To call the changes and adjustments a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy "miraculous" would be a bit of an understatement. Although a miracle, the reality is that carrying a child through those 40 weeks does take a toll on your body in many ways. Not all pregnancies are planned, but having time to prepare yourself physically definitely provides many benefits to you and your baby, even long after birth.
The best things a woman could do to prep her body really varies for each person, depending on her starting point. Some important things to consider addressing would be:
- diet and nutritional deficiencies
- your toxic load
- current strength and activity level
- unhealthy habits (ex: heavy drinking, smoking, stress, too little sleep)
- your hormonal balance
- regulating your menstrual cycle
- and even your emotional state.
My husband and I had only talked casually about becoming pregnant. Even though we weren’t quite ready to start trying, there were some things that I knew would be very useful to address many months before we “pulled the goalie”.
6-12 Months Prior
MERCURY AMALGAMS REMOVED
When I was a child I had a few cavities routinely filled with mercury amalgams. Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin and amalgam fillings constantly release mercury vapors, which can pose a significant health risk. I had wanted to get my amalgams replaced for quite some time, but it’s a costly procedure. I could usually think of a hundred other ways to spend my money that sounded a heck of a lot more fun than elective dental work. I finally decided to get the job done prior to pregnancy because mercury has been linked to infertility. It also easily passes the placental barrier and exposure in utero has been strongly linked to birth defects and behavioral disorders in children. This is why pregnant woman are advised to avoid eating fish that contain high levels of mercury.
It’s best to seek a skilled and cautious practitioner for the removal of amalgams. Find a dentist that utilizes proper equipment to ensure that additional mercury isn’t released into the body. I chose a holistic, biological dentist who also consulted on detox protocols. Following the procedure I had an intravenous vitamin C push to help to mobilize intracellular mercury and took chlorella tablets, which aid the body in eliminating heavy metals.
You hear the buzzwords everywhere: cleansing, detoxing, toxins. Some of the marketing, claims and products associated with those words can come across quite gimmicky, but lowering your body’s level of toxins before becoming pregnant is actually one of the best things you can do. Many chemicals that accumulate in our bodies can be passed along to a child in utero. The truth is that living in our modern world your child will be exposed to many toxins throughout its lifetime, but early exposure can be the most harmful. Built up toxins can also disrupt your hormone balance and make becoming pregnant much more difficult.
I implemented some effective methods of gentle cleansing to help facilitate my body’s natural detox pathways. I made sure to do this many months prior to becoming pregnant because cleansing stirs up toxins that need time to be properly eliminated from the body before a little babe is introduced. I was mindful to keep the cleansing gentle because a more intense protocol could actually weaken the body, which isn’t a good state to start pregnancy in. I highly recommend The Mama Cleanse! Or work with a holistic health care practitioner that specializes in fertility and pregnancy if you choose to cleanse.
3 Months Prior
HAD MY VIT D, FERRITIN AND TSH LEVELS TESTED
I had a blood test done to check my vitamin D, iron/ferritin and TSH (thyroid) levels. These nutrients are very important in pregnancy and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t starting in a deficit. These tests are free and available to anyone in Canada, and I actually just went to a walk in clinic for my requisition. Hypothyroidism during pregnancy is associated with miscarriages, preeclampsia, preterm delivery, and developmental problems. It can be hard to detect hypothyroidism in pregnancy because the most common symptoms include fatigue, constipation, muscle cramps, dry skin, weight gain and insomnia… which is also basically a list of the most common symptoms of pregnancy! I was pleased to have my results come back within a healthy range, but testing at least 3 months prior to conceiving allows you time to address deficiencies if needed.
I ATE FERTILITY FOODS
I actually started following the dietary advice I give to other women who are looking to increase their fertility. In other words, I walked the talk. I always consume a diet of nutrient dense, whole foods, but I steadily increased my consumption of foods that I know to boost and nourish fertility. I was also especially mindful to avoid taking in extra pesticides and herbicides from produce & consume only naturally raised animal products free of hormones and antibiotics.
I made sure to get enough natural folate. Increasing food sources prior to pregnancy helps protect your baby from the risk of cleft palate and birth defects like spina bifida. I recommend increasing your intake of folate before pregnancy because these conditions occur in early weeks of fetal development, often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.
A few natural sources are: dark leafy greens, citrus, asparagus, broccoli, lentils, legumes, and liver.
If you’re not confident that you’re consuming adequate levels from your diet, supplementing is advised. It is preferable to supplement with folate, which is B9 in its natural form, rather than folic acid, which is the synthetic form, found in most supplements.
HAD AN ADVENTUROUS SUMMER
My husband and I really took advantage of our potentially “last childless summer”. We went on multi day hikes in the uncharted alpine… spent a week canoeing and portaging… loaded up our motorcycles and took off camping in the mountains.
Not only was our carefree summer an amazing time for us to connect- our active summer also left me feeling very confident in my body. I’m not talking about the type of confidence it takes to feel good in a bikini (even though I was probably in the best shape of my life). I’m referring to the confidence I felt in my body’s physical ability. I’m not saying that you have to go out and climb mountains before becoming pregnant, but feeling assured of your body’s strength is a fantastic way to enter pregnancy.
Being fit during pregnancy has numerous benefits for both mother and child. However, pregnancy isn’t the time to start a new activity or regime. The basis for making safe fitness choices in pregnancy is based on the type and level of physical activity you participated in prior to becoming pregnant.
Pregnancy is strenuous task for you body. Start early and feel assured in knowing you can take that task on.
2 Weeks Prior
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
We pulled the goalie and we’re completely thrilled to fall pregnant on our first try. Becoming pregnant isn’t quite that simple for many couples though. After spending many years trying to avoid getting pregnant, it can be heartbreaking to realize that you can’t get pregnant when you actually start trying. Timing is important! To figure out exactly when your fertile days are, you can follow these three primary cues from your body Demystifying Ovulation.
This is by no means a step-by-step guide of “what every woman should do” before becoming pregnant. Everyone’s journey would vary greatly as the things that each person should address would differ. These are just some of the steps I took that felt right for me, personally. Good luck on your own path to pregnancy!