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Fitness, Health, Pregnancy

Trying to conceive? 5 things you should do before you get pregnant.

Do you want to conceive and get pregnant soon? Here are 5 things that you should do before getting pregnant, either because they help your fertility or because you can’t do them once you are pregnant.

All of these tips come from my own personal experience. Either because I did them completely right, or completely wrong. Please note that this advice is purely personal, as a lot of my friends have asked me for it recently. I am not a doctor or midwife, so please also consult them if you want to conceive or are trying to get pregnant.

1) Adopt a healthy lifestyle and bodyweight before you get pregnant

This advice should be familiar to every woman or couple that wants to have a child. During pregnancy smoking, drinking alcohol and drugs are off limits as they can harm the fetus. So everyone should know by now that you should stop with these unhealthy habits as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. 

But what most women don’t think about is to stop these habits months before they get pregnant. And there are various reasons for that. First of all you sometimes need longer to break a habit. This is especially the case for addicitons like smoking, drinking and drugs. These bad habits have a huge negative impact on your fertility and increase the risk of bith defects. So the best time to get rid of these addicitons is… actually NOW!!!

But not only should you get rid of all the really bad habits when trying to conceive. You should actually adopt new, healthy ones to increase your fertility, and reduce the risks of birth defects and pregnancy complications later on. Now is the time to start eating healthy and exercising regularly if you have not been doing that already. You should also try to get to a healthy bodyweight before getting pregnant. This means losing weight in case you are overweight or gain weight in case you are underweight.

If you have not had the motiviation to get into a healthy lifestyle until now, the wish of having of a healthy baby and being healthy , strong mother can be really powerful. So don’t wait, change your life RIGHT NOW!

2) Reduce stress in and outside your relationship

When trying to conceive a lot of women actually forget about one of the most important factors of your overall health: Your stress level. All over the world and over the last million of years the fertility and reproduction of mammals has depended highly on the presence or absence of stress factors in their lives. And the same goes for us humans

This is not surprising. If your current environment seems safe and welcoming for youngsters, your fertility levels will go up. If you are constantly running from predators, it will go down. This even goes further than just conceiving. When facing danger during labor, the contractions of mammals can completely stop until they are in a safe place again.

This happens very often during human labor, when contractions decrease or disappear as soon as the pregnant woman enters the hospital. The stress hormones that your body releases in this subjectively percieved “dangerous” environment cause the contractions to stop. They will however increase in strength the more relaxed the woman gets. (That’s why they recommend taking a hot bath during labor)

So if you want to conceive and get pregnant reduce the stress factors in your life. This could be your job or your family life. But it could also be your relationship and the internal pressure you put onto yourself BECAUSE you are trying so hard to get pregnant. Have you ever heard of couples that could not get pregnant, but as soon as they gave up they suddenly had 3 kids? This is exactly what happens in your body unconciously when you let go of the pressure.

So my personal advice would be to reduce the stress factors as much as possible, if you can’t eliminate them completely. Try to create a loving and caring environment for your relationship, where your future child would want to come and live. Spend time with your partner, give lots of hugs and cuddles and have of course lots of sex (no surprise). And most importantly: don’t put pressure on yourself. Nature will do what is best for you.

3) Get good health insurance

When you want to get pregnant and give birth to a healthy baby you will also want or have to see an gynecologist or midwife at one point during your pregnancy. Most likely you will also give birth using a health care provider, either at a hospital, birth center or at home with your midwife.

If you live in a country without free public health care you will have to get good health insurance before you get pregnant to avoid unexpected costs. Most insurance policies see pregnancy as a preexisting condition. They will therefore only cover it, if you conceive at least 3 months after the inception of the insurance policy.

Also you should check what exactly the insurance policy does or does not cover. And also check if the policy covers your newborn baby. Even if you live in a country with public health care think about getting a private top up insurance. Especially if you want to get special treatments or services during pregnancy or birth.

4) Take folate supplements

It is also very common knowledge among women who want to get pregnant, that they should get enough folic acid. Having enough folic acid stores in your body prevents neural tube defects of the fetus like spina bifida. That’s why most prenatal vitamins contain higher than normal levels of this vitamin. Also in some countries food is fortified with folic acid. But two important things are mostly overlooked:

First, studies have shown that neural tube defects in the fetus are most likely to occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Very often future mothers don’t even know that they are pregnant by then and take supplements too late. The supplementation of folic acid is most useful before pregnancy. Because then the levels in the body are already high in the fist few weeks after conception. Doctors therefore recommended to start suplementation early. You could also include more folic acid rich foods like leafy greens in your hopefully already healthy diet.

Second, most of the vitamin supplements out there contain folic acid. Folic ccid is the artifical form of the natural ocurring form of folate (=vitamin B9 or Methylfolate). However studies have shown that the synthetic form might not be as bioavailable as the natural form. In addition some people lack the genetic ability to metabolize folic acid into folate completely. If you have this genetic predisposition, or you just want to be on the safe side, take a supplement with the bioavailabe form of folate. I am personally now taking this one with folate during my pregnancy. And eat your leafy greens.

5) Check you vaccine status before trying to conceive

In our times vaccines are a controversial topic. A lot of people are either for or against vaccinating young children. Most people however overlook during this debate the fact that some viruses cause major harm already to the unborn fetus when the pregnant mother becomes infected. Just think of the recent Zika virus which caused major birth defects to the unborn babies.

This might be an extreme example, and not so relevant if you live outside South America. But there are other more common viruses out there, that are dangerous, but that have a vaccines. Rubella for example ist more common in western worlds, and also causes birth defects to the unborn child and increases the risk for miscarriages. But luckily it has a vaccine.

Parents can be potential transmitters of harmful viruses unless they are immune. While the partners could get vaccinated, this is not always the option for the expecting mother. Ass some of the vaccines contain live viruses, expecting mothers can’t get the vaccine during their pregancy. Measles and varicella are among those. So you should definitely get them done before you conceive.

Even the common influenza virus can be potentially dangerous as a strong fever is putting the fetus at higher risks (as is high body temerpature in general). A flu shot might be unneccessary for healthy individuals. But as a pregnant woman you are now among a “risk group”. And getting a flu shot is actually recommended for risk groups by most health authorities.

As a general recommendation: Check with your doctor what vaccines are generally recommended in the country you live in and the countries you travel to frequently for pleasure or business. And then you should check that you are either vaccinated against them or have had the virus in the past and are now immune. In case you are unsure you can have your immune status checked. As a second step I would recommend to also have all close family member’s vaccines checked in case they will get into contact with the newborn baby.

And now a quick opinion on the risks of vaccines: As you might know I am not a health professional. But as a Mathematician I looked at the statistics closely. This benefits of being immune to a disease outweigh the risks by far. The risk of potential permanent damage through a vaccine is around 1 in several millions per vaccine, wherease the risk of a person dying after contracting the measles is around 1 in 500. I am not saying there are zero risks associated with vaccines. But that they are very, very low compared to the risks of not being immune. By getting a vaccine you are also not only protecting yourself, but also help to increase herd immunity to protect those that can’t be vaccinated, like newborn babies.

If you ever read stories about recent measle outbreaks in newborns, because older siblings were not vaccinated, or how much damage the Zika virus did in South America, please bear in mind that vaccines are actually a great invention and have saved millions of lives.

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