Physical pregnancy may last 40 weeks or about nine months, but preparation for that journey starts months or years in advance with the pre-trimester period. Simple changes to diet and lifestyle may take days or weeks to complete, but other health issues can take longer to resolve. Your preconception health is extremely important to your pregnancy health.
You Want Less Of This
You can start your preconception journey by focusing on things you need to reduce, but not eliminate from diet and life.
Caffeine: Caffeine intake is safe during preconception and pregnancy, but limit intake to less than 200 mg per day. If you are having trouble leaving behind that extra morning cup of coffee, switch to a half-caf variety. You can drink the same amount of coffee, but you will consume half the caffeine.
Stress: Few people have the luxury of living a stress-free lifestyle, but you can attempt to limit stress at work and home. When feeling stressed, remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes of relaxation. Try practicing yoga or stretching exercises to improve mood and relieve stress.
You Want None Of This
Some preconception changes may be harder to adopt and take longer to resolve. Remember to seek professional help for drug or alcohol abuse before attempting to conceive.
- Street Drug Use: Street drugs are associated with pregnancy complications, fetal complications, and birth defects. Some drugs can cause premature birth, miscarriage or stillbirth.
- Alcohol: Fetal alcohol syndrome is associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy. For some women quitting is difficult. If you attempt to stop drinking prior to pregnancy and find it difficult, seek professional help before conceiving.
- Chemicals: Some hazardous chemicals can affect the growth and development of the fetus and others may cause fetal death.
- Supplements and Herbs: None of the supplements or herbs you find in retail stores are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and most have never been tested on pregnant women.
You Want More Of This
Not all preconception changes are about eliminating things. There are plenty of positive changes you can make prior to conception.
- Folic Acid: Folic acid intake of at least 400-600 mcg per day prior to pregnancy not only reduces the likelihood of neural tube defects, but also of heart defects and other malformations. Development of the neural tube occurs within 3 weeks after conception and before most women find out they are pregnant.
- Exercise: Starting an exercise program before getting pregnant is much easier than starting one after conception. The ideal exercise plan incorporates aerobic, anaerobic and stretching exercises. Yoga is the perfect example of a preconception and pregnancy-safe exercise.
- Relaxation and Sleep: Relaxation and sleep go hand-in-hand for women who want to conceive. Relaxation helps women reduce stress and relieve tension. Improving sleeping habits has the same effect.
You can start getting your body ready for pregnancy years in advance of attempting conception. The better your health before getting pregnant, the easier and safer your pregnancy will be in the future.