I feel very lucky to have learned how closely related the way we treat our bodies is to our health before I was ready to have children. If I had still been eating bagels and quad venti caramel macchiatos from Starbucks, I know this season of my life would have looked very different. I had been eating a nutrient rich diet for years before my husband and I even started talking about children. I was able to balance my hormones and heal myself of debilitating dysmenorrhea just by cutting out sugar and processed food from my diet. I had done biannual whole food cleanses for a few years to rid my body of any toxins that had accumulated. In the year leading up to “trying” I was very intent on limiting alcohol to very special occasions, exercising regularly and eating as much nutrient rich plant foods as possible. Even when we started trying for a baby, it took us almost a year to get pregnant.
If you are able to plan ahead of time for pregnancy, you are really giving yourself and your baby the best environment to thrive. Most expecting mommas spend hours researching the best carseat, mattress, stroller, etc. but put very little energy into preparing their bodies for the miracle of carrying and forming a baby for 40 weeks! I’m not saying that researching those things are wrong, I’m just saying that if a tiny human is growing from what is stored in our bodies, wouldn’t we want to have the best nutrient store to grow the strongest and healthiest baby possible? I like to think of our bodies as gardens. The more you tend to your garden and feed it with the right compost, clean water and sunshine, the better the vegetables will taste and grow. The same goes for our bodies and growing a baby.
As a health coach, I guide my clients through the process of preparing their bodies for pregnancy. I work with them on cleansing as well as adding nutrient dense food to their diet and creating new healthy habits in regards to food, supplements, exercise, sleep, and stress management. If you want to prepare your body for pregnancy but need some guidance, I would love to support you! Just shoot me an email to schedule a free consultation to see if my program is right for you. In the meantime, I’ve rounded up some important ways you can begin to prepare your body for pregnancy. This applies to subsequent pregnancies as well!
DETOX YOUR SKINCARE ROUTINE – There are dozens of endocrine and hormone disrupting chemicals in skincare, make-up, and hair care. This goes for your partner too as the same chemicals are linked to damaged sperm. I’ve done a whole post on make-up as well as my family’s skincare favorites. One easy way to figure out what’s lurking in your skincare is by downloading the free app ThinkDirty. You can scan the barcode on any skincare product and it will give you a rating, it’s actually kind of fun and addicting!
AVOID ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS – Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a toxin commonly found in the lining of canned foods, toothpaste tubes, and plastic. It disrupts hormones and has been linked to infertility. Look for canned food labeled as BPA-free, stay away from plastic water bottles and never heat food up in plastic. Heavy metals like lead and mercury also wreak havoc in the body. If you live in a house older than 1978 and have chipping or peeling paint, address it immediately. Any amount of lead in a growing child (or pregnant woman) is harmful. If you have mercury amalgams (dental fillings), be sure to have them removed before you intend to become pregnant. It may seem obvious, but avoid cigarette smoke, and other carcinogens like paint, stains, and even new furniture or carpet that is off gassing. If you have new furniture be sure to air it out for a few days (at least a week is best) in a garage or outside in the sun before bringing it indoors.
DITCH THE JUNK FOOD, SODA, FRIED FOOD, AND ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS – I think we all know these things are bad for us, but it’s easy to make excuses for why we “deserve” to eat junk or find ways to justify that fast food run. Well, “junk food” is just that, junk to our bodies. Usually any ingredient that you can’t pronounce or that is made in a lab, should be avoided but I will highlight a few of the worst here. Aspartame (also listed as Equal or Nutrasweet), an artificial sweetener used in diet soda and most “sugar free” products is linked to infertility as well as miscarriage and birth defects. Other ingredients like MSG (Monosodium L-Glutamate), BHT and BHA are also all linked to male and female infertility. We also know that consuming food with processed sugar and loads of salt increases risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension which can cause serious complications during pregnancy.
GO NON-GMO – Genetically modified food was introduced in the United States in the 1980s. This is a process where plant genes are spliced with DNA from other plants or animals to achieve certain characteristics, mainly being able to withstand chemical herbicides and insecticides. Most common are genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops and pesticide producing crops. Almost all of conventionally grown corn and soy are genetically modified as well as some canola, alfalfa, cotton, papaya, sugar beets and summer squash. Animal studies in rats, mice and hamsters fed GMO corn and soy have shown sperm damage, and infertility in second and third generation offspring. Rodents aren’t humans, but it certainly makes me not want to eat anything genetically modified. To stay away from GMO’s in food, stay clear of anything with ingredients derived from soy or corn that isn’t labeled organic or non-GMO verified. This includes any animal products where the animals have been fed GMO corn, soy and alfalfa (meat, eggs, dairy, farmed fish, even fish caught in stocked water).
EXERCISE – Exercise is all around good for us, and I don’t mean a stroll around the block. While walking is a good thing, getting your heart rate up is key to help detoxify the body, combat stress, boosting immune function, and controlling blood sugar! Having a strong body will help reduce discomforts while pregnant as well as make labor, delivery and recovery easier.
EAT NUTRIENT RICH WHOLE FOODS – I cannot stress this one enough! Some of the most important development of a baby happens before a woman even knows she is pregnant, before she’s even missed a period. This is why it is imperative to have good nutrient stores and eating habits in place before conception. This goes for your partner too as diet affects sperm quality as well. Eating a wide variety of colorful vegetables, fruit, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, mushrooms, onions and small amounts of whole grains will ensure you are getting most of the necessary vitamins, minerals and micronutrients needed during pregnancy. Folate, is one important vitamin responsible for closing the neural tube and comes in the form of lentils, asparagus, strawberries, spinach, broccoli, beets, and cauliflower (among others) and is converted to folic acid in our bodies. Women also need extra iron for all the extra blood her body will produce during pregnancy. Whole food sources of iron are spinach, swiss chard, parsley, cumin and turmeric, to name the top five. It is also important to have your vitamin D levels checked and most likely supplement, especially in the winter time. Research has also suggested that women with insufficient levels of vitamin D have a harder time getting pregnant compared to those with healthy levels.
REDUCE STRESS – Most women struggle with unrelenting stress from trying to do too much (I am definitely one of those) and as a result, cortisol, a stress hormone, is continually elevated. Chronically elevated cortisol increases hunger, raises blood sugar, fosters fat deposition, increases insulin resistance, lowers thyroid hormones, estrogen, and progesterone, and essentially ages us prematurely. Reducing stress looks different for everyone but it is such an important component to our wellness.