It was my dermatologist who first asked me if I was planning to get pregnant. “Why?” was my knee-jerk reaction because I thought her question was invasive.
She didn’t react, but instead calmly went on to explain how some chemicals and toxins needed to be avoided during and even before conception.
For example, retinol and retinoids are great for the skin but aren’t advised for women who are looking to get pregnant because they can cause harm to the foetus and lead to Foetal Retinoid Syndrome.
Yikes! And it wasn’t just skincare, even toxins in makeup and cosmetics like parabens can cause problems if you are trying to conceive.
While many women know they have to quit alcohol and smoking when trying to get pregnant, they are unaware of other lifestyle changes that are needed to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. So, if you are planning to get pregnant, here are some very important things you need to keep in mind.
How early should you plan for pregnancy?
Pregnancy planning is a vital step in ensuring the best possible outcome for both the parent and the child. While the best duration for planning varies depending on individual circumstances, it is typically advised to begin planning for pregnancy many months in advance.
Physicians and researchers differ greatly on when to begin planning for pregnancy, but the timeframe normally falls between 3-6 months, with a majority of physicians advocating regular exams before you plan on conceiving a baby.
Allow at least 6 months to get yours and your partner’s health in order and make any lifestyle modifications that may be required to improve your chances of a successful conception. Folic acid supplements such as Natalis should also be taken when planning for a pregnancy to support a healthy foetus when you do conceive.
Women who may be overweight may be advised by their doctors to lose some weight to ensure a smooth pregnancy without any complications for mum and baby.
What to avoid when trying to conceive?
It’s important to make some lifestyle changes when trying to get pregnant to improve your chances of having a healthy baby. Here are some things you should stay away from:
In general, it’s wise to limit or completely avoid alcohol when trying to get pregnant. Alcohol abuse doesn’t just increase the risk of pregnancy complications like miscarriages, premature birth, and foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), but it also makes it more difficult to get pregnant.
Smoking and using recreational drugs
Smoking and using recreational drugs mess with fertility for both men and women, making it harder to conceive. Couples who continue to smoke or use drugs face a higher risk of infertility and pregnancy complications due to changes in hormone levels and lower sperm quality.
There’s no need to go decaf, but it’s best to limit your caffeine intake. Overconsumption of caffeine has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage. In fact, a recent study found that a woman is more likely to lose her baby if she and her partner consume more than two caffeinated drinks daily before conception.
So, yeah, even if you aren’t pregnant yet, you and your partner might want to cut back on your coffee!
Fish that is high in mercury
While many women quit eating fish after they get pregnant, doctors still advise cutting back on certain fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, that tend to have higher levels of mercury, before conception because they can be dangerous for an unborn child.
But hey, you can still enjoy delicious seafood by opting for low-mercury options such as sardines, salmon, and trout.
Raw and Uncooked Foods
Certain foods, including raw or undercooked meats, seafood, and eggs, may contain bacteria that pose a threat to an unborn child. Be sure to fully prepare these foods before consuming them. Soft cheeses, deli meats, and unpasteurised dairy products should also be avoided because they may contain dangerous bacteria.
Too much Vitamin A
Vitamin A overdose, particularly when it comes in the form of retinol, can be dangerous for a developing baby. Avoiding high-dose vitamin A supplements and foods high in retinol, like liver, is a good idea. However, consuming beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A found in fruits and vegetables, is generally safe.
Retinoids in skincare products
Prescription retinoids and high-dose vitamin A skincare products should be avoided during pregnancy. (I should thank my dermatologist for that heads-up.) Instead, look for skincare that is organic and safe.
How do I get my body ready for pregnancy?
When you’re preparing your body for pregnancy, there are several steps you can take to optimise your health and increase your chances of a successful pregnancy. To start, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor for a preconception checkup. They will evaluate your general health, go over your medical history, and recommend any required medical procedures or immunisations. This is also a good time to have any fertility tests that you might need – especially if you have any concerns about your ability to conceive.
Folic acid is essential for the neural tube development of the foetus and aids in the reduction of birth defects. The recommended daily dosage can be obtained from your healthcare provider. But start taking folic acid supplements at least one month before you get going with your baby-making moves!
To ensure that you and your partner are leading healthy lifestyles and giving your bodies the nutrition they require, work towards eating a balanced diet that consists of a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Regular exercise also aids in weight management, stress reduction, and general fitness.
Work closely with your healthcare provider to manage any chronic conditions you have, such as diabetes, hypertension, or thyroid disorders, before becoming pregnant. For the health of both you and your unborn child, these conditions must be managed properly. With the help of your healthcare provider, determine whether or not you can continue taking your medications while pregnant. To ensure that they are safe to take during pregnancy, some medications may need to be changed or adjusted.
Last but not least, until you’re ready to get pregnant, you should practise safe sex. Until you and your partner are ready to begin trying for a baby, keep using a contraceptive.
What are the most important things to do when you first get pregnant?
Schedule your first prenatal appointment
Reach out to your healthcare provider and set up your first prenatal visit. This appointment is an important milestone as it confirms your pregnancy, establishes your baseline health, and allows your healthcare provider to monitor your well-being and your baby’s development.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
Now is the time to focus on maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet, incorporating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Regular exercise, with the approval of your healthcare provider, can also contribute to your well-being.
Educate yourself about pregnancy and childbirth
Pregnancy is a remarkable journey, and it’s helpful to educate yourself about the various stages, common symptoms, and potential complications. Considering your options for birthing your baby and the support available should also, ideally, be done during this time. This is also a great time to download the Kiindred app as it comes with a bump tracker and a bunch of other really helpful resources for expectant and new parents.
Adjust your lifestyle
Take a moment to evaluate your daily routines and habits to ensure they are aligned with the needs of a healthy pregnancy. This may involve avoiding certain foods that could pose risks, practising good hygiene, and taking precautions to minimise exposure to harmful substances or environments.
Seek support from your loved ones
Pregnancy can bring about a range of emotions, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your partner, family, and friends for emotional support. Consider joining support groups or connecting with other expectant parents to share experiences, ask questions, and receive guidance throughout your pregnancy journey.
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