There's no better time to make positive lifestyle changes than when you're trying to conceive. Not only can watching your diet and exercise potentially boost your fertility now, it sets you up for healthy habits you can carry throughout your pregnancy and beyond. When you decide you're ready to start trying to conceive, keep in mind these health tips. (Of course, none of these tips should take the place of consulting with your doctor about what's right for you.)
Maintain a healthy weight
Women who are significantly over or underweight may experience irregular ovulation that can make it hard to conceive. Getting to a healthy body weight can help make your periods more regular and make it easier to predict when you're fertile.
Eat your vitamins
Most experts recommend taking a daily dietary supplement made specifically for pregnant and breastfeeding women or those trying to conceive. A daily vitamin enriched with folic acid makes sense, but don't let it take the place of a healthy diet! Folic acid lowers the risk of serious birth defects, so make sure you're reaching for dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, citrus, and other foods rich in folate. Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA are important for a baby's development and they can be stored in your body for a long time, so it's not a bad idea to start increasing your intake now, even before you're pregnant.
Tip: Seafood is a source of lean protein that's also filled with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, but more and more moms-to-be are avoiding seafood because of fears about mercury. To avoid potentially ingesting unhealthy quantities of mercury, experts recommend staying clear of the biggest mercury offenders, large predators like shark, swordfish, king mackerl, and tilefish.
If you prefer to avoid seafood entirely, you can look for omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA in other foods. Some vegan foods like soy milk and bread may be fortified with key omega-3 fatty acids and the following vegan foods are chock full of omega-3: flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, mustard oil, seaweed, beans, winter squash, leafy greens, cabbage, berries, wild rice, herbs and spices, mangoes, honeydew melon. Other women trying to conceive choose to take omega-3 supplements.
Lighten up on meat
Getting enough protein is paramount when it comes to fertility, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, but some research suggests that you can increase fertility by replacing some animal proteins like chicken, beef, or pork, with vegan sources like beans, nuts, or tofu. If you're not already eating meatless, consider switching a few meals a week to non-animal sources. The meatless Monday movement is a great way to get started!
Pick up a new healthy hobby
Now is the perfect time to invest in your fitness routine! Choose safe, effective exercises you can do now and throughout your pregnancy. Yoga and pilates build core strength to combat some of the aches and pains of pregnancy; light weight training and cardio like swimming and jogging improve overall strength and endurance while also helping you maintain a healthy weight. And some research suggests that exercising at least 30 minutes a day can increase fertility and decrease the risk of miscarriage.
Tip: While moderate exercise is a wonderful way to be stronger, leaner, and more relaxed, some evidence suggests that very intense exercise can affect a woman's ovulation and make fertility more challenging. For most women this won't be a concern, but elite athletes may want to discuss their routine with their doctors, particularly those who have very low body fat.