Controlling what happens inside our bodies seems impossible. Healthy systems and organs operate without our assistance, so we tend to think we shouldn’t mess with them.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
But we shouldn’t wait until there is a problem to take care of our bodies. Even if you’re not thinking about pregnancy, you should still do “preventative maintenance to keep your insides running like new.”
We are becoming a nation looking for sustainable food sources, frequenting farmers’ markets, and going organic. If you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon, hurry up.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) allow a certain amount of chemicals into our “fresh” foods. Processed food is laced with toxins and chemicals. We may not immediately feel the effects of these poisons, but they are at work inside us slowly destroying our bodies’ systems.
Fear not, you can begin to reverse some of the damage you may have done. One way to do this is through a detoxifying diet.
Cleansing your body before bringing another life into it is vital. You want the most welcoming, safe environment for your unborn child. Think of this step as baby-proofing your body.
Women planning to conceive need to know that a healthy diet promotes healthy ovulation and helps prevent recurrent miscarriages.
Your food intake can affect the body for 90 days after ingestion.
Begin by asking your partner to join you in this detox process.
When steps are taken together, you will feel closer to each other, you will both be taking steps to prepare for parenthood, and you will provide support to each other and having support makes all things easier.
And many of the foods included in a healthy diet can have a positive effects on your partner’s sperm.
Guys, your health is just as important as hers!
Detoxing isn’t as scary as some people think. It is a simple, natural way to cleanse your body of built-up toxins and waste and rid your diet of unwanted sugars, fats, and processed ingredients our bodies aren’t meant to consume.
Detoxifying is a gradual process, so don’t think you have to give up everything at once. Also, those fad diet pills and drinks that say they detox your body quickly don’t really work.
Remember all things worth doing are worth doing right. The recommended length of time for a detox program varies. I’ve read that one week of adhering to an all organic, raw foods diet is enough to feel a drastic difference in energy levels.
More serious, enthusiastic detoxers aim for a twenty-one day regimen. However long you plan on committing to these dietary changes is up to you but don’t stop using what you’ve learned and return to your old habits after your detox time is up.
Hopefully you will make these changes a permanent part of your diet. Beginning a healthy eating routine now will carry over to post-pregnancy eating as well as introducing your child to the healthiest diet possible once he or she begins eating solids.
4 Steps Preparing Your Body for Pregnancy
Step 1- Current Diet
Really look at your current diet.
- How often do you go to a fast-food restaurant for convenience’s sake?
- Or just because you have a craving? Come on now, be honest.
- Do you drink soft drinks, diet or regular?
- How much water do you consume daily?
- Are you so short on time that dinner comes from a box or the frozen dinner aisle at the supermarket?
Consider this—all processed food, those foods with artificial preservatives, meats from animals that received growth hormones and antibiotics, and dairy products that aren’t organic—all of these foods are subject to recalls by the government. I freak out when my car gets recalled for a minor safety issue.
But my food?! Yikes.
To eliminate the chances of eating tainted foods, go organic!
Step 2 - Check the Label
Start by reading the labels on all your foods and drinks. If there is something listed in the ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t put it into your body.
Look at the size of the chicken breasts you buy. Are they larger than your Thanksgiving turkey’s breast? (I wish mine were as big and firm as some I’ve seen in grocery stores.)
If so, don’t buy them.
This is a good indication the bird was fed growth hormones. The use of over 440 pesticides are intended to keep crops pest resistant, but these same chemicals then become part of the plant we eat. Growth hormones for animals are causing humans to become resistant to medical antibiotics, plus they change nature’s intended growth rate.
Look for words like “No GMOs” (Growth Modified Organisms), “grass fed,” and “free range.” If you purchase 100% organic foods, you will not have to worry about recalls, chemicals, or ingredients you can’t pronounce. “What you stop eating can be more important that what you do eat.”
Step 3 - Organic Foods
I understand that buying all organic foods and drinks is expensive. Believe me, I’ve tried to go completely organic/farm raised, and I couldn’t afford it. But you can still make some changes that will help.
- Stop buying all processed foods.
Homemade food takes more time and effort, but health is more important than time. No more trips to the drive-thru. Period.
- No more soda of any kind. Stop consuming caffeine in all its forms.
(Be prepared for a nasty caffeine-withdrawal headache if you consume three or more cups of coffee a day on a regular basis. These are painful!) Grab a glass of water instead. You should drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day!
- Start eating a more “whole foods” diet.
They are foods that come in their natural state. Some people may go the route of a “raw foods” diet.
Step 4 - Detox Approach
Now that you’ve started with some basics, let’s get down to a more serious detox approach.
You should begin the day with a glass of lemon water to stimulate the cleansing process. An herbal tea is a good substitute for coffee. And try a smoothie for breakfast.
Load your blender with uncooked leafy greens like kale, spinach, arugula, chard, romaine lettuce, etc.
(These are absolute must have ingredients!), add a banana or avocado for a creamy texture, core and chop a pear or green apple, add a mixture of frozen berries, and finally add fresh lemon juice from half a lemon. Blend until smooth. This may seem too adventurous for you, but you won’t know until you try.
Here are some suggested options:
- Use pure fruit juices instead of the lemon juice.
- Try cucumbers.
- Add chia or flax seed to boost protein and fiber.
- Unsweetened coconut or almond milk adds creaminess and sweetness.
- Add ice before blending to make it a frozen smoothie.
If you truly can’t stomach the greens, here is an alternative: unsweetened almond milk, pure, unsweetened pumpkin puree or a peeled, cooked sweet potato, a couple tablespoons of almond butter, one banana, and a sprinkling of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spices.
Snacks are an important part of a healthy diet, so here are some good choices:
- Raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds, almonds, and pistachios.
- Apples and pears dipped in almond butter.
- Uncooked veggies dipped in organic hummus.
- Drink any left-over smoothies.
There are so many good lunch and dinner recipes that it’s hard to choose, so I am going to give you a list of ingredients to always have on hand for a healthy meal:
- Grains: quinoa, lentils, black or brown rice, sprouted breads.
- Beans: black, white, and garbanzo (chick peas), navy, pinto.
- Eggs: farm fresh.
- Chicken and turkey: buy only free range or cage free.
- Seafood: mussels, clams, shrimp-must not be canned. Any fresh cold water fish like salmon-farm-raised fish contain dyes and anitboitics. Steer clear of deep water fish like ahi tuna, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass because they may contain mercury.
- Dairy: organic only. Hemp and almond milk are excellent alternatives to cow’s milk (There is a school of thought that humans are not meant to consume cow’s milk or any products made with cow’s milk. I will let you decide this for yourself).
- Nuts: walnuts and almonds (all in raw form-not roasted and no salt).
- Seeds: flax, hemp, chia, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower (all in raw form with no salt).
- Red meat: must be grass fed! No if, ands, or pork butts! And never undercooked.
- Water: Drink water that has been purified. Reverse osmosis or distilled water is uptimal. Avoid water bottled in plastic- chemicals in plastic can leach into water.
- Foods to AVOID!!! Soy, semolina, white bread, processed, artificial, and refined sugar, juice that have added sugar, white rice.
List of Key Nutrients for Pregnancy
If you do not consider yourself a chef, browse the internet for whole food recipes and detoxifying recipes that include the above ingredients and stay off the television chefs’ sites! These lists are in no way complete.
They are some basics and will give you a great start to cleansing your body and developing better, healthier eating habits for yourself, your baby, and all your family members.
A healthy diet must include ways to get the needed vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Here is a list of some key nutrients, what they do for our bodies, and what foods contain them.
- Vitamin D
Creates sex hormones which affect ovulation and hormonal balance.
Found in eggs, fatty fish like salmon
- Vitamin E
Improves sperm health and motility. (Told you guys!) Deficiency in vitamin E can cause infertility. An antioxidant that protects sperm and egg DNA integrity.
Found in raw, unsalted sunflower seeds and almonds, olives, papaya, spinach and other dark leafy greens.
- Vitamin A
Boosts immune function and is essential for gene transcription.
Found in sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, winter squashes, lettuce, dried apricots, cantaloupe, bell peppers, fish, liver, and tropical fruits.
Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance which prevents fatigue, irritability, and high blood pressure.
Found in beans, dark leafy greens, potatoes, squashes, yogurt, fish, avocados, mushrooms, and bananas.
Necessary for strong bones and teeth, nerve signaling, and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes.
Found in dark leafy greens, organic cheese, milk, and yogurt, bok choy, okra, broccoli, green beans, and almonds.
Necessary so every cell in the body can produce energy. Improves ova and sperm health. Necessary for sperm motility in semen. Protects cells from free radicals which can damage DNA.
Found in seafood and organ meat.
- Vitamin C
Improves hormone levels. Increases fertility in women with luteal phase defect. Improves sperm quality, protects sperm DNA, and prevents sperm from clumping.
Found in red bell peppers, broccoli, cranberries, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, acorn squash, and citrus fruit.
- Lipoic Acid
Protects female reproductive organs. Improves sperm quality and motility. Helps body reuse antioxidants already in body.
Small amounts found in potatoes, spinach, and red meat.
Regulates hormones and blood sugar. Alleviates PMS symptoms. May ease morning sickness. Helps with Luteal Phase Defect.
Found in tuna, bananas, turkey, liver, salmon, cod, spinach, bell peppers, turnip, mustard, and collard greens, garlic, cauliflower, celery, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, chard.
Improves sperm quality and production. Boosts endometrium which can lower risks of miscarriages.
Found in clams, oysters, mussels, liver, caviar, lobster, beef, lamb, cheese, and eggs.
- Folic acid
Helps prevent neural tube defects, congenital heart defects, cleft lips, limb defects, and urinary tract anomalies in the developing fetus.
Found in liver, lentils, pinto black, navy, kidney, and garbanzo beans, asparagus, spinach, collard greens.
Protects egg and sperm from free radical which can cause chromosomal damage which in turn can cause miscarriages and birth defects. Necessary for sperm production.
Found in liver, snapper, cod, halibut, tuna, salmon, sardines, shrimp, crimini mushrooms, turkey, and Brazil nuts.
Works in conjunction with over 300 other enzymes to keep body functioning properly. Needed for cell division. Maintains estrogen and progesterone balance which ensures reproductive system operating at optimal performance. Low levels of zinc in early pregnancy linked to miscarriages. For men, increasing zinc will boost sperm levels, form, and function. Decreases male infertility.
Found in calf liver, oysters, beef lamb, venison, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, turkey, green peas, shrimp.
Low levels can cause anovulation (lack of ovulation) and poor egg health.
Found in lentils, spinach, sesame and pumpkin seeds, kidney, garbanzo, and navy beans, venison, molasses, acorn squash, and beef.
- Essential Fatty Acids
Regulates hormones, increases cervical mucus, promotes ovulation, improves uterine health. Contain DHA and EPA. Low EPA may cause premature birth, low birth weight, and hyperactivity.
Found in flax seeds walnuts, salmon, sardines, halibut, shrimp, snapper, scallops, chia seeds.
Essential to development of fetus.
Found in coconut oil, grass-fed meats, fish, nuts, and seeds.
Include animal and vegetable sources of protein daily.
Found in grass-fed beef and pork, free-range/cage-free turkey and chicken, farm-fresh eggs, wild caught catfish, Pollack, salmon, tilapia, clams, and shrimp.
Gets rid of excess estrogen and xenohormones.
Found in acorn squash, corn, white, black, kidney, and garbanzo beans, avocados, whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, lentils, pears (with skin), artichokes, raspberries, peas, broccoli, apples (with skin), almonds, and barley.
Exercises During Pregnancy
Besides getting all the necessary items like pregnancy pillows, wedge pillows or full-body pillows for the up-coming time, another vital aspect of preparing your body for pregnancy is exercise. This is also something you and your partner can do together. And just like the changes in diet, hopefully these changes in exercise will be ongoing.
Pregnancy is exhausting and exercise and movement can help you regain some of that lost energy.
During my first trimester, I was exhausted at 4:00 every afternoon, just like clockwork. This was a huge problem; I was driving home from work at 4:00. After almost falling asleep behind the wheel, I had to change my afternoon schedule.
Thankfully, my job provided some flexibility, and I was able to leave a half hour earlier so I could be home before the 4:00 witching hour. I started walking at least a mile a day—fall, winter, and spring—unless the sidewalks were icy. My energy returned as well as a happier demeanor.
There are so many activities to choose from, but picking one that you can continue during pregnancy is something to consider. Also choose an activity that you are willing to do for at least 30 minutes five or more days a week.
Walking, yoga, and swimming are three great options.
Look into your local health clubs, park district gyms and facilities, and community exercise classes if you feel you need the help of other people to stay motivated and on track. Also, doing classes with other pregnant women will allow you to meet new, supportive, understanding women.
Those of you who have good self-discipline can look online for yoga or pregnancy workout videos. Of course, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.
Make sure to stay hydrated, stop before exhausted, avoid activities on uneven surfaces so as not to fall, wear a heavy-duty support bra, and listen to your body. Your body will change with each trimester and your exercise routine may need to be altered as well.
Yoga is a fantastic way to stay limber, tone muscles, improve balance and circulation, all without impact on your joints. Yoga also teaches deep breathing to relieve stress, relax your entire body, refocus, and cleanse toxins from your body.
These breathing techniques will be very useful during natural child birth. They also help keep blood pressure low, even in painful and stressful situations. It’s not about sitting cross-legged, thumb and forefinger touching, and repeating, “Om.” This is definitely an exercise you will need to alter once you are pregnant. Certain stretches and poses are not recommended during pregnancy.
But properly practicing yoga during pregnancy will help offset the demands pregnancy make on your body. It will also keep you connected and more present during this amazing experience.
Yoga increases your flexibility, strengthens your body, and calms your mind. As you twist your body, you are detoxifying your body. The twists not only feel good, but they are putting pressure on internal organs so they can eliminate waste and toxins.
Many of us carry our stress in our necks, shoulders, lower back, and hips. These areas can also be affected by our posture and daily activities. Yoga will work all those areas of the body each time we practice it. We will also be releasing emotional stress that we may not even realize we are holding on to.
I practice yoga on an irregular basis, but when I do my body feels aligned and stretched. My tense muscles are relieved. It’s almost like going for a chiropractic adjustment.
My husband carries all his stress in his shoulders and up the back of his neck. He gets intense stress headaches that are so painful he has to go to sleep to ease the pain. He will sometimes wake up the next morning and still have the same headache. He has gone to a chiropractor in the past and gotten great relief, but our bank account couldn’t handle what the insurance wouldn’t cover.
I keep telling him he should give yoga a try. His response is always the same, “I don’t bend that way.” Well, dear, very few people do bend that way at first. You just need to work at your own pace and allow your body to slowly loosen and become more flexible.
Walking is a fabulous exercise during pregnancy because you can do it through all trimesters and your partner can do it with you. Make sure you have supportive shoes that are meant for walking, not jogging or running; the supports are different depending on the activity.
Unlike during some exercises, you can carry on a conversation. This is a great opportunity for the parents-to-be to discuss their hopes, fears, and dreams of parenting. It’s a good time to clear the air if things are bothering you.
Swimming is virtually impact free and will lighten your load so to speak. Short of traveling beyond the atmosphere, swimming provides that closest thing to weightlessness. Believe me, when you feel like you’re carrying the weight of a fetal elephant, being able to ease the burden of that extra weight feels fantastic.
The benefits of swimming include a cardiovascular workout, improved circulation, and increased tone and strength in the large muscles like your arms and legs. A morning swim might even counteract morning sickness.
Getting your body in physical condition before pregnancy and maintaining an exercise regimen during pregnancy help strengthen muscles that will be used in labor and core muscles which are needed to help support your back.
It will help you get your figure back after delivery. Plus it provides a healthy, strong environment in which your baby can grow.
Prepare Emotionally & Mentally for Pregnancy
A third and extremely important aspect of your health is to prepare emotionally and mentally for this life-changing event. An entire article could be written on the emotional roller coaster that pregnancy sends women on.
So we decided to address some of the emotional stressors while trying to get pregnant.
- Before you buy a car, you research what make and model you like, find out its gas mileage, compare prices, and take test drives.
- Before you buy a house or rent an apartment, you research the neighborhood, look at multiple options, and figure out just how much you can afford to spend each month.
- Even before you vote you do research. So why would you spend less time discussing an even more important life decision?
Your mental and psychological health can create stress and anxiety during pregnancy which can affect your developing baby.
Depression and anxiety and mood disorders before, during, and after pregnancy are common mental and emotional health concerns. Using prescription drugs to combat these issues put you and your unborn child at risk.
According to the Stanford School of Medicine, the risks to the fetus include teratogenesis, neonatal toxicity, and long-term neurobehavioral effects. Teratogenesis is the development of congenital malformations such as cleft lip or palate and affects the development of the fetal organs and organ systems.
During the prenatal stages, toxicity can directly affect the fetus’ central nervous system. The effects of this exposure will be most noticeable in physical and behavioral symptoms shown in the first month after birth. I personally know the damaging effects of psychiatric medications on my body after pregnancy.
I was told my mental health was so dependent on strong prescription medications, that I would never be able to go off them long enough to have a safe pregnancy. One medication is tied to such horrific birth defects, I had to sign a waiver stating I would not get pregnant while taking this medication and if I did, I was fully aware of the risks to my unborn child.
That scared me so much, my husband and I agreed to take all precautions necessary to prevent another pregnancy. If I would have known about the natural ways to ease the symptoms of the mental and emotional conditions I suffer from, I know I would have opted for the natural treatment so we could have other children.
Thankfully, you have the information I did not have.
So how can you deal with these issues safely and naturally? Reread the section on diet! There are many foods that help balance hormones, whether you are pregnant or not.
There are options. Choose wisely young grasshopper.
As hard as it can be to wait until both partners feel ready to be parents, it is for the best. Pregnancy is not something to force on someone. I was ready to start a family immediately after our wedding, but my husband wasn’t ready. Three years later he felt he was ready to shoulder the responsibilities of fatherhood.
It was extremely hard for me to wait, but those three years allowed him to mature which made him a wonderful father. Pregnancy should not be considered a solution for relationship problems. Work out your problems before bringing another person into an unstable situation.
Getting pregnant will alter your life forever. The pregnancy itself starts the change. There are many things you will have to sacrifice during the pregnancy.
Are you sure you’re prepared mentally and emotionally to face these changes?
Here are just a few things to consider:
- No caffeine in any form.
- The possibility of frequent vomiting due to morning sickness. Or you may just feel nauseated for long periods. (I spent my first trimester feeling like I had the worst and longest hangover ever.)
- At times you will be exhausted and fall asleep quickly. Other times, you will be exhausted but unable to sleep.
- You will reach a stage when you can’t get comfortable in bed, especially if you’re a stomach sleeper.
- Some women have the difficult task of not smoking or drinking.
These issues may seem ridiculous to even mention, but they will affect your emotional and mental health, especially the lack of sleep.
- Are you ready to face these possibilities on a regular basis?
- Is your partner ready to support you when you cry easily, get cranky, toss and turn all night trying to get comfortable, and feel like you are as big as a whale?
You and your partner will need ways to combat the stresses of pregnancy and trying to get pregnant.
Here are some simple suggestions:
Each of you should set aside time once month to spend with friends. A good laugh is something we all benefit from. However, ladies, you may want to set some ground rules with your friends who are already mothers.
First, no talking about the baby, diaper changes, breast feeding, etc. Second, no showing adorable pictures and videos of said child. Seeing how happy other women are because they have what you are struggling to get will lead to a depressing experience. True friends will understand the fragile emotional and mental state you are in and should be more than happy to oblige your ground rules.
Give each other massages. (There are special tables with a hole for your stomach to rest in.) Some spas will put you both in the same room for a sense of connection. Just make certain that the oils being used are all natural. What we absorb through our skin can affect our internal organs and their systems.
Enjoy your sexual relationship! Once a baby enters your life, the chances of you both having the energy and desire for sex at the same time will be few and far between. Plus just finding the time to be alone is difficult.