One question my pre-conception and fertility clients frequently ask me is how long should they start preparing their bodies for pregnancy. This is such a great question, I just had to right a blog on it.
There are several things that are important to consider. How ready are you mentally and as a couple to have a baby? What condition are the parents in physically as the moment? And of course, do you feel ready for a baby.
In theory, perfect health means perfect fertility so we should be looking after our bodies as such as that we are in a great stage to get pregnant at any point, however, in the real world where we have stress, we may want to have the occasional drink or caffeine, this isn’t likely to be easy for everyone. So here are a few things to consider when creating your pre-conception plan:
1. How Ready Are You For A Baby?
This is both for you as an individual and a couple intending to become parents (no matter what way you intend to become parents). It surprises me a lot when I teach charting to couples that one of the most important conversations a couple can have: choosing to have children is often not one that they have.
Do you have time in your lives to be parents? Do you feel you have the support you need from friends and family? Do you want to be parents or do you just feel the expectation is there?
A beautiful exercise you can do is to tell each other why each of you would make great parents. You just take it in turns to give your partner a complement and you must accept their complements towards you, even if you feel embarrassed or coy, because that is what they think of you and brushing them aside is like saying your partner’s feelings don’t matter. You can include existing children and tell them why they would make fantastic siblings and ask them why they think you are wonderful as parents too.
Going through this process can really help to align your feelings on readiness as a couple and help you decide where you are in your journal as a family together.
2. How Healthy Are You Both?
A lot of pressure is put on the woman when a couple is focussing on the fertility journey, but it is so important to focus on both parents for a number of reasons.
If one of the couple is to be the natural father, then he also needs to ensure he has healthy sperm in high enough numbers and healthy enough to ensure that they can fertilise an egg. Don’t forget that fertility is a third down to the mother, a third down to the father and a third, their combined factors.
If one of the couple isn’t to be a natural parent but still a parent when the baby arrives, they need to be in tip top physical and mental condition to help out when baby arrives and often, if the mother is going on to a special diet, is can be so supportive of the other partner to join them and reinforce that both partners are in it together.
3. Have You Been On Hormonal Medications?
Medications such as the pill, the implant and the IUD can cause serious depletion to our vitamin and mineral reserves. Getting your magnesium, selenium and zinc levels tested and up to scratch is important. Vitamins such as B2, B6, B9, B12 and vitamin C tend to be low in women who have come off the pill too.
If you have been on the pill, ideally it is best to get these levels tested and adjust your food and if necessary your supplements to get these levels up to their optimal for good quality eggs, lining and cervical fluid.
At the bare minimum, consider giving it at least three months of good clean healthy lifestyle for both partners as that is approximately how long it takes for eggs and sperm to mature, so you will both be on a clean page together. Ideally, if everyone had all the time in the world, I would say 2 years of preparation physically for both parents would be idea. However, any time spent in preparation is beneficial and don’t feel bad or guilty if you don’t feel you did this bit perfectly.
4. Get On A Good Quality Prenatal
I keep hearing the statistic that around 50% of couples conceive unintentionally. So as soon as you have considered coming off birth control and at the point where you could conceive, this is the time to start your prenatal. Additionally, most women of a reproductive age would benefit from a prenatal supplement as we are frequently too depleted in nutrients from diet alone these days. Helping your fertility also means you are helping your menstrual cycle and hormonal health. Having these nutrients available to optimise your hormones can be a game changer for some women.
Also, once you get pregnant, keep taking that pre-natal, you still need those nutrients. Just check the brand you are taking is safe to take during pregnancy.
5. Get Charting Your Cycle!
You probably guessed that was coming. Charting your cycle can help you work out when you are fertile (and so when you should be timing your pregnancy efforts). It is so much more helpful than peeing on a stick and hoping you get it right. It is knowing that you have a large fertile window in which to get ready for ovulation.
You can also pinpoint any female fertility issues in the cycle that you can correct without expensive and time consuming tests. You can even eliminate whether it is a problem with the female side or whether sperm testing would be beneficial.
If you are thinking of getting pregnancy, I like to tell couples to try and spend at least 3 months in preparation so that they can know their fertile times, spot any potential issues and mentally prepare before diving in and finding a lot of things they weren’t prepared for coming out in the wash.