Changing Your Diet (& Your Habits) While Trying to Conceive

When you’re thinking about having a baby, your habits and nutrition are so important to the success and health of your pregnancy. I almost made the mistake with my pregnancy of waiting until I was pregnant to change my eating habits: I don’t want you to make the same mistake! I’ve outlined below the main things you and your partner should be doing before you try to conceive to give yourself the best chance for a happy, healthy pregnancy.

Pay Attention to Your Diet

I’ve talked about my love affair with juicing in a separate post (hint: it makes getting adequate hydration & nutrients throughout pregnancy a tasty breeze) but no matter how you choose to get your food groups filled eating a healthy balanced diet needs to become your number one priority at least 3 months before conception.

Why start so early? From the minute your baby is conceived that little bundle of joy is gulping up whatever nutrients are in your bloodstream. If you’re eating a bunch of salt, fats and highly processed junk food then that’s what is fueling your baby’s development. To give your baby the best possible start you want to make sure you’re getting the recommended amount of nutrition and hydration into your body well before that baby comes along. 

For men: Your nutrition is extremely important to the health of your sperm. Plus, if you focus on eating well it’ll be so much easier for your partner to eat balanced meals. Live strong, together.

Light Exercise Makes a Big Difference

I have never been a girl who hits the gym regularly. I never really lift weights or go on long walks either, mostly because I eat well and have a nice metabolism that gives me a figure I’m more or less happy with. That changed when I decided to try for a baby. I want to keep my figure once the baby comes and I’m assuming that you do too. The best way to keep your momma figure looking good is daily exercise.

Now, don’t freak out and subscribe to one of Jillian Michaels work out routines (bless her abs) because that’s not what I mean. What we’re aiming for is light exercise – 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking or prenatal yoga every day. Too heavy of a workout routine can lower your ability to conceive if you’re not used to that kind of strenuous activity.

Regular exercise keeps your body firm, makes labor and delivery much easier, reduces birth complications and (my personal favorite) helps balance your mood during pregnancy. Start before you conceive to get your body used to exercising and check out my list of prenatal yoga videos for quick and easy workout routines.

Start Taking Your Vitamins – Both of You

In addition to eating a balanced diet certain vitamins and supplements can really boost your chances of trying to get pregnant. In general, if you and your partner are thinking about having a baby you should be taking a raw prenatal with at least 400 mcg of folate every day for 3 months before conception. You should also get at least 1,000 mg of calcium (to build strong bones for both you and your baby) and 600 mg of mercury-free fish oil daily.

Your partner isn’t off the hook either – sperm health and behavior are directly influenced by a man’s diet. Different vitamins like fish oil, zinc and a raw multivitamin can increase the strength and elasticity of those sperm. Watch out though: it takes a man only 24-48 hours between ejaculations to produce new sperm but it takes them 2-3 months of healthy eating for a new batch of sperm to reach maturity and benefit from those dietary changes.

For an in-depth look into the best vitamins for men and women who are trying to successfully conceive, and links to purchase them, click here.

Form Good Habits – You’ve Got the Perfect Excuse

In my wild and reckless youth, I was no stranger to drinking, smoking (all kinds), excessive caffeine consumption and putting the party and/or work week before my physical well-being. By the time I met my husband my life was much more settled but I’m going to be honest with you – it wasn’t easy to give up all of my vices four months before conception. I wasn’t even pregnant yet but I knew from talking with other mothers and my doctor that there were a few lifestyle changes I should make to give us the best chance of successfully having a baby.

I’ve spoken in another post about the risks of not caring for yourself properly before conception. This is the flip-side of that post. Let’s start with alcohol. Ladies, since doctors don’t know how much alcohol can harm your developing baby it’s safest to cut out drinking completely. If you must drink, many mothers say that a half a beer, once a week, is safe and shouldn’t hurt your chances of conception. Men should also avoid drinking more than one beer per day. More than that has shown to lower testosterone levels and will effect the health and mobility of their sperm.

Smoking (cigarettes, cigars, or marijuana) is a huge no-no because any smoke inhalation deprives your blood of oxygen. This can lead to premature birth or low birth weight. Men should also quit smoking, both because of second hand smoke and because smoke inhalation has been shown to lower sperm count and sperm health. These sperm often have trouble making it to the egg for fertilization. To increase your chances of conception it’s best if both partners quit now.

After smoking, caffeine was one of the hardest things for my husband and myself to limit. At the recommendation of our doctor my husband cut back his caffeine consumption to one 12-ounce thermos a day, which is the maximum recommended amount for men to consume while trying to conceive. More caffeine than that has been shown to lower sperm count. Even though experts generally agree that 8 ounces of coffee a day shouldn’t affect fertility, I chose to quit completely during the first trimester. Ok, I have the occasional sip every now and then. As long as you’re monitoring your caffeine consumption do what feels right for you.

The Bottom Line

Every woman is different. If you or your partner are excessively underweight or overweight, you may need different dietary and exercise recommendations. If you have a BMI (body mass index) that is less than 18.5 or over 25 please consult a doctor before trying to conceive. They will create a plan with you to get your weight back on track to you have the best chances of having a healthy pregnancy. If you need help changing any of your lifestyle habits, like addictions, there are resources out there to help you. Start making these changes today and your health will be in good hands.

How have you worked to make yourself healthier for your baby? Let me know in the comments section below!

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