Maximize Your Preconception Health

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If you’re thinking about getting pregnant or conceiving a baby with your partner, there are a few things you can do to optimize your health. While there’s no guarantee that any of these things will help you conceive faster, the idea is to get all your ducks in a row so that if anything goes wrong while you’re trying to conceive, its cause may be more easily identified. Read on for ideas about maximizing your preconception health.

Routine Preventive Healthcare 

First up, make your appointments for your routine preventive healthcare, both medical and dental. If you haven’t had a physical in a while, now is a good time. Get your well-woman visit scheduled, have a pap smear if you’re due for one, and talk to your care provider about any recommendations they have for things you should do preconception. Dental care is good to do in advance of conception when you can because pregnancy can wreak havoc on your teeth and gums. Plus, some dental work is contraindicated during pregnancy, so if your dentist spots any trouble areas, it can be a good idea to have them taken care of before you’re pregnant.

Mental Health 

In addition to wreaking havoc with your teeth, pregnancy can also do a number on your mental health. All those hormones flying around can mess with your brain chemistry and one minute you’re elated and the next you’re crying. Anxiety and depression are also common during pregnancy and postpartum, and you are especially at risk if you’ve experienced a mood disorder in the past. If you have concerns about your mental health or just want to establish care with someone who can help you manage it, such as a therapist, preconception is a great time to do so.

Before conceiving is also a great time to evaluate your life as objectively as you can. If you experience any kind of abuse, be it emotional, verbal, or physical, with your partner or in your living situation, now is the time to leave. If you want to conceive a baby, it will be easiest if you feel safe. No one deserves any kind of abuse and everyone deserves to feel safe, respected, and loved. This blog post from The Pulse has some ideas about what to do if you’re experiencing abuse.

Social Support 

Before getting pregnant, consider your social networks. What people are close to you, both locally and in other places, who might be able to support you as you welcome a baby into the world? Humans are social, community-oriented beings and things like pregnancy and parenting are better with company. Reach out to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers to connect and check in. You never know when someone will be just the person you need to see or talk to.

Reproductive Healthcare 

If you’ve been preventing pregnancy, you will need to stop using your contraception method in order to get pregnant. If you’ve been using a barrier method, like a diaphragm or condoms, that’s an easy thing to stop, but IUDs or implants require some planning for removal. It also may be a good idea to discuss your obstetric history, previous birth and breastfeeding experiences, and intention to conceive with a care provider.

General Health 

There are a variety of things you can add to your life preconception that may help you feel your best and prepare your body to conceive. Both men and women can benefit from mindfully consuming alcohol and stopping tobacco and drug use. It’s also a good idea to find ways to move: walk, bike, swim, hike. Being physically active in ways that are fun for you are great for your health.

In terms of diet, check out this blog post from The Pulse, in which we discuss a style of eating called the fertility diet. It’s not overly prescriptive but has been shown to be an evidence-based way to increase your chances of getting pregnant. This post delves deeper into specific dietary recommendations and touches on vitamins that you might be deficient in and could be a good idea to supplement. It’s also fine to take prenatal vitamins while you’re trying to conceive and a great idea to supplement folic acid, so you have plenty in your system during early pregnancy when your baby’s spinal cord is forming.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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