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  • Michael Frey, MD

Preconception Care

Preconception health is more than just taking a prenatal vitamin. It means choosing healthy habits, living well, and feeling good about your life. Preconception health is about planning for the future, and taking steps to get there!

You want to begin preconception care at least one month before you begin trying for a baby. When you’re ready to add to grow your family, preconception counseling and genetic testing (carrier screening) are important first steps. Maximize your health Before pregnancy as opposed to playing catchup after the fact. Here are ten tips to get you started:

TIP ONE: Know Thy Cycle While you may have a solid understanding of when your period starts, honing in on your cycle as a whole is essential. Using an ovulation test can be helpful to predict the most fertile time of the month and increase the chance of becoming pregnant.

Ovulation tests come in various forms, such as apps, urine strips, wearables, and at-home blood test kits. Below is a list to help you decide which method is best for you.

To mark the start and end of your period each month. Easiest to read: Clearblue Fertility Monitor The Clearblue Fertility Monitor provides daily fertility status and stores and tracks individual fertility data. The monitor tracks both estrogen and LH levels. The cost is around $124.68 for one fertility monitor. Purchase the test sticks separately.

Best eco-friendly option: Natalist Ovulation Test Kit The Natalist ovulation test kit checks for levels of LH. The kit includes 30 ovulation test strips, a reusable urine cup, and a cycle tracker. This test may be a good option for people interested in an environmentally friendly ovulation kit. Natalist states it uses a neutral amount of plastic and produces no electronic waste. Best wearable: Ava Fertility Ava offers an FDA-cleared, wearable fertility test. Ava can identify a person’s 5-day fertility window up to 4 days sooner than hormone-based tests. You can use your flexible spending account (FSA) and health savings account (HSA) cards when shopping. This product costs around $300.

Best budget option: Modern Fertility Ovulation Test This test comes with 20 ovulation tests that detect LH levels and work in sync with a person’s cycle. The company also offers a free app that a person can use to log their LH results. You can use your FSA and HSA cards. Each monthly kit costs about $15.

Best for irregular cycles: Mira The Mira Plus Starter Kit comes with 10 wands that work with the Mira Analyzer monitor. This test is the best option for people with PCOS and irregular cycles. The Mira Plus Starter kit costs $199.

Best test strips: Clearblue Advanced Digital Ovulation Test This test detects four or more fertile days each cycle and tracks LH and estrogen levels.

When to have sex? Have sex every day during your fertile days (if possible). The myth that you should do it every other day (to build up the male sperm) is just...a myth.

TIP TWO: Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle Conception becomes easier when you’re healthy. Start your prenatal vitamins or folic acid 1 month before pregnancy (at least). If you have medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, or oral health issues, focus on getting them under control.

Exercise, 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week is also recommended prior to becoming pregnant.

TIP THREE: Monitor Your Stress Levels Did you know that higher stress levels can disrupt your ovulation schedule? When your cycle shifts due to anxiety and work stress, determining when you’re ovulating can become increasingly difficult. Thus, finding ways to relax and monitor your stress, whether it be through yoga, writing down your thoughts, meditation, massage, or acupuncture, can be beneficial.

TIP FOUR: Steer Clear of Tobacco & Alcohol Smoking cigarettes can be detrimental to your overall health and is associated with a myriad of conditions, including lung and heart disease, and diabetes. Further research has also shown that smoking can increase the loss of a woman’s eggs, thus decreasing the odds of conception. Heavy alcohol consumption is also linked to infertility, so kicking both habits can boost your family planning process.

TIP FIVE: Take a Prenatal Vitamin

TIP SIX: Comprehensive Laboratory Testing

Comprehensive lab testing can help you establish a baseline for your health and give you direction on ways you can improve. In addition, common deficiencies can be identified and corrected prior to conception.

TIP SEVEN: Explore Resources in Your Community

You may find lactation groups, nutrition classes, prenatal yoga, & mom and baby groups in your area. You can learn a lot of information from these groups.

TIP EIGHT: Eat Right

What are the best foods when trying to conceive? Foods loaded with antioxidants, deeply nourishing fats, proteins, and fiber.

Colorful Vegetables for Antioxidants

Veggies are filled with so many vital nutrients like antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. Eating a diverse mix of all types is best, but here are some fertility-friendly vegetable superstars.

  • Leafy greens. Leafy greens like kale and spinach contain essential nutrients like folate and fiber, which help balance your blood sugar. Aside from being a critical nutrient to minimize birth defects, folate could support your fertility.

  • Sweet potatoes. Whether you eat them baked, sautéed, or roasted as an alternative to fries, sweet potatoes are a source of many nutrients, especially vitamin A. Vitamin A may support healthy eggs— and sperm, so be sure to share!

  • Seaweed. You don't always hear about iodine, but it's a must when it comes to reproductive health and fertility. Iodine is an essential nutrient for thyroid health, essential if you are trying to get pregnant. Iodine deficiency is often associated with infertility.

Quality Proteins

Proteins are the building blocks of everything in our body, so it's no wonder we need them to support fertility. When it comes to proteins, quality counts. That means organic, grass-fed, or free-range whenever possible.

  • Eggs. Aside from being a source of protein, eggs also contain nutrients critical for a baby's healthy brain development and preventing neural tube defects.

The gorgeous yellow yolk of the egg contains many nutrients for fetal brain development, while most of the protein is in the white. Eggs also contain folate and many other minerals and vitamins.

  • Yogurt. If you tolerate dairy, yogurt is a good choice for fertility. It's filled with probiotics, calcium, and healthy fat to support fertility. Interestingly, low-fat dairy is associated with a risk of infertility, but women who regularly eat full-fat dairy appear to have higher pregnancy rates.

  • Grass-fed meat and free-range poultry. These animal-based options contain protein as well as easy-to-absorb forms of iron. Iron is a critical nutrient for pregnancy for both mom and baby. Some studies show that women with higher iron intakes are less likely to experience infertility due to not ovulating.

  • Beans and legumes. Plant-based proteins like beans and legumes provide complex carbs and fiber to support your microbiome (the healthy bacteria in your gut). While we still have so much to learn about gut health and reproduction, it looks like there's a close relationship between gut bacteria and female fertility.

Nourishing Fats

  • Avocado. As if you needed another reason to eat avocados, science says they can support a healthy foundation for pregnancy. Avocados provide unsaturated fats that are associated with fertility and healthy pregnancy outcomes.

Avocados also contain fiber to support your microbiome, blood sugar, and hormone balance. Additionally, they have vitamin E, which may boost fertility through its antioxidant activity. You’ll also find vitamin B6 in avocados, which can support healthy progesterone and homocysteine levels.

  • Nuts and seeds. Another fantastic source of healthy fats, protein, vitamin E, fiber, and minerals, nuts and seeds are tiny fertility-boosting dynamos. Aside from containing all of the above nutrients, studies associate nuts like walnuts with improved sperm health.

Vibrant fruits

Besides tasting delicious, fruits support fertility as sources of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. All of these nutrients help cool down inflammation in your body and may protect against oxidative stress. A diet low in fruit is also associated with infertility.

  • Citrus. Citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruit contain vitamin C, a necessary nutrient for ovulatory function and fertility. Vitamin C also has an antioxidant activity to help fight back against free radicals. In mice studies, vitamin C has been shown to improve aging ovarian health and restore follicular reserves. Vitamin C is also beneficial for progesterone production. In one study of women struggling to conceive, it was found that progesterone levels increased and within 6 months 25% of study participants were pregnant when supplementing with 750 mg of vitamin C.

  • Berries. Berries are especially beneficial because they contain polyphenols, chemical compounds with health-promoting activity in your body. Polyphenols can support fertility by acting as antioxidants to reduce the impact of oxidative stress. Plus, berries contain vitamin C, vitamin A, and other vital nutrients.

Avoid fast food at all costs in the months preceding your pregnancy.

TIP NINE: Eliminate Environmental Toxins

Do you live in an older house that may have lead paint or asbestos? If so, this may be a risk to the safety of the pregnancy. Get your blood lead level checked.

Wash your produce before you eat it and if possible choose organic produce grown without pesticides.

Look at cleaning, beauty, and personal products as these may contain chemicals that are toxic to your body and have the ability to disrupt hormones. Limiting exposure and removing these products from your personal environment will benefit you and your family for years to come.

Home Cleaning Products:

Avoid traditional cleaning products that contain bleach and harsh chemicals.

Best option: make your own

1. DIY Scented All-Purpose Cleaner

What you'll need:

  • One part white vinegar

  • One part water

  • Lemon rind

  • Rosemary sprigs

  • spray bottle

Combine the above ingredients together, pour into a spray bottle, shake, and use. Caution: Do not use acidic cleaners on granite, as they will etch the stone.

Non-vinegar alternative:

Mix ½ teaspoon of washing soda (sodium carbonate), 2 teaspoons of borax, ½ teaspoon of plant-based liquid soap, and two cups of hot water in a spray bottle. Shake well.

2. DIY Kitchen Cleaner and Deodorizer

What you'll need:

  • 4 tablespoons baking soda

  • 1-quart warm water

Store-bought alternatives: Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer's, Puracy, Better Life.

TIP TEN: Dental Care

Don't sleep on the dental visits, get a check-up and cleaning before pregnancy. Research has shown that certain dental issues can lead to complications during pregnancy. Having a teeth cleaning and dental exam are important, yet often overlooked part of preconception care.

Additional Resources

Preconception for Men

Preconception health is important for men, too. It means choosing to get and stay as healthy as possible―and helping others to do the same as well. As a partner, it means encouraging and supporting your partner’s health. As a father, it means protecting your children. Preconception health is about providing yourself and your loved ones with a bright and healthy future. Taking care of your health now will help to ensure a better quality of life for yourself and your family in the coming years. Tips For HIM Before Pregnancy


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