The Dr. Maura Practice’s fertility expert Dr. Shannon Cavanaugh shares her top five non-negotiables.
As the year winds to a close, we start to think about the new year and goals. So many of my patients start to think baby right about now. It’s the perfect time to think about prepping your body from a preconception standpoint. I recommended starting to prepare three to six months before you want to conceive. It takes 120 days for a follicle to mature into the egg that will eventually be ovulated. That’s 120 days, or 4 menstrual cycles, to positively impact the health and viability of the egg you’ll conceive with! What you do in the months prior to conception matters on many levels pertaining to your health and the baby’s health, so here is my list of top 5 things to start now for a pregnancy in the new year.
First and foremost, get started on a prenatal! Nutrition repletion and optimization takes time so the sooner you start, the better. Taking a prenatal ahead of time ensures that you have all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to keep you and baby healthy through pregnancy. I recommend professional grade and 3rd party tested supplement companies like Designs for Health’s Prenatal Pro and Seeking Health’s Optimal Prenatal.
Disclaimer here, and also my second point, supplements do not replace a healthy, well-rounded diet! Now is the ideal time to focus on clean eating, increasing protein, and emphasizing fiber. If you aren’t already, make sure you are getting a variety of colorful vegetables in your diet including at least one serving with every meal. Focus on organic and fresh fruit, especially dark berries. Don’t forget about protein! In pregnancy your body will need upwards of 75-100 grams of protein per day. Getting in the routine of eating this much protein pre-pregnancy will help your current body composition and set you up for success post-conception.
Now is the time to get caught up on your healthcare- yearly physical exam and lab work. When I start with a new patient, I’m doing basic bloodwork at different points in your cycle to see how your hormones are doing, as well as nutritional markers, a thyroid study, metabolic markers and basic screenings, if you haven’t had them done recently.
In addition to the basics, I recommend functional lab testing to check everything from hormones to nutritional markers. If something comes back abnormal we have time to improve it and not let it affect your plans to conceive.
There is such a wealth of information to be had from functional labs to help optimize fertility: Adrenal Stress Profile, Advanced Nutrient Evaluation (which is excellent at giving us a lens into egg health), Food Sensitivity Testing, Comprehensive Stool Analysis and Dutch Hormones Comprehensive Hormone Testing and Cycle Map (which tells us what your hormones are doing throughout the entire month!).
Reliably determine your fertile window. Cycle tracking is an art-form and can take a few cycles to really feel confident about. I recommend patients stick to the basics and use basal body temperature, ovulation prediction kits, and track their cervical mucus. Using all three of these methods will give you the most accurate fertile window. To make basal body temperature tracking easier and more reliable I recommend devices like Temp Drop arm band, the Ava wristband, and the Oura ring. Check out my detailed cycle tracking guide here.
Last but not least — connect with your partner, it takes two! What are some things you and your partner can start now to foster and grow your connection? I recommend prioritizing date night and becoming experts in each other’s love language. You are each other’s teammates, so remember to validate one another’s feelings and take extra care of each other during this time. If you’re thinking of conceiving on your own, you can easily transfer this advice to connecting with yourself and the chosen support squad you want around you through pregnancy and birth.
The time before conception is a special, and crucial, time — reach out to us if you’d like to work with us on a personalized approach to your own journey to pregnancy.