Guest blog by Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach.
The months before you begin trying to conceive (TTC) are a critical time for both you and your future child. The foundation you lay now will help you conceive more easily, be healthier and stronger throughout your pregnancy, and bounce back faster afterward. For your child, the positive results can last a lifetime.
If you have a condition such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), you may have been told that you may not get pregnant or that you will have trouble getting pregnant. That is not necessarily true. It may take a bit longer and require some lifestyle changes, but there is a high probability that you will have a successful pregnancy if you focus on your overall health and increasing your fertility ahead of time. Taking control of your hormones and understanding the signs and needs of your body is the key.
Before your try to conceive, 5 things to do before TTC to increase your chances of getting pregnant, maintaining pregnancy, and giving birth to a healthy baby with a healthy mom.
1. Know your health status.
Begin by assessing where you can make lifestyle upgrades. There is good data to suggest that taking 3-6 months to improve your diet and exercise regimens can improve your fertility, chances at a healthy pregnancy, and the health of your child. Even if you think your weight is where it should be, get screened for diabetes (fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and the diabetes marker hemoglobin A1C). Even lean women with PCOS have an elevated rate of insulin resistance and diabetes in pregnancy, so it’s best to know where you stand prior to pregnancy.
Next, have a complete thyroid panel. Many women with PCOS have hypothyroidism and they don’t know it. Women with untreated thyroid issues can have reduced fertility, high blood pressure, anemia (low red blood cell count), and muscle pain and weakness. There is also an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), or even stillbirth. Download my PCOS Labs Guide and insist that your doctor order a complete thyroid panel, not just TSH.
Finally, have your androgens tested (testosterone, both free and total testosterone, and DHEA). If you haven’t had any of the initial blood work done at all, test your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), your luteinizing hormone (LH) and estradiol, as well as anti-Mullerian hormone and progesterone.
2. Know your cycle.
You can only become pregnant during a brief period of your ovulation cycle. It is important to know when you are fertile so that you can improve your chances of getting pregnant. Since it can be difficult for women with PCOS to get accurate readings with ovulation predictor kits, understanding your cycle through a fertility awareness method is critical if you are TTC. There are many methods and devices on the market to help track cycles. Not all trackers are created equal, however. Many with PCOS have a continually rising progesterone curve that makes predicting ovulation particularly challenging.
3. Detox 6 months before TTC.
Pregnancy and lactation are not the time to detox. It takes 3 months for an egg to mature before ovulation. Since it takes time to improve egg quality, give yourself time to reduce your exposure to toxins in your environment, food, cleaning, or beauty products. You might consider doing a gentle whole-food detox like my Sparkle Cleanse Program which helps your body eliminate toxins and teaches you how to reduce endocrine disruptors in your life. A 2009 study by the Environmental Working Group identified 232 different industrial compounds and pollutants in the cord blood of 10 infants. If you don’t reduce your body’s burden of toxins before your try to conceive with PCOS, your baby will be more vulnerable during both pregnancy and lactation.
4. Reduce insulin levels.
Metabolic issues can affect egg quality, implantation, and placental development. There is also a higher risk of pregnancy loss and an increased risk of gestational diabetes in women who have metabolic issues like insulin resistance. It is important to take the time to increase your insulin sensitivity months before you get pregnant. Changing your diet, exercise, prioritizing sleep, and managing stress will all help. If you have PCOS, start here.
5. Choose the right prenatal supplement.
Take a high-quality prenatal vitamin to ensure that your body is properly nourished and prevent deficiencies. This will reduce the chances of non-PCOS related causes of pregnancy complications. Since approximately 30% of women have issues with metabolism of folic acid due to a gene called MTHFR (methyltetrahydrofolate reductase), choose a prenatal vitamin that contains methyl-folate instead of folic acid, which may be labelled as L-5-MTHF or L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate.
Planning and being proactive are the absolute best things you can do to ensure fertility and a healthy pregnancy. Of course, there are many things beyond this list that can be done. I didn’t even touch on stress management or the impact of the health of the father. Most importantly, use this time to focus on your physical and mental health, and remember to enjoy the experience.
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.