I still remember when I decided ‘yep, this will be the year that I get pregnant’. I knew that I would have to throw everything I had at it. Holistic nutrition, Eastern philosophy and Western medicine; they were all going to have a seat at the table. For me, getting pregnant was like getting healthy. There wasn’t one thing that I needed to change that would flick the switch. It was a matter of ticking all the boxes – food, lifestyle, exercise, medicine, mindset and timing.
Over the years I experienced lots of ways to find balance, get my glow on and boost my baby-making potential. From what I learned, these are my top 5 tips for getting pregnant:
1. Test for nutrient deficiencies
Visiting your doctor or a naturopath can be a great place to start to rule out any undiagnosed allergies or conditions that may reduce your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term. Some tests that you may like to consider, especially if you have been struggling to conceive already, include iodine, vitamin B12, vitamin D, thyroid function, coeliac gene and ovarian reserve testing.
As soon as you conceive, your baby will start taking all the nutrients it needs so it’s important to make sure you are topped up right from the start – otherwise it can leave you and your baby deficient leading to nasty health and developmental issues.
2. Guard your stress levels like a hawk
Stress can play a huge role in disrupting fertility by raising cortisol levels and inhibiting the production and release of the all-important sex hormones. When you decide it’s time to start a family, managing your stress levels should become a priority. When I discovered that stress was a major factor in my fertility struggles (you can read more about that here), I began to look at ways I was putting my body into a stressful state. I consciously slowed the f*ck down. I took advice from Dr Libby who wrote ‘Rushing Woman’s Syndrome’ and stopped filling my days with so much that I ended up being in a hurry to do everything. Stop multitasking. Start saying no to social offers – one or two things over the weekend is enough. When driving in a hurry, notice the heightened state your body is in. These are all forms of stress that we aren’t generally conscious of. Be a true friend to yourself and tell yourself that it’s ok to slow down and just relax.
3. Exercise with your goals in mind
Another way we put our bodies into a stressful state is exercising on an empty stomach. Yes, it may be an effective way to burn more fat, but that is not your main goal at this time. Cortisol levels peak in the morning between 7-9am. If you get out and start pounding the pavement on an empty stomach, it causes cortisol levels to remain high throughout the day stopping the body from producing the sex hormones we need to balance hormones and make babies.
The intensity of your workouts becomes even more important. This is not the time to be competing in marathons or training like an iron woman. Having enough body fat is important for reproduction. Without enough of it we will not be able to convert androgens to estrogens, the estrogen we do produce will be less potent and we won’t be able to store them effectively. Basically without enough body fat our bodies will revert to operating like pre-pubescent children, instead of the womanly baby-makers that we are. It is estimated that we need between 22-25% body fat to optimize fertility[i].
4. Use food as medicine
Carbohydrates are crucial for fertility. So are fats. And proteins. When it comes to getting pregnant, getting the right balance for your body is key. It is important to eat foods that balance blood sugar levels because blood sugar and insulin spikes can wreak havoc on the endocrine system and can greatly reduce your chances of conceiving. For a great blood sugar balancing snack, try these Blueberry and Banana muffins.
To find out more about how foods can help support your juicy, sexy, fertile goodness, download the free Ultimate Weekend Cleanse Guide here.
5. Be aware of the toxins around us
The World Health Organisation (WHO) agrees that pesticides and certain food additives can reduce reproductive function in men and women[ii]. To reduce your exposure to these toxins, check out the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists and try to buy organic produce where possible. I also make a rule of only buying organic animal products where possible (meats and dairy etc).
The bathroom and laundry cupboards are generally hives for endocrine disrupting chemicals. Give both of these spaces a clear out and you will be doing yourself and your family a big favour. My general rule is I don’t put anything on my body that I wouldn’t put in my mouth, and I don’t spray anything on my benches that I wouldn’t spray on my food.
Choose your soaps, lotions and make-up products carefully to avoid toxic additives like parabens, ethanols and Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate. I love Inika foundation and often use Biotique and Weleda for face and body lotions.
For kitchen and bathroom cleaning, mix vinegar, tee tree or eucalyptus oil and water in an empty spray bottle. Bi-carb soda makes a great scrub for grime. There are times when I whip out bleach to kill all bacteria and germs in bins and toilets etc, but I keep this to an absolute minimum.
If you are trying for a baby, suffer from PMS or hormone imbalances, it’s important to take a holistic approach. It’s not about doing one thing right that will do the trick. It’s more about being conscious of all the areas of your life that will help set you up for success. It can be hard to learn to be conscious of all these areas while still having fun and not becoming obsessed. If you like the sound of being able to follow an easy step-by-step plan to improve these areas of your life, sign up to find out when the Wholesome Inc. preconception program launches.
[i] Frisch, R.E., Body fat, menarche, fitness and fertility. Human Reproductive Journal, 1987.