Seven Steps to Prepare Your Body for a Healthy Pregnancy
Infertility has become a huge problem in today’s world. Considering that we have strayed a long way from the habits that keep our bodies healthy and working properly, it really shouldn’t be surprising. Everything from birth control to unhealthy food-like substances that we eat to insane stress levels that throw off our hormones, makes a real mess of our bodies. And when our bodies are in a mess, they are less likely to get pregnant, stay pregnant, and have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Even for the women who are blessed to get pregnant quickly and easily, pregnancy can be a challenge of trying to stay energetic and healthy while growing a new human being!
So, whether you are hoping to get pregnant soon or thinking about pregnancy in the future, start working on these seven steps to prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy!
Dial in Your Nutrition
Nutrition plays an enormous role in every function of the body. And if you are pregnant, or hoping to get pregnant, it plays an even more important role!
Fats, carbohydrates, and proteins - we call them “macronutrients” - as well as all of the vitamins and minerals - known as “micronutrients” - are all needed for preparing the body to conceive and grow a baby.
Each of the macros plays a big part in hormone health. You need all of them for your hormones to function properly. Each person will do best with a different balance of the macros, and that balance even changes depending on where we are in our cycle and other lifestyle factors; so don’t get too caught up in the numbers. Macro counting can be helpful, but for the purposes of this post, just focus on getting enough of each one. And especially on getting the right kinds of each one.
Let’s get into what the right kinds are.
Fats should always come from real, whole-food sources. Avoid anything that is made rather than harvested. There are a lot of garbage fats out there. Avoid “vegetable” oils which are actually seed oils that are processed to make the product, go rancid very quickly, are usually genetically modified, and are very hard for the body to use.
Omega 3 fatty acids have gotten a lot of press recently because most of us are very deficient in them. These are very anti-inflammatory and so good for the brain and even mental health. They are absolutely necessary for a healthy pregnancy and development of the baby.
Don’t get too hung up on the different types of fats (saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, etc.) - as long as you are focused on eating a variety of whole, real foods, you should be good to go!
Protein is so, so important for everything! Especially during pregnancy and postpartum, when you are literally sustaining two lives with your diet, you need plenty of protein. And most women are not eating enough to begin with!
It’s hard to say how much protein is enough, because each person is so different, but my general guideline is around .75 grams per pound of body weight, especially when pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are very active, you might need even more.
To get enough (and the right kinds) of protein, focus on grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish (be sure to major on the fish that are low in mercury like salmon, sardines, mackerel, tilapia), free-range and organic poultry, wild game, and organ meats from grass-fed, organic beef or game. These meats are all excellent sources of very bio-available, complete protein - and are also packed with other nutrients that will help set you up for a healthy pregnancy.
Another good protein source is dairy (I really recommend goat or sheep dairy over cow, because it is so much easier for the body to digest and much less inflammatory. Many people are allergic to cow milk, even if they aren’t having a noticeable reaction). If you get raw milk from a local farmer and make your own kefir or yogurt, then you are consuming dairy in the best way possible!
Eggs are full of great nutrition and protein, but again, for some reason many people are allergic to chicken eggs and may not even realize it. In this case, duck or quail eggs might be a good substitute.
Plants have protein as well, but because you have to eat huge amounts of them in order to get all of the amino acids (in other words, enough complete protein), I don’t recommend trying to go vegetarian, especially during the childbearing years!
There are a lot of protein powders on the market now. Most of them are very processed and filled with fake food ingredients. If you can’t get enough protein from food, then do your research before buying a powder. You want something minimally processed, without refined sugar or artificial sweeteners or flavors.
Many people are eating way too many carbs. But, at the same time, many other people (especially those who eat a paleo or keto-style diet) aren’t eating enough!
Again, every person is very unique in her nutritional needs. I don’t recommend going too far down the rabbit hole of how much is right. Instead, focus on eating a variety of whole food carbs and paying attention to how you feel. If you are on your period, for example, and feeling tired and worn down, eating a higher-carb diet that week is probably appropriate. But if you are near ovulation, and feeling super energetic and on top of things, then cutting carbs a bit for a few days can work really well.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are great carb sources. Gluten-free, whole grains like oats and brown rice are also good choices, especially if they are soaked or sprouted to make them easier to digest. Some other options are raw nuts and seeds (again, soaking makes them more digestible), raw honey, coconut sugar, real maple syrup, ancient grains, and real sourdough bread (not the sourdough bread you see in the aisle at the grocery store - those are usually very processed and full of harmful ingredients).
If you are eating a wide variety of all the foods I have mentioned, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about covering the micronutrients (unless you have a deficiency) because you will be getting them from all of these foods. If you have the budget to supplement (I recommend spending money on plenty of organic, real food before buying supplements), then get some testing done first so you know what your body actually needs and you’re not just wasting money! And be sure to always do your research and ONLY buy from companies that use whole-food ingredients with no fillers or artificial sweeteners and flavors.
I’d definitely suggest getting your magnesium and vitamin D levels tested. Most people are deficient and need to supplement these. And both of these are so important for fertility and a healthy mom and baby!
One last thing to keep in mind: many of us don’t always absorb nutrients effectively. Whether it is low stomach acid (which can be caused by stress or lack of sleep, to name a couple) or poor gut health or a parasite or anything else causing it, we need to deal with the root problem in order to be able to use all the nutrition we are eating.
Up Your Fitness Level
Pregnancy and postpartum are a marathon that requires a lot from a woman, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. When our bodies are strong and healthy before getting pregnant, they are in the best position to grow and care for a healthy baby while keeping themselves healthy!
Carrying around a baby, whether on the inside or the outside, is a lot of work! Labor and delivery are a lot of work. It is wise to prepare your body ahead of time by getting in shape!
When exercising, be mindful of where you are in your cycle as well as how you feel and how much rest you are getting. All of these things impact how the exercise will affect your hormones and body. The goal is to always work WITH your body, not against it! Many women who want to be fit ignore these vital aspects of health and end up very sick and depleted. Not the way to prepare for a healthy pregnancy!
Strength training and cardio are both important approaches to fitness. Strength training can be easily done at home with a kettlebell or pair of dumbbells (or even just body weight), or at a gym with heavier weights. Avoid long-form cardio (like distance running) and focus on low-impact cardio like walking and swimming when you are on your first and third weeks of your cycle (first week being your period). During the second and third weeks, high-impact, short-duration cardio (like HIIT, sprinting, and hiking steep hills) is a good option.
The biggest contributor to getting in shape to prepare for pregnancy is simply being active as a lifestyle. Move around a lot. Avoid sitting or even standing in one place for long periods of time. Pay attention to your posture. Just start moving every day!
Fill Your Sleep Bank
Sleep is one of the most beautiful words in the English language once you’ve had kids! We tend to take it for granted and even ignore it before being parents, but afterwards, we defend it like our lives depend on it (because they do!).
Making sure you are getting enough high-quality sleep every night is another of the most important things you can do to prepare for a healthy pregnancy. Sleep literally affects every aspect of the mind and body. Nothing works well when we are sleep deprived. And once the baby arrives (maybe sooner!), we all experience sleep deprivation on some level!
Some ways to ensure you are getting enough good sleep are to avoid using electronics in the evenings (they stimulate the brain and make it hard for it to get into a restful state); avoid caffeine particularly in the afternoon and evening; go to bed and get up at the same time as much as possible; have a restful sleeping environment (no devices in the bedroom, keeping your environment tidy and clean, having blackout curtains if you need them); have a calming bedtime routine; and getting direct, natural, outdoor sunlight for at least ten minutes as soon as possible when you wake up in the morning (this gets your body in sync with natural circadian rhythms).
Another factor that isn’t often considered when preparing for a healthy pregnancy is spinal health. We tend to think of chiropractic as merely a remedy for a backache, but keeping the spine aligned allows the brain to send nerve signals to the entire body without interference. Chiropractic care also helps get your ribs and pelvis in alignment and set up to carry a baby. And getting adjusted regularly throughout pregnancy increases your chances of having a quick and simple delivery, because everything is in place for the baby to move through the birth canal without getting stuck!
Detox Your Body and Environment
It is so important to detox your body and environment when preparing for a healthy pregnancy. Besides the fact that toxins affect your hormones, which are responsible for conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy, they also can get to the baby from the mom. The last thing we want is to expose our unborn child to poisons, and yet, most people continue to use fragrances and household cleaners and chemical body care products throughout pregnancy.
Another reason to detox prior to pregnancy is that during pregnancy, the liver has a tremendous workload managing spent hormones and other waste. And it is easy to get constipated during pregnancy, meaning the liver has to work even harder to get the job done! So, getting that little workhorse in good shape before pregnancy can go a long way towards having a healthy nine months, and can even minimize morning sickness.
In order to detox your body and environment, you will need to avoid using chemical beauty products, body care products, household items (like scented candles, air fresheners, etc.) cleaners (including laundry products), and cookware/dishware that are made with plastics or other unnatural substances (think tupperware and anything non-stick). It is best if these items aren’t even in your house (particularly the personal care items and cleaners, because they emit fumes into the air).
I know this all can be very overwhelming! So start small and gradually replace things as you are able! There are so many non-toxic options available now. All it takes is learning to read labels and understand what is in the items you are using, and buying (or making) safe alternatives. This is a process, but it is totally possible and I am happy to help and share my time-saving shortcuts and recipes for anyone who needs them!
Once you have stopped exposing yourself to a constant barrage of toxins in your environment, you can incorporate some detoxing solutions like sauna, sunshine, exercise, cardio in the fresh air, epsom salt baths, and certain herbs and foods to help your body get rid of the buildup of toxic waste in your system. And don’t forget to drink lots and lots of pure water!
Fix Your Hormones
I think we all know that if our hormones are off, we might have trouble conceiving and keeping a pregnancy. Hormones are so, so, so powerful and really affect every single part of who we are! They are the messengers that tell the body what to do and how to do it. They are the key to so many aspects of health.
Many people think that if their hormones are off, it means they have a problem with their hormones. So it might surprise you to know that if your hormones are off, it isn’t a hormonal problem at all - the hormones are merely sending a message based on how the body is functioning.
Think of it this way. If your liver is backed up and overworked and struggling to keep up, it will have trouble eliminating spent hormones. Then those hormones start moving around in your body and throwing things off. But the problem isn’t really with your hormones; it’s with your liver.
Doing all of the other things in this post will help your hormones too. But at the end of the day, if your hormones are telling you that something is off, the best way to fix it is to work with someone who can do some testing (like the DUTCH test) that will tell you exactly what is going on in your body and what you can do to fix it.
Prepare Your Mind
Everything we have touched on so far has been how to prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy, but preparing your mind is even more important! Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum are all very emotional and intense seasons of a woman’s life. If we aren’t prepared mentally and emotionally, we can really be thrown for a loop that could be worse than physical struggles. Plus, what’s going on in the mind hugely impacts what happens in the body!
Preparing your mind means learning to trust that your body was designed to do this job and will do it well when given the right tools and there is little interference. It means keeping yourself informed and acting on that knowledge, but holding your plans loosely and being ok with change and the unexpected. It means surrounding yourself with people who will support you and help you. It means having an overcoming, can-do mindset and acknowledging and dealing with all emotions in a healthy way. It means training yourself to have a roll-with-the-punches approach and not taking things too seriously! Pregnancy will bring out things that you maybe haven’t had to deal with before, so prepare yourself now for that. Don’t fear it and be ready to embrace the beauty.
Most of all, preparing your mind for a healthy pregnancy means trusting God to guide you and knowing that the process is in His hands! He made our bodies able to do this, and He is the one who gives life!
I hope these tips are helpful as you prepare for a healthy pregnancy!