This post is for women who want kids "some day", maybe not now. Maybe you're engaged or newly married. Maybe you are totally single but know that you want kids some time in the future. Or maybe you aren't even sure whether you want kids, but it doesn't hurt to be informed. This is my list (in order of priority) of what to do way before you want kids in order to make the whole process healthier, less stressful and easier to cope with. Please share with women you know who may fit this bill. I sure wish I had had this list when I got married.
1. Plan for a full calendar year of trying to conceive (TTCing). If you have a wedding or vacation that you definitely do not want to be pregnant for, start your year after that point. On the other end, if you really want to be pregnant by the time you are 30 or whatever age, count backwards from that point. If you have events on both ends that conflict and don't give you a whole calendar year in between, decide in advance which to prioritize. Yes, maybe you will get pregnant right away, but even with nothing wrong, the average is 5 months, so thinking in terms of a whole year of TTCing may serve to ease some of the stress that can come along with this. I know, we're all taught in middle school health class that it's super easy to get pregnant, but it just depends.
2. Get off of hormonal birth control (the pill, the shot, the ring, etc.). Now that you have your full year of TTCing, count at least another year backwards and get your body off of artificial hormones by that point. Many, many women have difficulty with regulation of cycles after using hormonal birth control. Some women bounce right back and ovulate right away, but more and more women (myself included) seem to be having cycle irregularities, even if they were regular before going on the pill. This is completely under-emphasized in my opinion in the OB offices, and it seems as though the docs don't really have an answer as to why. You'd think if they're going to prescribe this medication, they would be able to explain this, but here we are. And there is lot that is unknown about how these hormones affect our bodies. There are plenty of other options for birth control. If your guy isn't willing to use a barrier method, you may need to think about whether this is someone you really want to have children with. In parenthood, there are times that you need to do things that aren't always your first choice. If he won't wear a condom, is he going to help change diapers and get up with the baby at night? Is he going to compromise on who goes back to work and who stays home, or who gives up their dream to take the job with health insurance? Just something to think about. Sometimes sacrifices need to be made for the good of the other person or the good of the couple/family. This can potentially save you months or years of tough times. It is hard to understand how difficult it can be until you go through it, so take my word for it, or go read through some of these blogs. And remember, if you really want to prevent pregnancy, you need two forms of BC. The sympto-thermal method is a fantastic choice for this pre-TTCing stage of life because it will get you more involved in what's happening in your body and help you to identify ahead of time whether you might anticipate any problems. See Taking Charge of Your Fertility
for more info on that. In order to have two forms of BC with the sympto-thermal method as one, you can use abstinence during your fertile times and a barrier method during your non-fertile times. There you have it–two methods, no hormones. Spermicide might be another option, but I have no experience with this, so find your info on that elsewhere. I will also tell you that if you want to get some kind of indication as to how your body will do when stopping the pill, you might take a month or two off from your hormonal BC and see how quickly your cycles come back. If they come back right away, that probably indicates that you're someone whose body will do okay ovulating after the pill. If it takes awhile to get your period, that's probably a red flag for you. Again, make sure to use other methods to prevent pregnancy during this time.
3. Nutrition: start to explore a whole foods diet by cutting out processed foods, packaged foods, and foods with crazy, unpronounceable ingredients. I believe that it is especially important to choose grass-fed (pastured), hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat, eggs, and dairy. Organic produce is great too, but if you have to prioritize, choose the animal foods. Most areas of the US have access to sustainable family farms who have it as part of their mission to raise animals in such a way that is best for the earth, the animals, and your health. Many of them will deliver to homes or dropoff sites in various neighborhoods/towns. Your local farmer's market is a great place to start your search. Of course, colorful fruits and vegetables are essential as well. If you think about it, cells are constantly dying and being born in your body. They are made from the foods and drinks we ingest and the air we breathe. Healthy nourishment will make healthy cells, which make up a healthy body, which will be more likely to get pregnant. Starting now will also help you to have a healthier pregnancy and will set the stage for a family of healthy eaters once you have kids.
4. Reduce your chemical load. In today's world of plastic-overload and consumerism, we are positively being poisoned by innumerable sources of toxicity. From our shampoo to our room fresheners, to our laundry detergent, to our cosmetics, deodorant, toothpaste, plastic packaging, BPA in canned goods, and the list goes on and on and on. I'm not saying you need to cut off all contact with civilization and go off the grid, but I do think it's important to at least take stock of what is in your house and immediate environment and start to at least become cognizant of just how many chemicals we are all exposed to on a daily basis. There are some serious flaws in the way our government handles this issue. For one, in the US, chemicals are "innocent until proven guilty" so to speak. In order for a chemical to be banned, it must be proven harmful. Whereas in most other countries, chemicals are only allowed in products once they are proven safe. Additionally, the toxic load allowed for products is based on single products only. So your moisturizer may be under the harmful threshold, but when you use toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, foundation, lip gloss, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer (as many of us do), you could easily be 10 times beyond the safe limit for carcinogens and harmful chemicals. The load is exponentially heavier on fetuses and infants (ADHD? Autism?), and some of these chemicals can impact your ability to conceive. It's just something to think about while you have plenty of time before becoming pregnant. As you run out of certain products, you might look at it as an opportunity to search for a homemade version or a more natural/organic version. The documentary "Bag It" is a fantastic resource on this subject. It's on Netflix or Amazon. There's also something about becoming pregnant that makes the "mama bear" gene kick in. It made me just want to protect my baby with my whole being, which included protecting the womb from harmful chemicals. If you have a year or so to make the transition, it might save you from frantically running through your house throwing things away. I'm just sayin'...
5. Medications. If you're taking any medications, consider how they might impact pregnancy. It is my belief that many health problems can be cured or managed with dietary/lifestyle changes, but it takes time and commitment. Time is on your side now, so it's something to think about. For example, allergy medication seems to be used quite frequently these days. Raw, local honey can help fight seasonal allergies, as can avoiding cow's milk.
6. Chiropractic care. I never really heard about chiropractic care before moving to Omaha. It seems to be more popular in certain regions, but I've been blown away by how fabulous it is. Of course, you want someone reputable and experienced, but they can really help to give you a healthy nervous system, which impacts overall health and every system in the whole body. I feel awesome since starting chiropractic care and acupuncture, which is also done by my chiropractor, and it is all covered by insurance.
I guess that's about all I can think of for now. Do you readers have more suggestions?