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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Preparing For Pregnancy: Getting Your Health in Check

Having a baby is one of the most incredible, life changing things you’ll ever do. And while it’s difficult, pregnancy is a magical time for most women, it’s impossible not to marvel about how spectacular the human body really is and what it’s capable of. During pregnancy, one of the very best things you can do is take care of yourself which in turn allows you to take care of your unborn baby. And many things are worth thinking about before the conception stage to get yourself into the best working order. Here are a few things to consider.

 Image Source: Pexels CC0 License

Start BBT tracking
Basal body tracking, or BBT tracking is one of the best things you can do in your preparation for getting pregnant. It involves taking your temperature every morning (this must be done before you get out of bed or move around too much) and entering the numbers into an app. The app then calculates over time where you are in your cycle and when you ovulate, it can tell you if you’re not ovulating at all which will of course be something you can tell your doctor. Getting to know your cycles allows you to be completely in tune with your body, it can give you reassurance that everything is working as it should each month. If you find that your cycles are very long, short, anovulatory or other issues are found, these can be discussed with your doctor and often put right with lifestyle changes or medication. It’s far better to be in the know than to just blindly hope and assume everything will be ok since this can lead to disappointment for many women. There are lots of companies who sell the app and thermometer you need, so do some research and decide on one that you like the look of. It’s worth doing this a number of months before you’re thinking about conceiving so that if problems are found, you can put them right without getting impatient. You do need to be off all hormonal contraception for this to work, but BBT tracking is just as good for preventing pregnancy as it is for planning pregnancy- your app will tell you more and advise you how to go about this.

Visit your doctor for a checkup
Speaking of doctors, going to have a checkup before you start trying to conceive is a smart move. They will be able to run some tests to check for things like infectious diseases, thyroid issues, blood sugar and test your blood pressure- that way if anything is spotted it can be treated accordingly before you fall pregnant. They will take your height and weight too to calculate your BMI, if yours is much higher or lower than it should be they will be able to advise you on steps to take. Getting as close to your ideal BMI as possible will not only help you to conceive more quickly, but you’re likely to have a smoother pregnancy as well. If you currently take any medication for ongoing illnesses, this might have to be changed, reduced or even stopped if you want to have a baby so this is an important thing to speak to your GP about. Even if you’re generally fit at well, it’s worth swinging by for a basic health check and discussing your pregnancy plans with your doctor as they will be able to give you the best medical advice for you personally.

Start taking prenatal supplements
Research has shown that taking folic acid for at least three months before getting pregnant reduces the chance of your baby developing spina bifida by over 70%. Prenatal vitamins contain the folic acid you need, as well as other vitamins and minerals which generally support good health and ensure your levels are where they should be prior to conception. Be aware that standard vitamins contain vitamin A which is not recommended before and during pregnancy, so do choose one that's specifically designed for prenatal or pregnant women.

You don't have to go with the most expensive brand, any conception vitamins will do the job. You can even purchase his and hers conception vitamins, as studies have shown that there’s benefits to men taking folic acid too. Mens conception vitamins also contain things like zinc which has been shown to promote sperm health.

Eat well
As well as taking supplements, you also need to be eating well as they’re not a replacement for a balanced diet. Packing in as much nutrition as you can will benefit you right now, focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy and eat a wide variety of foods for the best result. Nuts and legumes are a great way to get some extra fats and vitamins into your diet and make a healthy snack, just be sure to eat them in moderation as they can be calorific. And of course, if you have an allergy or intolerance to anything you’ll need to make sure you’re avoiding it. Peanut allergy symptoms are very obvious and can quickly become life threatening, but when it comes to intolerances the symptoms can take longer to come on and be milder meaning you’re not exactly sure of the cause. Things like wheat, dairy, sulfites and caffeine can all cause intolerances in some people so keeping a food diary can be useful. And speaking of caffeine, now is a great time to start reducing your intake. During pregnancy it’s recommended to drink no more than 200mg a day, so if you’re a coffee addict then now is the time to start weaning yourself off it and switching to lower caffeine drinks such as teas and good old plain water.

Getting your body as fit and strong as possible before a pregnancy is one of the best things you can do. In the early days, if you suffer with morning sickness then this can impact your fitness regime, and later down the line as you get bigger and heavier you’ll be limited to what you can do. Chances are you’ll need to So everything you can do now will be helpful, that way during pregnancy you can do whatever exercise you can manage to keep your fitness levels topped up. Focus on building strong muscles, particularly your core. Push yourself with your cardio so your fitness levels skyrocket. Aim to do this for at least a few months before falling pregnant to get your body into the best shape it can be. Of course, don’t over exercise since this can have a negative impact on fertility, but do get to the gym if you can and work hard, put in the work now as you’ll want to be as fit and strong as you can later on.

Give up dangerous vices
It goes without saying that you need to quit smoking, taking any kind of illicit substances and even drinking while you’re trying to conceive. You will need to knock all of these dangerous vices on the head once you conceive anyway so why not take the step now and let your body recover. Seek specialist help if you feel you’re dealing with an addiction.

Consider your mental health
Finally, it’s not just your physical health that you need to consider when preparing for a pregnancy, but your mental health too. If you suffer with mental health conditions, it can be worth making sure these are well controlled beforehand. If you’re taking medication, check with your doctor that it will be safe to continue with throughout. If things are a little rocky right now, work with a therapist or other mental health professional to try and resolve certain issues. Pregnancy is a magical time but it also comes with a lot of stress and worries of its own. If you’re already in a difficult position with your mental health it may end up being a lot to deal with. Of course, many women with mental health issues fall pregnant and find ways of managing and all is fine- but if you want to be extra prepared it’s definitely something to bear in mind.
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