Family planning is an important step in preparing for birth. Many women are misinformed on what happens during a menstrual cycle, but it can often take 6 months to a year to normalize ovulation. Below, I have outlined some ways to prepare for your body for pregnancy.
I do want to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about fertility/infertility journeys and miscarriages/early pregnancy loss. Family planning can quickly turn from exciting to emotionally overwhelming. If you and your partner experience complications and difficulty with conceiving, please consider finding professional therapy. Taking care of your mind, body, spirit, and partnership can be challenging in this time. There are therapists who specialize in supporting couples through fertility journeys.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 10% of known pregnancies end in early pregnancy loss, for reasons that are not in our control. Following the recommendations below, or not, pregnancy loss is not anyone’s fault. There is a time for joy and a time for sorrow, and part of parenting is learning to stay present to the time you are in.
Let’s discuss 5 ways to feel healthy and empowered to create and grow a baby!
Switch to Barrier and Fertility Awareness Method for birth control.
- According to ACOG, perfect use of this method to prevent pregnancy, results in 95-99% success rate. This method consists of knowing when you are fertile during your menstrual cycle and using barrier birth control such as a condom during that time.
- Reasons to switch to this method as soon as possible: Hormonal birth controls including oral, dermal, intravaginal ring, and some intrauterine devices (IUD), completely inhibit ovulation, or release of an egg from an ovary. This means that your body is not producing progesterone, a vital hormone for maintaining pregnancy after contraception. It takes an egg about 100 days to ovulate, so it may take 3 months after discontinuing hormonal birth control for your ovaries to release an egg. Give your body time to regulate, by switching birth control methods.
- Exercise: Start tracking your menstrual cycle using a tracking app or a diary. Keep track of your waking basal body temperature first thing in the morning before rising from bed. Learn when during your cycle you ovulate, and use abstinence or barrier methods during sexual intercourse between born-female and born-male partners.
- Tip: Daysy is a great tool to help you track.
Get to know your Flow.
- Your menstrual cycle is a good reflection of your general health. If you have heavy bleeds/clotting, long/short cycles, intense premenstrual pain, or mood swings then chances are, your body is not in optimal health. Did you know, during ovulation, your body releases white/yellow cervical mucous? Ovulation is necessary for pregnancy. Take the time to track and learn about your menstrual cycle and how it relates to your overall health.
- Exercise: Track using the method mentioned above. If you find any inconsistencies in your cycle, seek guidance from a Naturopathic Doctor. Resolving your short cycles could be as easy as adding iodine to your diet!
- Tip: Talk to your female family and friends about their periods. It’s a great way to learn about your own cycle and create awareness of period health.
Clean up your diet and detoxify.
- Did you know that certain foods, products, and environmental factors influence your hormones? This is due to toxins such as pesticides, preservatives, antibiotics, chemical additives, heavy metals, and endocrine disruptive products. Estrogen is regulated through the liver. However, if removing and storing toxins overburden the liver then it impairs estrogen metabolism and detoxification. Removing toxins from the liver takes time so let’s get started now!
- Exercise: Follow the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen when grocery shopping to learn which produce needs to be organic.
- Tip: Download the Think Dirty App to screen household and skincare products.
Start an inner-work practice.
- Stress has a direct effect on hormone production and regulation. When stressed, your body reduces production of hormones that promote ovulation. Since family planning may be a source of stress, it is important to begin a meditation practice now. Exercise is also an important step to regulating hormones and stress. Consider seeking a physical therapy evaluation by a women’s physical therapy specialist in order to optimize body wellness.
- Exercise: Build a daily meditation practice beginning with 5 minutes a day. Connect your body to your breath and use this time to practice being present in the moment.
- Tip: Download Insight Timer App, a free meditation app.
Start an outer-work practice.
- Outer clutter creates inner clutter. Consider evaluating your environment. Now is the time to make space for your growing family. Sort through things that are no longer bringing you joy and develop a narrow focus for what you allow in.
- Exercise: Take inventory of social, work, creative, home, health, romantic, and financial clutter in your life. Consider letting some friendships go and spending more time on friendships that you find truly fulfilling. Perhaps now is the time to realign and work-life balance. If there is a hobby that you have let go, find a way to bring it back in your life. Create a space in your home and your body for this new life that is free of stress. Set a time every week fully devoted to bonding with your partner.
- Tip: Consider using a budgeting app to reduce financial stress. Download YouNeedABudget (YNAB) to manage expenses.
Content contributed by Dr. Grace Abruzzo PT, DPT, CAPP-OB, PYT-C, CD-DONA
Hello! I am physical therapist and wellness coach in Los Angeles specializing in pelvic health for women. I use an integrative approach to treating women in preparation and recovery from childbirth. You will also find me in the birth room, providing Mamas support during labor and birth. I love reminding women how powerful they are.