Below are steps you can take to maximize your fertility, your pregnancy health and the health of your baby. It’s all connected! Pregnancy demands a lot from the female body, so this article is mostly directed towards women. However many of these guidelines can apply to men too, and Step 9 is especially good for men!
1. If pregnancy is a possibility, take your vitamins.
- Take a Prenatal vitamin daily, which has at least 400mcg of Folate preferably in the Methyl-Folate form. Taking folate before pregnancy can help prevent birth defects, such as spina bifida.
- Take a quality Omega 3 fish oil. (if vegan, find a flaxseed or algae alternative)
- Get 5-10 minutes of sun daily or take at least 2,000 IU of Vitamin D per day.
2. You are what you eat, eat a mostly plant based diet. If it comes from a fast food restaurant, skip it. Advance-plan your menus, shopping, and food prep to reduce the impulse to eat low quality foods.
- Consume lots of bright and colorful fruits and vegetables such as dark green leafy greens, berries, carrots and sweet potatoes, at least 3-5 vegetables and 2 fruits per day, whole, not juiced. Cook with healthy oils like avocado and coconut, and limit or avoid other less healthy oils, such as vegetable. Steer clear of fried food. Eat raw nuts and seeds, wild caught sea fish like salmon & sardines, avocados and flaxseeds. Eat small amounts of meats, eggs & milk that are from pastured grass-fed animals.
- Drink Red Raspberry Leaf & Green Tea. Minimize caffeine to 2 cups or less daily.
3. Reduce your exposure to toxins.
- Drink 6-8 cups of water daily of filtered or spring water to reduce chlorine, lead & other toxins.
- Eat organic as much as possible. Exposure to pesticides can harm kids’ mental and neurological health. Going 100% organic might not possible but do your best to avoid The Dirty Dozen, which are foods that have the most pesticides.
- Avoid alcohol. Fetal Alcohol syndrome is 100% preventable. Make sure that any medication is safe, even non-prescription drugs.
- Limit Mercury exposure by avoiding top-of-the-food-chain fish: King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, and tuna all contain high levels of mercury. Women planning to become pregnant within a few months shouldn’t get or remove mercury tooth fillings.
- Avoid toxic household cleaners & toxic cosmetics and body products, antibacterial soaps, plastic food & water containers.
4. Get to your healthy weight: Try to be at a healthy weight for your height and body type. Being over or underweight can increase the chances for infertility, diabetes and other health problems in pregnancy.
5. Get your gut health in shape long before birth:
- For Baby to have healthy intestinal bacteria, Mom needs a healthy flora.
- Avoid antibiotics (unless truly necessary)
- Eat cultured foods like plain white yogurt or fermented sauerkraut.
- Take a good quality probiotic.
6. Exercise: Exercise at least 3-4 days per week. Walking, dancing, biking, yoga, swimming, and Pilates are excellent. Just avoid extreme exercise like marathons and heavy weights while attempting to conceive!
7. Relaxation is not slacking off! Excess stress alters the body’s hormone balance. Activities such as meditation, massage, being creative, prayer, being out in nature, being with loving family and friends, and laughter calm the stress response.
- Have someone you trust to talk with regularly about your problems.
- Every relationship has ups and downs but significant ongoing problems trigger the stress response. It is important to get help if you are not safe.
8. See your health professional: Doctor, Midwife, or Nurse Practitioner.
- Get annual women’s exam, pre-pregnancy check up, and STD testing! Test for Diabetes if you are overweight.
- Genetic testing is available for you to see if you or your partner carry genes for Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell, Spinal Muscular Atrophy and other disease that may affect your decision making.
- If you have had more than one miscarriage you may need testing to help prevent another miscarriage.
9. For the guys
- Research has found that daily ejaculation improves sperm quality! Don’t limit sex to the woman’s fertile window. Having sex every other day increases the chance of pregnancy. When sex is fun, loving and mutually satisfying, it helps to normalize hormones. For sperm health, maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet, prevent STDs, manage stress, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, limit alcohol and exposure to toxins, and avoid lubricants other than Pre Seed, coconut oil, and saliva. Medications can also affect men’s fertility. Keep the boys cool! Avoid extreme heat, wear loose-fitting clothing and avoid prolonged hot tubs and saunas.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers to be!
Mary Barnett has a Masters in Nursing and Midwifery from Emory University and engages in ongoing studies with the Institute of Women’s Health and Integrative Medicine. Mary is experienced in gynecology and primary care for women with a focus on integrative care, emphasizing nutrition and combining western medicine with holistic therapies.