Guest Blog by Courtney Bloom, a yoga teacher and naturopath who writes for a variety of health and exercise blogs from her home in Maine.
When preparing for pregnancy, a healthy diet and good night’s sleep are essential – and maybe more so than you think. Lifestyle choices and eating habits can affect your chances of conception as well as your future baby’s health and wellbeing. If you’re trying to conceive (TTC), keep these tips in mind:
Understand Your Sleep Schedule
Sleep deprivation affects your health and can lead to reduced immunity, weight gain, moodiness and an inability to cope with stress, according to Web MD. Stress, a poor diet and being overweight can increase a woman’s risk of infertility, according to the CDC. When you’re TTC, you want your body to be at its best. Help it help you by getting the rest you need.
There are two main types of sleep: Non-REM (NREM) sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The former consists of four stages, each deeper than the last. The latter is when you do most of your active dreaming. Together, these stages form a complete sleep cycle, which typically lasts about 90 minutes and repeats four to six times during the night, according to HelpGuide.org. If you are feeling sleep deprived, it may be because you are waking up during the middle of your cycle. Try setting your alarm to wake you up at a time that’s a multiple of 90 minutes from when you fall asleep. For example, if you go to bed at 11 p.m., set your alarm for 6:30 p.m. Chances are you’ll wake feeling more refreshed because you were at the end of your sleep cycle rather than in the middle of it.
Increase the Quality
Light affects how much melatonin — a hormone that makes you sleepy — your body produces, according to Web MD. For this reason, it’s helpful to regulate light when you’re trying to sleep or trying to awaken. Consider using window blinds to block out bright city lights at night yet allow light to filter in in the morning.
The quality of your sleep can be disrupted by other factors, such as traveling across time zones, working the night shift, stress or too much exposure to artificial light at night, according to HelpGuide.org. When you’re TTC, maintain a consistent sleep cycle to allow your body to be rested, healthy and at its best.
Know Your Nutritional Needs
There isn’t a specific diet known to promote fertility or increase the chances of conception, notes the Mayo Clinic, but a healthy diet is still important. When preparing for pregnancy, the Mayo Clinic suggests adjusting your diet to include the basic nutrients you’ll need when you’re pregnant:
Folate and folic acid: 800 micrograms a day. Good sources include leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and dried beans and peas. Prevents birth defects.
Calcium: 1,000 milligrams a day. Good sources include milk, yogurt, cheese, juice, spinach and salmon. Strengthens bones.
Vitamin D: 600 IU a day. Good sources include fish, juice, milk, asparagus and eggs. Builds bones and teeth.
Protein: 71 grams a day. Good sources include lean meat, fish, eggs, poultry, dried beans, peanut butter and cottage cheese. Promotes growth.
Iron: 27 milligrams a day. Good sources include poultry, fish, red meat and dried fruit. Prevents anemia.
Have a Healthy Pre-Pregnancy Diet and Lifestyle
Exposure to toxic substances can negatively affect the reproductive systems of men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contact with these materials can make it more difficult to get pregnant and can lead to disease. Protect your fertility by avoiding synthetic chemicals, bug spray, fertilizer, cat or rodent feces, alcohol, tobacco and street drugs. Your partner should do the same. Exposure to lead, heat, radiation and chemicals as well as the use of drugs (legal and illegal) and cigarettes can lead to male reproductive problems, such as lowered sperm count, and abnormal or altered sperm shape according to the CDC.