Nearly half of all pregnancies are considered unplanned, which can be a surprising statistic for those actively trying to conceive.
While many women choose to take the “it happens when it happens” approach, others try their best to prepare however they can. If you’re along the journey to a baby, here are some lifestyle adjustments or improvements you might want to consider, thanks to Thomas Molinaro of the Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey.
When considering pregnancy, it’s a great time to ensure you’re eating healthily and are at an ideal weight. “If you are overweight, consider diet and exercise for weight loss,” Molinaro recommends, and consult with a nutritionist if you are unsure. He adds, “Even a modest weight loss of 10 to 15 pounds can be helpful and improve the chances of a healthy pregnancy.”
Losing weight prior to pregnancy is preferred. Molinaro says weight loss is “not usually recommended [during pregnancy], and the amount of weight gain needed depends on your current body-mass index.” In fact, if your BMI is over 30, you might be considered to have an increased risk for infertility, pregnancy complications, and/or miscarriage.
He reiterates: “Ideally, most women should work toward achieving their weight loss prior to pregnancy, although in older patients this is often problematic because delays in treatment affect potential success rates.” Molinaro recommends talking with your doctor to determine the optimal timing.
You don’t necessarily have to kick your caffeine habit cold turkey, but Molinaro says “reducing caffeine to one to two servings per day can be important, as well as alcohol to one serving per day. It is also a good idea to start a prenatal vitamin in advance of pregnancy.”
“For all couples trying to conceive, it is most important to be as healthy as possible, Molinaro explains. "This means trying to eat healthier and prepare for pregnancy.”
If you find you’re pregnant and it’s a bit of a surprise, Molinaro advises “stopping alcohol and reducing caffeine to one serving a day is a good start.” Beginning a prenatal vitamin is also important, as folic acid in particular reduces the chances of some birth defects. “Other dietary changes include reducing intake of mercury containing fish (tuna, swordfish) to once per week, avoiding sushi, deli meats, soft cheeses, unpasteurized dairy products, and sprouts,” he says.
Your Daily Routines
In a healthy pregnancy, most women are able to maintain most of their daily routines. “Light to moderate exercise in pregnancy is usually fine unless you are experiencing complications,” Molinaro says. As far as beauty routines, he explains, “exposure to hair dyes are controversial but most semipermanent hair dyes can be safe if applied a few times during pregnancy and not too often. Check with your hair stylist for what they feel comfortable using on pregnant women.” He believes that most cleaning products are generally safe, but women should wear gloves to reduce exposure.
You may have heard people tell you to just relax and it will happen, or that stress isn’t good for fertility—but as Molinaro points out, it’s also a part of everyday life. He explains, “It is unclear how much stress affects fertility, although in severe cases stress can prevent a woman from ovulating and lead to skipped menstrual cycles. I advise couples to control what they can control and find whatever stress reducing activity helps them.” He explains that for some people it may look like exercise, yoga, or acupuncture, and that it’s up to the individual to find the right stress-reducing activity that works for them.
Keep This in Mind
It can be hard to fully understand how pregnancy might not be as easily attained as you once thought (or even feared). “Many people think that getting pregnant will happen right away when they decide the time is right. While this happens for some people, it is not always the case,” says Molinaro. He adds that it is important to be as healthy as you can, but that if pregnancy is not occurring quickly, “a consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist is a good idea to investigate further and get some practical advice that may help.” In fact he adds, “Many couples actually conceive on their own after visiting an infertility specialist!”