If you’re in a position in which you can plan and prepare for pregnancy, there’s so much you can do to optimize both your chances of getting pregnant and your own nutrients to nurture a healthy baby with ease. When it comes to fertility and pregnancy, there are a lot of things that feel out of our control but how you treat your own body and what you eat are in your control. Give yourself time to prepare and allow space in your life, both emotionally and physically.
Here’s how to start preparing for a happy and healthy pregnancy:
If you haven’t done any kind of cleanse or detox before, I’d recommend doing one several months (three to six months depending on what your health and lifestyle are like currently) in advance of trying to get pregnant. Get rid of processed foods, sugar, and alcohol, and add in lots of nourishing, anti-inflammatory foods. We are all exposed to toxins daily, and over time they accumulate in our body. When you’re pregnant, these stored toxins—as well as toxins you’re exposed to during pregnancy—get distributed through maternal-fetal transfer to your growing baby, too, so it’s important to do what you can in advance to minimize this exposure. If you plan to do an extensive detox, it’s recommended to do so at least six months in advance of getting pregnant so that these toxins are no longer circulating in the bloodstream.
In addition to a proper diet, supplementation can help the body process and get rid of toxins. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that supports the liver process and removes these toxins. Herbs such as turmeric (or curcumin, which is the active compound in turmeric) and milk thistle are some of my favorites to use during a detox. Milk thistle has long been used for its liver-supporting properties, and turmeric is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory herbs available..
You might also want to try a more structured, but short plan such as the Be Well Cleanse, which removes pro-inflammatory foods, includes lots of fresh, whole foods, and addresses one major underlying cause of inflammation and hormonal imbalance: the microbiome.
Support Your Microbiome
We now know how important our microbiome—the bacterial flora that lives in our gut and on our skin—is to our immune system, skin health, digestion, and even mood. Our microbiome also plays an important role in hormone balance, especially regulation of estrogen.
Having a thriving microbiome is so important for our overall health, but did you know that the birth control pill disrupts the microbiome? So, if you haven’t done so already, and you’re thinking of getting pregnant soon, it might be a good idea to get off the pill sooner rather than later. And the same goes for antibiotics and any foods that may contain antibiotics. Start adding in a good probiotic supplement, and include small doses of different fermented foods daily to add back good bacteria to your gut. It’s also important to eat prebiotic foods that help the good bacteria thrive and populate. Artichokes, sunchokes, jicama, and radishes are all great sources of prebiotics.
- Sardines are high in essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for baby’s nervous system and a nutrient most people are low in. Plus, there’s calcium from the tiny fish bones!
- Eggs, especially the yolks, contain vitamins A and D as well as choline, which is very important for brain development.
- Dark leafy greens are rich in minerals like magnesium and iron as well as folate–that crucial nutrient your baby will need lots of during the first trimester. They are also a great source of vitamin C and, of course, fiber. A greens supplement can also be a convenient way to add in more greens, especially when you’re traveling or away from your usual foods.
- Butter from pastured/grass-fed cows is loaded with nutrients vitamins A, D, and K2, which are all fat-soluble and found only in animal foods. Butter also contains CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which helps encourage muscle growth. Healthy fats also help satisfy your taste buds and your hunger. (Avoid conventional butter, as there’s no nutrition in it!)
- Oysters are loaded with minerals, specifically zinc, which contributes to ovulation and overall fertility in women as well as semen and testosterone production in men. Oysters are also a well-known aphrodisiac.
- Liver is probably not a food you’re used to eating, but it is in fact incredibly dense in nutrients. Liver is loaded with iron, so if you’re anemic or low in iron, it’s a great food for you. It also contains the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2, which lay the foundation for overall human health and fetal development. Of course, as with any animal food, quality matters, so look for organic, pastured, and/or grass-fed options.
We can’t talk about preparing for pregnancy and boosting fertility without also talking about stress. Whether you’re suffering from internal stress, like inflammation, or from family, work, or other emotional stress,your body is smart enough to interpret it as a sign that you’re under attack and therefore not in a position to reproduce. It’s one of those protective mechanisms built in to our amazing bodies, which are looking out for our best interests. So, in preparation for trying to get pregnant, get a handle on your stress and put yourself first! This is the time to slow things down, take a break, say no to things, and prioritize sleep. Admittedly, this is probably the hardest part for most of us, since we’re programmed to be busy all the time. Focus on yourself, schedule in downtime, and tell your partner that this is a priority for you so that he or she can help you slow down too. If you’re under a lot of stress, you might also want to add in some adaptogens, fantastic herbs that will help your body better cope. For most of us, some exposure to stressors is inevitable, but with the right nutrients, meditation, and practice we can change how we let those stressors affect us.