A few months ago, I met a friend of mine for a morning tea by the beach. As we sipped our hot cups of rooibos, we talked about everything that had been going on in our lives since the last time we saw each other. Eventually the conversation headed in the direction of her relationship.
“How are things going with Alex? Everything good?”
“Yes! Things are amazing.” She paused for a moment to pull a pack of Lucky Strikes from her bag. “We’re going to start trying for a baby.”
“A baby? Really? Now? Okay.”
“What? You don’t think it’s a good idea?”
“No, I think you’d be a great mom, but . . .” My eyes trailed to her lit cigarette.
“Oh, this. I don’t think that matters yet. Do you? Of course I’ll quit once I get pregnant. It’s not like I smoke that much anyway. Three a day, sometimes five. Besides, we’re really excited and I don’t want to wait any longer.”
Many of us spend a good fifteen to twenty years actively trying to prevent pregnancy, so when the urge to finally start trying to have a baby takes hold we want what we want and we want it now.
“I’ll quit once I’m pregnant.”
“Of course I would eat better if I were pregnant.”
“I’ve been so stressed lately, but I’ll feel more relaxed once I get pregnant.”
Your health is your baby’s health and the choices that you make regarding your diet, lifestyle, and mindset in the 100 days leading up to conception have a direct impact on your ability to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Breaking bad habits doesn’t happen overnight and the best time to work on them is before you even start trying.
Five habits to break before trying to conceive:
1) Smoking (Even the occasional cigarettes count!)
Every time you smoke a cigarette, you introduce 4,000 different toxins into your body. It’s not surprising, therefore, that smoking damages the eggs as they develop in the ovaries. It also changes the lining of the uterus making it harder for the fertilized egg to implant. If that’s not enough, they’ve found that a woman’s chances of conceiving can go down by as much as 40 percent each cycle if she smokes ten or more cigarettes a day. You don’t have to smoke that much to cause damage however, and even second-hand smoke has been linked to increased risk of miscarriage, infertility, and early onset menopause.
If you would never dream of smoking with a baby bump, but you continue to light up while trying to conceive, you need to know that you are already putting your future baby’s health at risk. Quitting isn’t easy, but with the right motivation and support it is absolutely doable.
2) Waking up with coffee and winding down with wine
If you’re thinking of having a baby in the near future, coffee and wine shouldn’t be the bookends of your day. Caffeine has been shown to increase the chance of miscarriage, cause hormonal imbalances and adrenal fatigue. When your adrenal glands are sluggish, your thyroid gland and immune system can eventually be affected as well, none of which bodes well for your chances of conception. As far as alcohol goes, it’s been shown that women who consume five or more drinks per week take longer to get pregnant and even moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to lower fertility. Drinking alcohol around the time of ovulation also lowers your chances of conception.
Since neither caffeine nor alcohol are part of a healthy pregnancy diet, use the time before you start trying to conceive to get off the cappuccino-cabernet rollercoaster. What is preventing you from waking up every morning feeling refreshed? What do you need to feel calm and relaxed? Having sustained energy throughout the day is totally possible, but it involves getting your hormones in balance, getting enough rest, and making a commitment to taking care of yourself.
3) Using food as your frenemy
You don’t need to have an eating disorder to have disordered eating. Food is not your reward. Food is not your punishment. It’s your body’s source of nourishment. If you’re on a restrictive diet and constantly counting calories, you’re most likely low on essential nutrients and healthy fats that can do wonders for your fertility. If you’re bingeing on comfort food, especially if it’s processed food high in sugar, you’re most likely causing hormonal imbalances that will make it that much harder to conceive.
Do your future baby a favor and start developing healthy eating habits now. Research foods that are good for fertility and reproductive health. Get your partner involved and start incorporating them into your everyday diet. Discover ways to manage your stress, work through your feelings, and feel good about yourself that have nothing to do with what’s on your plate.
4) Putting yourself down (instead of loving yourself up!)
“I never do anything right. It’s all my fault. I’m such an idiot. I’m so fat. I’m so ugly. I’m such a loser.” Thoughts like these aren’t serving anyone and the sooner you learn to replace them with words that emanate love, compassion, and respect the better. This kind of negativity goes straight from your head and down to your uterus.
Physiologically speaking, when we generate negative thoughts about ourselves, we increase our cortisol levels. Cortisol has a negative impact on progesterone, which is one of the essential hormones for getting and staying pregnant. Negative thinking also stifles your heart, or your inner spirit, and according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a direct link between the health of your spirit and the health of your womb. The heart thrives on love, positivity, and passion not criticism, self-loathing, and put downs.
Not sure how to say nice things to yourself? Think about what you say to the people you love. “I love you. You’re doing great. You look beautiful today. I’m so proud of you and everything you do.”
5) Controlling. Absolutely. Everything.
Do you feel like you have to keep tabs on everything? Are you constantly working to prevent possible mistakes? Do you get frustrated when things don’t go exactly according to plan? If this sounds like you, then it’s time to start letting go and going with the flow. Chances are if you identify with the tendencies described above you envy those who can live with ease. I’m a recovering control freak so I know how scary it can be to release the white knuckle grip you have on the steering wheel of your life.
You can do absolutely everything in your power to guarantee the outcome of any given situation, but the reality is there are never any guarantees and going to extremes to keep everything just the way you want it doesn’t leave any room for unexpected possibilities. As you move forward in your fertility journey, trust that everything is unfolding just as it is supposed to and you are part of a greater plan that is slowly, but surely being revealed to you every day.
If you’re interested in working with me as a Fertility Coach to maximize your chances of conception and feel empowered on your fertility journey, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would love to talk to you about how we can work together to reach your most desired goals.
References and resources
Agin, Dan. More than Genes: What Science Can Tell Us about Toxic Chemicals, Development, and the Risk to Our Children. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.
Fett, Rebecca. It Starts with the Egg. New York: Franklin Fox, 2014.
Neff, Kristin. Self-Compassion. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2013.
Orecchio, Christa, and Willow Buckley. How to Conceive Naturally: And Have a Healthy Pregnancy after 30. New York: Grand Central Life & Style/Hachette Book Group, 2015.
Raupp, Aimee E. Yes, You Can Get Pregnant: Natural Ways to Improve Your Fertility Now and into Your 40s. New York: Demos Medical, LLC, 2014.