Preparing for Natural Conception
There comes a time in many women’s lives where they decide they want to have children. This is a big step in our lives and it can mean a lot of changes for women to become prepared both mentally and physically to conceive and then carry a child in their womb for nine months. There are ways that one can prepare for this step in their life by understanding what an ideal menstrual cycle looks like, helping to fix anything that is preventing the body from the ideal cycle, and then incorporating a holistic diet and lifestyle to set up the body for its best chances at success.
Keep in mind that it takes 90 days for an egg to fully form, so any diet and lifestyle changes that have begun now will take 90 days to affect the egg. Starting early is key, but if you are reading this and already trying to conceive, that’s okay too! Any changes you make that will help your body during this time will be beneficial.
Healthy Menstruation An ideal menstrual cycle is typically 28 days (this is tracked from the start of menstruation to the start of the next menstruation), though a cycle can occur every 21-35 days for some. Menstruation lasts 3-5 days, symptoms of PMS are nonexistent or minimal, and bleeding is not too heavy (i.e. bleeding through a tampon takes hours) nor too light (i.e. having to only use panty liners during “heavy” days). Ovulation occurs in the middle of the cycle (e.g. for a 28-day cycle, ovulation occurs around day 14), giving balanced follicular and luteal phases. Cervical mucus presents itself as clear, with an “egg-white”, stretchy consistency a few days leading up to ovulation.
Days You Can Conceive The chances of getting pregnant each month, even if you time everything correctly is generally about 33%.
Ovulation occurs for only one day during each menstrual cycle. This is when the egg travels down the fallopian tube and waits to be fertilized. After ovulation, it can only live for about 12 hours before - if it is not fertilized, it will die.
Sperm can last up to 5 days in the vagina and when you are trying to conceive, you can start as early as 5 days prior to your day of ovulation. You can have intercourse daily for all days leading up to ovulation as well as on the day of ovulation, or you can have intercourse every other day which allows time for more semen to be replenished, thus giving you greater odds by the number of sperm available.
How To Prepare Your Body To Conceive
Get in Touch with Your Ovulation While it is not always necessary to track your ovulation in order to get pregnant, it certainly helps to make sure your timing is right which can increase your odds of conceiving. It will also help you determine if you are ovulating each month, which is imperative for conception. Tracking your cycle month-to-month is helpful as it is easy to forget what past cycles looked like, and history is good to have for any future analysis you may want to do. Find an app on your phone ( Flo or Clue are great options), a free chart online, or write it down by hand daily.
Track the following:
Days of bleeding and heaviness each day
Days of cervical mucus and what it looked like
Basal Body Temperature (BBT) - this can help to determine when the shift in hormones happens from the follicular phase into the luteal phase. Body temperature will increase ½ - 1℉ after ovulation.
Days of intercourse
Anything significant going on in your life - a stressful day, a day of sickness, a very emotional day, etc. Any type of change to regular activity for your body, either mentally or physically, can affect the timing of your cycle and everything that goes on during the cycle
As with anything, it is best to have several months of data to look back on before determining if your cycle is regular or irregular. In order to determine an irregular cycle, it must be irregular for at least 3 months in a row. It is normal to have an irregular cycle every once in a while, as emotional or physical stressors can throw the body off balance and cause it to shorten or lengthen your cycle that month. It can also change the number of days menstruating, the day of ovulation (e.g. you always ovulate on day 14, however, you were very stressed this month and it ended up occurring on day 17), or the length of either the follicular or luteal phases.
This history is also helpful to show a specialist in the health industry, if you are struggling to conceive, as this data helps them to understand your cycle and can help tailor any recommendations they have for you.
Identify Any Hormone Imbalances If you read the section on "‘Healthy Menstruation’ and it was nothing like your own cycle experience, you may have a hormone imbalance. Fixing these imbalances are important as the closer our cycles are to ‘ideal’, the better chance we give our body to conceive. Having a Dutch test done is the best way to determine any hormonal imbalances in the body.
Identifying imbalances is the first step. To begin regulating your hormones back to balance in the body, try some of the recommendations listed below.
Supportive Daily Tools
Work to decrease stress in the body as it blocks the HPG axis
Spend A little time in nature daily
Get 10-20 minutes of sun exposure daily
Daily Meditation + Deep Breathing
Daily movement in any form
Remove any xenoestrogens from plastics, cosmetics, and body care products
Use the Environment Working Group website, or Think Dirty app to help you find clean products
Maca - A wonderful herb for the reproductive system. Reduces side effects of hormone imbalances and as an adaptogen it helps to bring the body back into balance. Try 1 tsp - 1 tbsp (start slow) in a smoothie or drink daily. Capsules are also an option.
Vitex - Regulates ovulation, increases fertility, and increases progesterone (if low). Try in capsule or tincture form following the dosage indicated on the bottle.
Evening Primrose Oil - Contains omega-3 fatty acids, like lactic acid and GLA. It helps to bring hormones into balance and can treat any side effects from those imbalances. Try 2000 mg/day in capsule form.
Dong Quai - Helps to regulate the menstrual cycle, and maintain healthy estrogen and progesterone levels. Try 3000 mg/day in capsule form.
A prenatal multivitamin - Try in capsule form following the dosage indicated on the bottle.
EFAs - needed for healthy hormone function. Look for an EFA that contains a good amount of DHA
(600-1,200 mg/day). A 3:1 ratio is best.
Zinc - Used for the production and utilization of hormones, playing an important role in cell division. Try 25 mg/daily in tablet form.
Magnesium - Helps in the production of ovarian hormones. Try 400 mg/daily in bisglycinate or citrate form for best absorption.
Probiotics - promote gut health and immune function (start at 3-5 billion CFU and increase to 10-20 billion CFU daily).
Other Helpful Tips
Support Your Liver Supporting your liver is a great way to help your body with detoxification. Regardless of what we put into or onto our bodies, our liver works tirelessly for us to help detoxify all the ‘bad’ things. When we support our liver, we work on easing up the load of toxins that we put into or onto our bodies, so that it has more time to look inwards and clean up other systems in the body. That means it will be better able to help us eliminate any excess hormones we may have (such as estrogen) or do any other general ‘spring cleaning’ that can allow us to feel lighter in our bodies.
Often, supporting the liver by alleviating the toxic load for a set period of time can help our bodies go back into balance (i.e. regulate our hormone levels, help us achieve an ideal cycle, etc.). Note that if you are on the Birth Control Pill (BCP), or other form of hormonal birth control and are/have come off it in order to conceive, the body may have built up some excess estrogen and it could use a cleanse to help it all be eliminated. If you are going to do a detox, make sure you are doing it at a time when you are not actively trying to conceive as detoxing means cleaning out the body, and it’s not the best time to do so when creating a new life. The best time to do this would be immediately after getting off of hormonal birth control for a few weeks up to 3 months in length (depending on the strength of your cleanse), and then trying to conceive afterward.
It’s recommended to do a light cleanse, incorporate whole foods, herbs, and drink plenty of water. Avoid processed foods, fast food, sugar, dairy, conventionally grown meat, food additives, and if you would like as well, gluten.
Liver Healing Foods to Incorporate:
Dandelion & Burdock Root Tea
Liver Herbs to Incorporate:
Dandelion Root - Causes an increase in bile production and flow to the gallbladder, and it causes the gallbladder to contract and release stored bile.
Yellow Dock - A powerful blood and lymph cleanser that helps to increase both digestive enzymes and stomach acid to aid in digestion.
Burdock Root - Restores and stimulates the liver and gallbladder, and provides a mild diuretic action to the kidney
Water: Be sure to incorporate enough water into your body daily. It helps to remove all the toxins from your body via the kidneys, and detoxification of the body will only work as well as how well you are able to eliminate the toxins through the bowels, kidneys, and skin. Water plays a key role in all these functions. To drink enough, divide your body weight (in lbs) in half, and convert that amount to oz. That is how much you should be drinking daily. For example, if you weigh 140 lbs, you need to drink 70 oz of water a day, or 8.75 cups of water.
Eat Clean Regardless of if you cleanse your liver or not prior to trying to conceive, eating clean is a way that you can take the stress off your body daily. Follow the 80/20 rule when eating clean, as you don’t have to be so strict that you can’t enjoy a treat (or two!), but be mindful of what you put in your body daily. Look to eat plenty of whole foods including leafy greens, organic meats and dairy, a variety of beans and legumes, and a lot of water. Make sure meals are filled with plenty of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in balance to allow meals to be filling and satisfying to your body. This should not feel like a diet! If you really love treats, look up some recipes to recreate your treats in a healthier way. Ideally look for recipes that are gluten-free, dairy-free and are low in sugar. Remember to drink plenty of water daily, and to limit the amount of dehydrating liquids consumed (e.g. coffee, black teas, pops).
Tend to both Mental & Physical Health Making sure you have a balanced lifestyle, both mentally and physically, is key in helping your body to conceive. You want to be at a place where your body & mind feel good.
Stress Management manage your stress by finding ways to decrease it or release it. This may mean spending more time in nature, daily meditations, deep breathing, or baths. Find something that feels good for you.
Get Regular Exercise All bodies benefit from a regular exercise routine. Find a form of exercise that works best for your body, and that does not put negative stress on the body, and do it 3-4 times a week. This may be anything from brisk walking to, hiking, pilates or yoga. Strenuous exercises like running, spin class or hiit training can often be too intense and send stress signals to the body which dysregulates hormones.
Get Plenty of Sleep Sleep is the time when our bodies repair and rebuild. Give your body enough time nightly to do the work it needs to in order to help you feel refreshed and restored. Everybody is different but aim to get at least 6-8 hours a night. Work on a bedtime routine to help you settle in for a great sleep.
Work Through Your Feelings If you find you often ruminate in your thoughts about things that happened or will happen, it could be causing mental stress on the body which can also manifest as physical stress. Try to release these stressors from the mind as they often have a negative impact on the body. Especially when it comes to fertility and the ability to conceive. Allow things to flow naturally and trust that your baby will come through when it’s time. Releasing negative thoughts and stressors is an essential element that is often overlooked. Try journal writing or speaking to a therapist to work through whatever is ailing you, ruminating or letting these patterns or thoughts run your mind will wreak havoc on your hormones. Find tools or a support system that feels good for you!