Checklist: Getting Ready to Get Pregnant

If you want to get pregnant, there are a number of things you must do before you start trying. Item number one: Go skydiving. Because there’s no way they’ll let you jump out of that plane once you’ve got a baby on board!  Do you think I’m kidding? Well, skydiving is not my thing, personally, but really any high-action activity you want to do or trip you’ve been meaning to take should be considered before you become pregnant. Whether it’s scuba diving, mountain climbing, or riding all the roller coasters at Six Flags, do it now!

But aside from that, here are some important things you’ve got to tackle in order to be mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to get pregnant.

image: Saida Online Magazine

Consider genetic testing: Some genetic diseases affect certain ethnic groups, such as Tay-Sachs in the Ashkenazi Jewish community, and sickle cell disease, among African-Americans.  If a disease runs in your family, you may want to get tested to, for your own peace of mind.

Face up to the Scale: Aim for a healthy weight, as being underweight can affect ovulation, and being overweight contributes to problems like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Take a look at your diet: The healthier your body, the better chances you give your baby to start life healthy, too. Cut back on white flour, sugar, and processed food. Add more lean meats, low-fat dairy products, fruits, veges, and whole grains.  Yummy home-made soups and smoothies are great ways to sneak in good nutrition!

Exercise: If you already have an exercise routine, don’t slack off during pregnancy! And if not, well it’s never too late to start, but talk to your doctor about easing into it.  Some benefits of a good workout (or even a nice walk around the neighborhood) include preparing your body for childbirth, higher energy levels, better sleep, stress reduction, and reduction of pregnancy-related discomfort. Plus, if you stay fit during pregnancy, you will regain your figure quicker after the birth.

Take Folic Acid: This all-important B vitamin helps lower the risk of birth defects like spina bifida. These defects form very early in baby’s development, before many women even realize they’re pregnant, so ask your doctor about taking a supplement as soon as you think about wanting to get pregnant.

Talk to your doctor about your medications: Some are best to stop taking during pregnancy, while some are OK– or necessary– to continue with.  You should not make this judgement on your own!

Visit the dentist: Good oral hygiene is one of those things we encourage during pregnancy.  Getting a bacterial infection can lead to premature birth and preeclampsia. Plus, better not to get x-rayed while you’re pregnant.

Cut back on Caffeine: A little bit is OK but too much is no good for a growing baby. The caffeine also affects fertility, so cutting back may increase your chances of conceiving.

Cork up that bottle, and throw the cigarettes in the trash where they belong. A healthy baby needs a healthy environment to grow in!  He should follow your lead and not just for moral support:  Excessive drinking and smoking can lower sperm count, too.

Paint the nursery: And the dining room, pantry, and bedroom too, if you want! But don’t do it while you’re pregnant or have a newborn in the house.  Toxins such as pesticides, oven cleaners, paint, and paint stripper contain chemicals that have been linked to birth defects.

Hand over the kitty litter sifter: Sure, it might just be a good excuse to get out of an unpleasant job. But it is true that litter boxes contain parasites that can make you sick (it’s called toxoplasmosis). So let hubby do the job, or wear gloves and wash up carefully when you’re done.

Work that budget: Finances shouldn’t have to stand in the way of having a family!  Sit down with a financial planner if you  need to, and figure out how you can put some money away for prenatal care and raising your baby.  Also find out about your company’s maternity leave policies,  your health insurance’s prenatal care and childbirth policies, and look into life and disability insurance.

Be emotionally prepared: Women who have given a great deal of thought to what pregnancy and parenting entail are better adjusted later on, compared with those who did not consider the demands their new role will place upon their lives. As a couple you need to think about how a pregnancy and new baby will  impact your family, work, and psyche.

Can fertility be affected by what you eat?

Yes, according to Pregnancy Examiner!  Lackluster nutritional habits and deficiencies may impair hormonal function and inhibit proper ovulation in women, or sperm production and viability in men, thus reducing the chances for conception.

On the journey to parenthood, fertility issues are split pretty evenly between men and women. It’s important to visit a doctor, OB/GYN or fertility specialist, who can run tests and do blood work to diagnose any underlying obstacles that need to be addressed in order to get pregnant. But in addtion to these efforts, there are dietary choices that can help boost fertility for both men and women.

Fertility Boosters for Her

Water: Staying hydrated helps maintain optimal health and proper reproductive function.

Spinach: Leafy green vegetables like spinach contain folic acid which is important for preventing birth defects and is a vital ingredient for producing viable eggs. It is also rich in antioxidants and iron.

Yellow and Orange Vegetables: Beta carotene, an antioxidant, has been shown to maintain hormonal balance and ward off miscarriage.

Broccoli and Cabbage: Cruciferous vegetables contain a phytonutrient called DIM that helps with estrogen metabolism. They are also known to prevent fibroids and endometriosis in women.

Carrots, peas and sweet potatoes: Containing beta-carotene, these veggies help regulate the menstrual cycle, thus improving chances for conception.

Strawberries, blueberries, oranges, papaya, kiwi and cantaloupe – Full of vitamin C and antioxidants, these fruits offer healthful reproductive benefits to women trying to conceive.

Meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products: Protein is made up of amino acids which are vital for viable egg production and for making LH and FSH, important fertility hormones. NOTE: Scientific research suggests women who get more of their protein from PLANTS and less from animal sources have fewer overall ovulatory issues.

Whole grains: Try to consume natural unrefined whole grain bread products, as the refining process removes more than 15 key nutrients, such as B vitamins and iron.

Oysters: With an abundant amount of zinc, oysters are known fertility enhancer, however high mercury levels from seafood have been linked to miscarriage. Think moderation.

Fertility Boosters for Him

Water – To maintain optimal health and proper reproductive functions, one must remain optimally hydrated.

Spinach* – Rich in antioxidants and full of folic acid and iron, leafy green vegetables are a vital ingredient for healthy sperm.

Red vegetables* – Containing lysopene, tomatoes are a carotenoid and are a known sperm count enhancer. 

Fruit* – Oranges contain the antioxidants glutathione and cryptoxanthin, which are associated with strong, viable, healthy sperm. Strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe and papaya offer wonderful healthful benefits as well.

Meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products (Protein) – The amino acids in protein are vital for sperm production.

Oysters – With an abundant amount of zinc, oysters are known fertility enhancer. Be certain to monitor mercury levels when consuming seafood. One Dutch study cites sperm production increase by up tp 74% by using a zinc and folic acid supplement.

Vegetarian sources of protein – Beans, lentils, brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds – Pumpkin seeds (¼ to ½ cup a day) are naturally high in zinc and essential fatty acids which are vital to healthy functioning of the male reproductive system. Sunflower seeds are a great source of protein, which is also vital for optimal sperm production.

Whole grains – Try to consume natural unrefined whole grain bread products, as the refining process removes more than 15 key nutrients from grains such as B vitamins and iron.

Organic foods – Switch to organic foods. Some studies suggest chemicals and pesticides used on foods can impair sperm viability.

*Studies have indicated the more fruits and produce a man consumes, the less sluggish his sperm is.

Source: Pregnancy Examiner

Obesity, Bariatric Surgery, and Pregnancy

Morbidly obese women are often infertile, according to The Consumer Guide to Bariatric Surgery, but if they are able to become pregnant, they are considered high risk.  These women are more likely to experience pregnancy-related complications, including gestational diabetes, hypertension, preeclampsia (high blood pressure, fluid buildup in the body and protein in the urine during pregnancy) and fetal distress. And they are more likely to require a cesarean or C-section delivery.

So is it safe to become pregnant after weight loss surgery? If so, how long should you wait? What can you do to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery after gastric bypass, gastric banding or other bariatric surgery? While many questions remain, the latest reports suggest that pregnancy after bariatric surgery is actually safer than becoming pregnant while still obese!

According to Science Daily, a recent study published in International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics finds that women who undergo bariatric surgery will reduce the risk of medical and obstetric complications when they become pregnant. The study was conducted by researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s (BGU) Faculty of Health Sciences.

The study indicated that the risk of gestational diabetes alone drops by 60 percent when an obese woman has bariatric surgery before getting pregnant. There were significantly lower rates of hypertensive disorders in general and severe pre-eclampsia in particular, as well as lower rates of diabetes mellitus and anemia following bariatric surgery.

Science Daily reports that the prevalence of people who are overweight or obese has increased dramatically in high-income countries over the past 20 years. In the United States, for example, some two-thirds (65.1%) of Americans aged 20 years or older are considered overweight; one-third (30.4%) are considered obese, and 4.9% are morbidly obese. Between 1999 and 2002, close to one-third of women of childbearing age in the United States were classified as obese.

In response, the incidence of bariatric surgery in the United States increased by 800 percent between 1998 and 2005. The Consumer Guide to Bariatric Surgery asserts that women of reproductive age (18 to 45) accounted for 83 percent of these weight loss surgeries (more than 50,000 women each year).

Wait Before Attempting Pregnancy After Bariatric Surgery

Women of childbearing age who wish to become pregnant after gastric bypass surgery or other malabsorptiove surgeries such as the duodenal switch procedure should wait 18 months, because this is when the rapid weight loss occurs. It can be challenging to meet nutritional needs during this time without the added concerns of pregnancy. Such rapid weight loss may deprive a developing fetus of the nutrients it needs to grow and thrive.

Gastric banding induces more gradual weight loss and does not cause any nutritional issues. Women who get banded should wait about six months before becoming pregnant so they will be at a healthy weight during pregnancy.

Women who are overweight or obese may have difficulty getting pregnant, but weight loss increases fertility. In fact, infertility issues linked to obesity are often resolved as hormones return to more natural levels.  Most surgeons advise women of childbearing age to use reliable contraception during the waiting period.

Will You Need a C-Section?

There is no medical reason that women who have become pregnant after bariatric surgery should require a C-section delivery, but they do seem to be more likely to deliver via C-section. Talk to your obstetrician about your chances of needing a C-section delivery as well as your preferences for delivering your baby. While a C-section is a relatively safe way to deliver a baby, it does carry more risks than vaginal delivery.

Make sure your Nutritional Needs are Met

The Consumer Guide to Bariatric Surgery advises you to make your obstetrician aware of the type of bariatric surgery that you had, and be in contact with your bariatric surgeon during your pregnancy to make sure you and your baby are getting proper nutrition. You may be referred to a registered dietitian to help make sure you are getting proper nutrition during pregnancy. Women who have had gastric banding have the same nutritional requirements as women who have not had gastric banding. Women who have had malabsorptive weight loss surgery such as gastric bypass or biliopancreatic diversion may need regular blood tests to check for nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy.

Prenatal vitamins are an important part of a healthy pregnancy and contain many essential nutrients. Women should start taking prenatal vitamins before they even become pregnant.

Gastric Banding: Special Pregnancy Issues

Gastric banding surgery is adjustable. Some women who are pregnant require deflation of the band due to severe nausea and vomiting, which can occur during pregnancy and as a result of gastric banding. This is typically an individual decision. If you are having severe morning sickness, your bariatric surgeon may deflate the band to help you feel better. Your surgeon can also loosen your band so you can eat more. However, many women don’t have to touch their band at all during pregnancy.

Women who have undergone gastric banding before pregnancy may have trouble tolerating over-sized prenatal vitamins. They may develop heartburn, or the prenatal vitamin may remain in their esophagus, causing ulcers. Talk to your obstetrician about chewable or liquid prenatal vitamins to avoid these complications.

Breastfeeding After Bariatric Surgery

Women who become pregnant after bariatric surgery can still breastfeed, provided there are continued nutritional monitoring and supplementation. Talk to your surgeon, obstetrician, a lactation consultant and/or a registered dietician to make sure you and your baby are getting all the nutrition you need.It’s also important to make sure you are drinking enough water so your milk does not dry up.

Please visit The Consumer Guide to Bariatric Surgery to find out more about weight-loss surgery and pregnancy-related issues.

Smart Fats: Breast milk, Omega-3’s, and Baby IQ

When it comes to proper nutrition, there’s a lot of talk lately about omega-3 fats: “smart fats” that are  found in especially high amounts in seafood, as well as some plants (like flax seed oil, canola oil, nuts, and seeds).  Growing brains, especially those of infants and small children, need omega-3 fats in order to function properly.

Human breast milk is a high-level source of omega-3 fats may explain why breast-fed babies have a higher IQ than those who are not. In the words of Dr. Sears:

Oceans of recent research show that omega-3 fats make brains healthier, especially the brains of young kids and older adults. Researchers believe that the high levels of omega-3 fats in breast milk help to explain the differences in IQ between children who received human milk in infancy and those who did not. The body uses omega-3 fats to make cell membranes. Omega-3 fats are also needed to make myelin, the insulation around nerves, and to help neurotransmitters function at the optimal levels. Omega-3 fats are known as essential fatty acids from food. Other types of fats can be manufactured in the body, but the body cannot make essential fatty acids. That is why it is important for growing brains to get adequate amounts of these smart fats from food. If there are not enough “smart” fats available to make brain cells and other key substances, the body uses lesser-quality fats and produce s lesser-quality cells. The “dumb” fats (known as replacement fatty acids), the kind that come from the trans fats in hydrogenated oils, clog the receptors in the cell membrane, and the brain cell does not function well.

Neurotransmitters, the biochemical messengers that carry information from one brain cell to another, fit into receptors on cell membranes like a key fits into a lock. The keys and the locks must match. If the cell membrane is composed of the right fats, the locks and keys match. But if the receptors are clogged with the wrong fats, the neurotransmitter keys won’t fit, and the brain-cell function suffers. Omega-3 fats keep the receptors open so the neurotransmitters fit and the brain can function optimally.

For more info on omega-3’s and children’s health, visit these links:

A.D.D. or N.D.D. (Nutritional Deficit Disorder)?

Smart Foods for the Teenage Brain

Food for Thought: Best Brain Food

Dr. Sear’s L.E.A.N. Program: Making kid nutrition fun, tasty, and easy! nutrition fun, tasty, and easy

Your pregnancy diet can decrease baby’s risk of obesity

What pregnancy eating style do you think would contribute toward obesity in children? A high fat diet? Too many extra calories? Junk food? Well, none of those are good for your growing baby, but here’s some surprising news: Women who eat too little during pregnancy increase the risk of obesity in their children! Go figure!

Researchers have discovered eating too few calories while pregnant changes the way that a baby’s fat cells behave once they are born.  It causes excessive levels of inflammation which can damage the body’s ability to metabolise food, which leaves the youngsters at risk of putting on excessive weight.

The study is headed by Dr Helen Budge, who reminds us that what a mother eats while pregnant can have a large impact on the health of their baby in later life.  Instead of viewing obesity as entirely the fault of the individual, pregnant women must realize that genetic and environmental factors play a huge part. “What is particularly interesting is that we are not just talking about babies that have been malnourished while in the womb but those that are born within normal weight ranges,” says Dr. Budge.

Over-eating is similarly harmful too. So what is the advice? A healthy, balanced diet, of course!

Confusion reigns: Food for the mom-to-be

In her tongue-in-cheek article,

Judith Woods “raises a glass (of fish oil) to commonsense advice on what she can and can’t consume while she is pregnant.”

If you feel yourself being slowly driven mad by all the headlines dictating what a pregnant woman should or should not eat, you will enjoy this commentary on the “daily cascade of health warnings, and nutritional do’s and don’ts,” which are definitely promoting the belief that “there’s never been a more terrifying time to be pregnant.”

Six years ago, when the author was pregnant with her daughter, things were different. More relaxed. Of course she knew enough to cut out the cigarettes, and she even avoided peanuts for fear of allergies. But that was the extent of many women’s awareness of proper pregnancy nutrition.  (You may be horrified to know that she was even “known to indulge in the occasional glass of celebratory champagne.” *GASP*)

“But times have changed, and, in 2008, it’s a very different story…. We must apparently ditch our coffee habit (risk of miscarriage), avoid chocolate (too much caffeine), eschew burgers and chips (sumo baby syndrome, culminating in a whopping 13lb-er with a lifelong obesity problem), give a wide berth to swordfish (high levels of mercury) and, my favourite; steer clear of killer milk (unpasteurised milk can contain salmonella) – although short of driving to Hertfordshire and hijacking a Holstein friesian with a bucket in my hand, I have no idea where I might ever come across it.”

And to make matters more confusing: “We are now being encouraged to eat peanuts by some experts, who believe that exposure to nuts while in the womb will prevent rather than cause allergies.”

Tap water, alcohol, olive oil, broccoli, and spicy food (“toddlers who turn up their noses at spicy food are likely to be branded racist”)… Eat a lot? Eat a little? Don’t eat at all?  Wherever you turn someone else is offering new (and often conflicting) advice!

What’s the bottom line?

“It’s true that we are getting bombarded by more and more health stories about pregnancy, which can make women feel very stressed – my daughter went through hell when she was pregnant,” says Peter Bowen-Simpkins, medical director of the London Women’s Clinic and spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists…. “It’s important to remember that the risks are very low… Yes, you should take basic precautions, but not to get so fixated that you don’t enjoy your pregnancy.”

Preparing for a Healthy Pregnancy: Proper Nutrition is vital

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You can start preparing your body for pregnancy now, even if you are not thinking about starting a family for another few months or even years.  To ensure that you and your baby have the best chance at good health, take a few extra steps to prepare for this important phase in advance. In today’s health-conscious society, you have more choices than ever when it comes to proper nutrition.

Following are five healthy habits to consider before attempting to conceive, as reported by Sally Watts at Charleston.net.

Fat can be good!  According to Dr. Craig Koniver, owner of Primary Plus Family Medicine and founder of The Center for Organic Medicine in Charleston, most with women of childbearing age do not consume enough healthy fat. Healthy omega-3 fats can be found in fatty fish, such as salmon or sardines, as well as foods that contain flax. You can control your omega-3 intake with fish oil and/or flax-seed oil.

Take your vitamins!  It is critical that you take a balanced prenatal multivitamin that contains folic acid, as well as other healthy minerals. Folic acid is vital to fetal development and guards against several congenital malformations. Dr. Koniver also suggests taking selenium, a trace mineral crucial for proper immune system and thyroid function.

Keep the fruits and veges coming!  You should try to consume as many organic fruits and vegetables as possible. Avoiding pesticides and fungicides will help maintain the delicate hormone balance during pregnancy, says Dr. Koniver.

Keep refilling that glass of water! To keep all body systems running smoothly, it’s important to stay hydrated.  A woman’s total blood volume increases by 20 percent or more during pregnancy, and hydration is critical in maintaining health.  According to the March of Dimes, lack of proper hydration can trigger preterm contractions.

Cut back on coffee!  The March of Dimes also suggests women cut back on caffeine before they become pregnant, as caffeine has been linked to miscarriage in studies. For those with a slight caffeine addiction, it’s better to kick the habit before pregnancy begins so you can avoid the struggle once you conceive.

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