Many people spend their entire youth trying not to get pregnant – stressful! Only to find that when they want to get pregnant they can’t. There are a lot of expectations that as soon as a couple tries they will get pregnant. For some couples that is exactly what happens – they decide to try and – boom – they are pregnant! For many couples, it doesn’t play out that way. 19% of couples trying for a year are unable to get pregnant.
The Body’s Ecosystem
Fertility is a reflection of your overall reproductive health and includes far more than your reproductive organs. Your body is an ecosystem. One area can influence another – your oral health can affect your gut health or brain health. Your hormones can affect your mood. When assessing a couple’s fertility we consider the physical health of their reproductive systems. We also consider their mental health, quality of sleep, diet, movement, community and support system, the environment they live in, the stress level in their lives, and their health history.
Creating a “Safe” Environment
Having a baby may be your top priority. If your body doesn’t sense the environment is safe, it will shut that down very quickly. Limited resources need to be budgeted. If your body thinks food is scarce or there is a lion (aka scary boss) hounding you constantly, then it is unwise to use resources to make a baby. It’s better to wait until there is enough food, no lion, and a safe place to give birth. Then your body feels comfortable using your internal resources for a baby. Our bodies are pretty smart but can’t distinguish between life-threatening stress and a stressful email. Lack of sleep can come across as a stressor to the body. So can health conditions that require extra energy to heal. Getting pregnant can be stressful alone without taking into account the regular stresses of life.
Would you try to run a marathon without training and preparation? Probably not. You would most likely start training by running shorter distances building up as your body grew accustomed to the effort and improved endurance. You may also buy some new running shoes, become familiar with the race route, and read a little about food and hydration for the race. In short, you would learn about the race and prepare your body to have its physical limits tested.
Getting pregnant is like a marathon but a team sport! Everyone needs to prepare, practice, and train. Before you start training, it’s helpful to check in and see how both of your bodies are doing. Make sure your overall health is robust. Work with a practitioner to make sure there are no underlying gut, hormone, thyroid, autoimmune, or other conditions that could hinder your reproductive system. Next, focus on giving the body nutrient-dense foods to prepare for a baby. Nutrition can affect the quality of both the sperm and the egg so giving the body several months to bolster nutrient stores is advantageous. It is also important to remember that the food you eat is growing a baby! That makes getting enough healthy nutrition before getting pregnant important for nutrient stores – think of it like running a marathon with a fanny pack of snacks.
Fertility Prep Checklist
- Are you and your partner eating a nutrient-dense diet?
- Do you get adequate sleep?
- Do you have and use stress management tools?
- Do you have a healthy menstrual cycle with very few symptoms?
- Is your health robust?
- Do you have friends, family, and community support?
- Do you have a stable home exposed to many chemicals or environmental toxicants?
Considering this checklist before trying to get pregnant can increase your health profile and prepare your body for a healthy and robust pregnancy. Remember it’s a marathon. You want your body to be fortified with the nutrients and resources needed to grow a healthy baby.
Megan Pfiffner MS, CNS
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