!