Trying to Conceive: Covering the Bases
In my previous blog/vlog I discussed some of the things I focused on to increase my fertility in the months leading up to when we started trying to conceive. When I received my thyroid panel results from my Doctor (which came back in optimal range), we started trying. I took some additional considerations and precautions prior to and during this time that I want to share with you today. This blog is based solely on my experience and should not replace recommendations of a qualified healthcare professional. Any medical/health decisions you make should always be discussed with your Doctor.
Menstrual Cycle Tracking
Tracking your menstrual cycle is wise, not only when trying to conceive, but at any point in your life. Being in tune with your cycle will give provide you with body awareness that is essential to becoming your own health detective. There are several different apps you can use. I have an iPhone. I used the basic, free version of the app iPeriod.
Tracking During Weight Loss
Many women try to lose weight prior to getting pregnant. As discussed in my previous blog if you are overweight, attaining a healthy body weight can improve fertility, chances or sustaining a pregnancy and health throughout your pregnancy.
Monitoring your cycle and any changes during the weight loss process is what I consider to be mandatory bio-feedback tracking when dieting. While your cycle length may change slightly when losing weight, there should not be any drastic changes in the signs of ovulation, when you ovulate, PMS, your menstrual flow and you should definitely NOT miss your period. Consider any significant changes in your cycle an indication that you likely need to make dietary/training adjustments. Problems commonly stem from not eating enough fat, drastically under-eating, not implementing a diet re-feed, avoiding carbs for extended periods of time, too much exercise or overall stress.
When tracking your cycle you should try to pinpoint when you ovulate. Pay attention to the signs such as light spotting, slight change in skin appearance (oily), clear cervical mucus, slight changes in the appearance of your lady bits, increased sex drive, tender breasts, bloating and mild cramping. You can also use ovulation test strips. My ovulation signs were very consistent and obvious. They had been for years. We conceived the second month we tried, however I was just about to order ovulation test strips just to be sure. I like to eliminate as much guess work as possible so using test strips is something I highly recommend. Trust me, once you start trying, if you miss you’ll regret not using them.
Another option is basal body temperature charting. This method can also be used to monitor thyroid health. While I think this method can be helpful I wouldn’t rely on it solely as there is a large margin for error. You must have the right type of thermometer and use it correctly. Here is a link to what you need to know before buying a basal body temperature thermometer, and another link about how to chart your basal body temp.
Low progesterone is a common reason why some women have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Tracking your cycle, and ovulation is a good way to determine if you might have low progesterone and need to seek the advice of a medical professional. Once you have determined when you ovulate you need to track the length of your leutal phase .
Your luteal phase is the time between ovulation and your period. It should last 11-14 days, which is the lifespan of the corpus luteum—your ovary’s temporary progesterone-secreting gland. If your luteal phase is shorter than 11 days, then it’s because your corpus luteum did not form properly. This is called a luteal phase defect, and is associated with low progesterone. If you are using a body temperature tracking your body temp should go up and stay up from ovulation until one day before your period. If it doesn’t then this could also be a sign of low progesterone. I mentioned the clear cervical mucus that women expericene during ovulation – this mucus should only be present for a few days when ovulating. If it continues to persist until you menstruate that could also be a sign of low progesterone. While some spotting during ovulation is normal, continued spotting during the luteal phase is also a sign of low progesterone.
Experincing any of these symptoms on a regular basis would be a good reason to seek out further blood work and possible treatment, especially if you are having trouble conceiving.
As I discussed in this blog, I sarted taking floate 3 months prior to when we started trying to conceive. If you have not planned to get pregnant be sure to add it to you daily regimen as soon as you find out you are pregnant.
Aside from some basic vitamin and mineral supplements – which didn’t pose any pregnancy contradictions – I was also taking a thyroid support supplement (T3 Fuel), which contained minerals and herbs. I was also using Creatine, Carb Shock, Whey Protein supplementation on a regular basis. I had to stop using T3 Fuel, Carb Shock and Creatine due to lack of research/warnings about specific ingredients in these products during pregnancy/conception. I’ll discuss whey and leucine in an upcoming blog about my nutrition in the first trimester.
Regardless of WHAT supplements you take, I highly suggest you look them up to find out if they contain any ingredients that should not be taken while pregnant, or wanting to become pregnant. Sometimes there are direct warnings on the bottle, but you often need to look up each ingredient individually. This research takes a little time and effort but it is essential. If you haven’t planned your pregnancy or you get pregnant and you don’t have time to do the research immediately, I would eliminate any questionable supplements as a precaution and only add them back in once you have time to do your homework and confirm your findings with your Doctor or Midwife.
I should point out that some supplements have warnings for pregnant women but they are actually safe. An example of this would be cranberry pills for UTI (urinary tract infection) prevention which is common during pregnancy. My research turned up warnings, however my midwife approved use if I ever feel like I’m getting a UTI. A good rule of thumb is to check everything yourself and then double check with your health professional.
Caffeine and Other Fun Stuff
I typically only have 1 coffee in the morning. Given my hectic schedule at the end of the summer I was having 2 cups in the morning (most days) and I was also having an espresso shot before training about three times per week. I cut this back to 1 half-caf in the morning. This would have been a smart move even if I wasn’t trying to conceive: elevated stress levels + more caffeine is never a good combination.
Studies show that women shouldn’t drink more than 200-300mg of caffeine per day when trying to conceive and while pregnant (this includes all forms of caffeine, not just coffee). While I cut back as a precaution, my midwife has since advised that I can have up to 2, 8oz cups of coffee per day. I’ll probably stick with one. Being wired on caffeine with pregnancy nausea isn’t much fun. I’ll blog about my training during my first trimester but I want to point out that I eliminated all pre-workout caffeine. Auto regulating my training during pregnancy has been key, and it has been a finicky task. I didn’t want caffeine masking any signs that would help me safely auto-regulate what I was capable of each day.
I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, but obviously that would be something that you would need to address if you do, and by address I mean STOP. Let’s talk about lube while were on the topic of fun stuff. I can’t speak from experience but I have read that certain types of lubricant can decrease your chance of conception. In this case I suggest doing exactly what I did with my supplements, do your research!
I know I sound like a broken record but stress management is always a priority (FYI; chronic stress can negatively impact progesterone levels). While I’m well aware that some stressors are out of our control, how we react to them isn’t. Reducing overall stress can also be achieved by not creating self-imposed stress. Take it from me, someone who used to be a chronic worrier, you can unlearn the self destructive habit of compulsive worrying.
In the case of trying to start a family, my age was one factor that was out of my control. I didn’t meet my husband until my mid thirties and when we originally wanted to start a family we were delayed when I found a lump in my breast. My Doctor insisted that I do not become pregnant before the pathology was confirmed. Thankfully the lump was benign but they could not determine this from a simple biopsy. It required surgical removal and the following pathology reports which was a long drawn out process that delayed our plans to start a family for almost a year.
During this time I started to sense my biological clock ticking (for the first time ever) which triggered stress that I hadn’t previously experienced. I think this was a normal adjustment to our new goals given the circumstances. When I was eventually cleared to get pregnant much of the stress moving forward was relieved by taking the steps discussed in this blog. I was confident that I wasn’t unknowingly sabotaging my chances of conceiving or overlooking some obvious fertility red flags. By covering my bases I had no legitimate reason to worry about my age, so I didn’t.
I hope this blog has helped those of you who want to start a family. Like most things in life, I suggest focusing your energy on the things that will provide you peace of mind and improve your chances of success rather than worrying about things are out of your control.