Planning for a pregnancy is much more than putting away the condoms or quitting birth control. Whether you’re planning to get pregnant as soon as possible or in a few years, there’s a lot you can do to help optimize your fertility. It’s the unfortunate truth that infertility rates across all genders are on the rise, not to mention additional barriers to pregnancy and parenthood in same sex couples or transgender individuals.
The good news is that the first steps to increasing your fertility is to fine tune your health! Many of us already know the things we “should” be doing for better health, and sometimes thinking of our future children is the kick in the pants we need to actually go out and do those things. Eating healthier can be as simple as overhauling the snack cabinet and replacing m+ms with roasted nuts, or sharing a dessert with a partner or friend instead of eating one on your own. For those of you more serious about dietary overhaul, keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming guide on avoiding hormone-disrupting foods, or contact a professional (Lauren Walker, FDN) to really give your gut a work-through.
Of course, exercise is high on the list of healthy habits, right next to a healthy diet. For runners, there’s nothing like the freedom and endorphin rush of an early morning run. For the rest of us, the thought of getting up before the sun and facing abysmal weather is going to shut down our best intentions quickly. Besides, running is quite rough on the joints! The key to getting into a good exercise routine is to know yourself. Are you a high energy person that would enjoy a high impact routine at a gym or Pilates class? Or maybe you prefer something slower but equally beneficial like yoga or tai ji? It’s also a good idea to create accountability for yourself. Maybe that means signing up with a personal trainer from the comfort of your own home (remote trainer Kara Coffin, CPT) or making a friend at yoga class (Yogini Jenn Falk) and planning to meet again at another class tomorrow.
Finally, listen to what your body is telling you about your health. Do you get frequent colds/flus? Are you often stiff and sore with heavy limbs? Frequent headaches or vision problems? All of these little signs indicate underlying imbalances. They may not disturb your day to day routines, but addressing these now could potentially prevent fertility problems in the future. Menstruating people are lucky enough to have a very detailed built in indicator of the health of their entire system. In Chinese Medicine, we can interpret these little signs and help you to better balance. For example, someone with long or irregular cycles with spotting may be experiencing Shao Yin (Kidney Channel) deficiency, and may have trouble with a fertilized egg implanting into the uterine wall - not to mention difficulty estimating ovulation when planning a pregnancy! Abdominal cramping with the start of menstruation is often caused by Jue Yin (Liver Channel) stagnation and can indicate poor blood circulation - of course healthy blood circulation is so important in developing the placenta and nourishing a fetus.
It is possible to have a completely healthy pregnancy even if you do experience minor health imbalances, but preconception is a great opportunity to indulge healthier habits and increase your chances of problem-free fertility, a healthy pregnancy, postpartum, and even long term health into your golden years. It becomes much more difficult to work on your health once you’re finding work-family balance, chasing around little ones, or juggling many of the responsibilities that come with having a family, so take advantage of the time you have now!
There are so many routes to finding better health, and many of them involve a health care professional. I offer free consults if you are interested in pursing acupuncture as part of your healthcare routine, but can also recommend many fantastic midwives (they’re not just for pregnancy and birth!), physical therapists, mental health therapists, and more in addition to the amazing practitioners I linked in the article above. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or comments.