How to Build a Better Baby Bump
December 21, 2018 11:31 PM   Subscribe

I will be trying to conceive in the next year. What can I do to get my body ready? What can my husband do to get his ready? Details within.

I am a woman in her 30s married to a man in his 30s and we will be attempting to conceive soon. My goal for the next few months is to prepare my body to have as safe and healthy a pregnancy as possible.

I know there are “unknown unknowns” that are beyond my control, and luck plays a part here. But I want to do as much as is within my control.

YANMD, I am not seeking medical advice. What changes (in diet, lifestyle, or anything) can you recommend that are based on evidence? (No folk medicine please, I already got that part covered). I am aiming for a healthy pregnancy and hopefully no miscarriages. I would also like my recovery from birth to go as smooth as possible.

I am already taking a prenatal multivitamin that contains folic acid. Does it make a difference what form of folic acid I take?

I would also like to know what my husband can do to improve his viability. I already got him a lap pad to use with his laptop so his goods don’t overheat. XD Anything else he should be thinking of?

We both have anxiety and ADHD, we are slightly overweight, he has depression, and he has GERD. We are getting treated for all of these conditions. We are otherwise in pretty average health.

If you can link to studies/articles/sources that is preferred, but not necessary. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Vitamins, healthy diet, exercise regime.

Also, pregnancy can cause dental problems in some women so if you have any outstanding dental work that needs to be done it would be good to get it done before getting pregnant.

Also, think about adjusting your long term and short term disability if you are lucky enough to have such an option through your employer. It’s like a worst case scenario but some women puke for all 9 months. If I had known I was going to be one of those people I would have adjusted my insurance for the higher payout.

Such an exciting time!
posted by MadMadam at 11:52 PM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I would see your doctor and talk about it. You also need to decide if you want genetic testing done. Now may be a decent time to talk about your views on child's health issues and general end of life issues, if you haven't yet.

I would also cut back on caffeine before you start trying.

I would also get a new hobby for yourself. Something social or that you're really into. Trying can take awhile and it's good to have other fun things you are invested in. Good luck.
posted by Kalmya at 2:19 AM on December 22, 2018

If you’ve already done 23 and Me, run your raw data through Genetic Genie and see if you have the MTHFR gene mutation. It can cause fertility issues, among other things, and is usually addressed by taking a specific kind of folate supplement and avoiding the type found in many prenatal vitamins. (MTHFR testing is now one of the first steps a fertility specialist will take if you have had multiple miscarriages.)
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:34 AM on December 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Start a modest exercise routine if you don’t already have one. 15-20 minutes a day is fine.

Read Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Even if you decide not to do any fertility tracking, I found it very empowering to understand what’s going on.

Let go of the idea that you can prevent a miscarriage. For the most part, they are not something control. Sometimes they happen; hopefully it won’t happen to you, but if it does, it’s not your fault and there’s a good chance that a single miscarriage is not a reflection on your likelihood of a successful pregnancy next time.
posted by Kriesa at 4:35 AM on December 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

For your husband (all of this is varying degrees of anecdotal/only likely to have a marginal effect, and some might not even be worth it until you're basically ready to start trying) he can:

- start/maintain/improve a cardio-focused exercise regimen
- eat better
- quit drinking, or at least curb his drinking
- switch to boxers/retire his skinny jeans
- stop using non-stick pans (because Teflon might be an endocrine disruptor?)
- start reorienting his identity to one centered entirely around service to you. If your experience is anything like ours was, for the first several months/years of that child's life it is going to be shockingly dependent on mom and largely uninterested in/unimpressed with the interventions of dad, and therefore dad's best chance to make a positive contribution in the baby's life on a day-to-day basis is going to be to support and help mom in every possible way, both practically (all cleaning/cooking/bill-paying/grocery shopping/yard work etc. should default to dad) and to only question her if he genuinely believes that either her or the baby's life is in danger period end of discussion. Probably not a bad idea to go ahead and start practicing now.
posted by saladin at 5:06 AM on December 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

Build a network of mothers. If you have close friends who are pregnant or have children let them in on your plans and start asking them their conception and birth stories. Continue/start supporting them with your time and attention.

If you don’t have friends like these, check if your local library needs volunteers during story hour or if another toddler focused place in your community needs your help.

What you want is a network of people to talk to while you are trying to conceive, while your pregnant, and after you have the baby. Learning “skills” from these folks will be a bonus. It’s about building your community now.

(Speaking from the experience of getting pregnant through IUI at 35. 18 months of trying. Have a 14 month old now. My friends and new friends have been EVERYTHING to me. memail me any time; consider this the start or continuation of your network!)
posted by CMcG at 5:49 AM on December 22, 2018

If you have any hint of core weakness or low back problems fix them now! You want your core/pelvic floor/back/hips/butt in good shape and strong to prevent pain and instability in pregnancy. Do planks, squats, etc. check out Katy Bowman or Spinning Babies for some good ideas.
posted by john_snow at 5:51 AM on December 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

Start tracking your period on a calendar. If your cycles aren’t similar length, let your doctor know. It could indicate that your anxiety is affecting your ovulation or another condition like PCOS.
posted by tinymegalo at 6:00 AM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Read take charge or your fertility and it starts with the egg.
With TCOYF, this is to understand how your cycle works and most people nowadays use apps to chart their cycles... Fertility Friend is an old school looking interface but people love it. There are other apps like Glow, Clue, and Ava (which comes with a braclet) but their predictive algorithms aren't so great. Fertility Friend is the gold standard. Ovulation Prediction Kits (OPKs) are cheaply found on Amazon and are your best tool in the toolbox.
Some of the recommendations in it starts with the egg, which is explicitly diet and lifestyle changes, based in science(y), might be too far for you (like maybe you don't want to get rid of all of your plastic Tupperware or you don't want to make extreme diet changes) but overall it is pretty good. The list of supplements that they recommend seems to be echoed by many people's doctors. Some of them are a little expensive so shop around a bit for a good price.

Now is a great time to get into a good exercise routine!

Good luck. It is harder to get pregnant than most expect.
posted by k8t at 6:17 AM on December 22, 2018

I highly recommend this book, which is basically written to answer this question: Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility. It's a blend of evidence-based and folk medicine (which I found fascinating; although I'm personally much more interested in the evidence-based parts, the overlap can be very intriguing). It covers a lot of stuff with regards to exercise, diet, supplements, fertility tracking, etc.

In my case, we tried for 6-7 months unsuccessfully, I got frustrated and read this book, implemented some changes, and got pregnant two months later. Anecdotal, but I definitely believe the changes helped. (One key thing I figured out was that an OTC med I was taking was drying up my cervical mucus, reducing fertile days.) I wish I'd read it before we started! I think it would have saved me a few months of anxiety and frustration.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 7:50 AM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Since you asked about recovering from childbirth as well: do your kegel exercises regularly. They don’t have to be anything fancy. But 10x a day will help you figure out which muscles to use to push the baby out when the time comes, and it will also help with your recovery.
posted by colfax at 8:06 AM on December 22, 2018

I just had a baby 6 months ago. We didn't plan the pregnancy; things I wish I had had time to do prior to baby to get my body ready:
- visit the dentist (they won't give you X-rays or do invasive work while pregnant unless absolutely necessary)
- get my body in shape via exercise, especially my abs/back/pelvic floor (i.e. kegals). Pregnancy and postpartum has destroyed the little strength I had in those areas of my body. Honestly, this is the biggest one for me. Exercise now while you still feel good in case you have a pregnancy where you feel nauseous or shitty a lot of the time (like I did, ugh). I guess also my arm strength - postpartum, picking up my baby over and over again has actually been pretty tough, and I keep using my back instead of my arms because they are super weak. I wish I had built up some muscle there too prior to pregnancy and birth.
- prenatal vitamins. Sounds like you are on top of this - my doctor told me that pretty much any of the ones you can find in a pharmacy or Target or whatever are fine to take. You can discuss with your doctor if you're worried about that.
- reduce caffeine intake (you are allowed to have some caffeine while pregnant, ask your doctor about how much, but I was drinking an intense amount of coffee prior to being pregnant and it wasn't good that I had to quickly reduce it a lot, I got the shakes and headaches and stuff, ugh!)

Good luck! :-)
posted by FireFountain at 9:39 AM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I went through fertility treatment and I believe there is nothing you can do to “improve fertility”. Particularly in your mid-30s, it is what it is. So what I would recommend is:

- Start tracking your cycles. I highly recommend Taking Charge of Your Fertility to understand how your cycle works, and how to know when your peak fertile period is. Then, have sex, that’s it.
- Go to a fertility specialist and get tested to see what state your eggs are in and your husband’s sperm. You may want to do this after 6 months of active trying since it won’t be cheap.

Otherwise, sure get in shape, drink less alcohol, drink more water, go to the dentist, take folic acid, save money. These won’t improve fertility but are sensible ways to prepare for pregnancy in the event it occurs.

Sorry to sound pessimistic, I’m trying to sound realistic. (I have a 6 week old as I type this).
posted by like_neon at 10:24 AM on December 22, 2018

If you eat a modern diet that ends up being even remotely balanced you don't even need prenatals, really, just folic acid supplements.

I suggest that instead of focusing on the physical aspects (really, bodies gonna body) you focus on the emotional ones. Anxiety can ramp up dramatically during pregnancy, for both psychological and physiological reasons. Hormones can royally mess with you and you'll be well served to have some tools to temper the anxiety and some good support in your OB's office.

Fertility tracking is one sure fire way of improving your chances at conception and please take comfort in the fact that there is nothing much that you can do that increases the chances of miscarriage. Accepting that, by and large, there is a huge lack of control is part of the process to help the anxiety also.
posted by lydhre at 11:53 AM on December 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think meeting with your doctor is a good idea. In particular, to ask if it's a good idea to be off of any of your meds during pregnancy, so that you can do a trial run and see if that's possible. Better to find out now if you can cope without a med with some support or if you feel like you're completely losing it, before it's mixed in with pregnancy hormones to confuse things further. (I had the latter outcome, which gave me the confidence to continue the med during pregnancy. Your sanity is important too.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:02 PM on December 22, 2018

Strengthen your wrists, thumbs, and arms, especially in dynamic ways like pulling resistance bands and moving medicine balls around you, picking them up from crib height, pulling weight towards you from car-seat angles, cradling weight at nursing or feeding angles, etc. Babies need to be lifted a lot, once you have one the load and its ability to thrash unhelpfully increase quite drastically for about 6 years, and they aren't ergonomic!

Plus, after pregnancy, tendons and joints can get weird. I know several new moms who got painful carpal tunnel type issues in their thumbs and wrists from lifting their babies.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:06 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Quoting - "What changes (in diet, lifestyle, or anything) can you recommend that are based on evidence?"
Therein lies the rub. Unless you can access scientific journals there is little beyond personal anecdote (or headline baiting pop-sci articles that should be avoided) to share. Folic acid, iron, and vitamin D and C deficiencies are well known to cause problems and can be easily searched for on the internet - just stay with reputable sites.

Learning to eat a balanced diet is the best suggestion one can give. That means cooking at home for most people, whilst learning what foods are either proteins, starches, or vegetables. And fiber - you are really going to want proper dietary fiber in your life. Supplements can help and should be used as directed by your physician but can also hurt if overused.

Quoting - "What changes (in diet, lifestyle, or anything) can you recommend that are based on evidence?"
In regards to your weight, it is probably not an issue unless you are being untrue with yourself. Slightly overweight is fine, obese is bad and problematic, in between is something you need to discuss with your physician.

Activity level is an entirely separate and combined issue - take a 5 pound / 2 kilo incompletely filled sack of small beans with one end marked around for a few days. Can you easily manage a five minute walk, ten minutes of dancing around trying to soothe the sack, personal hygiene, a crying jag, talking on the phone, getting dressed while not dropping it or letting the marked end sag? If mostly you are probably just a normal human, if everything you are strange, if anything was impossible you then please exercise.

Quoting - "What changes (in diet, lifestyle, or anything) can you recommend that are based on evidence?"
On the personal evidence of life - please don't make this into a job, quest, or punch list. Enjoy each other - hope for the best and plan for the worst - happiness always helps. Good luck
posted by iStranger at 10:38 AM on December 23

Edit: mea culpa

Activity level is an entirely separate yet combined issue - take a 5 pound / 2 kilo incompletely filled sack of small beans with one end marked around for a few days. Can you easily manage either a five minute walk, ten minutes of dancing around trying to soothe the sack, personal hygiene, a crying jag, talking on the phone, or getting dressed while neither dropping it nor letting the marked end out of your hands? If mostly you are probably just a normal human, if everything you are strange, if everything seems difficult then you should consider exercise.
posted by iStranger at 10:58 AM on December 23

I know you're not specifically looking for book recommendations, but I just wanted to recommend the metafilter-favourite Expecting Better by Emily Oster. It is a thoroughly evidence-based book that is not patronising or anecdotal. She takes you through the research on various pregnancy-related topics, and if you're anything like me just being able to look at some solid statistics will actually make you feel better, even if a lot is still out of your hands. There is a section on conception and the data around fertility, there are also (I thought) some decent, not scare-mongering chapters on exercise and weight during pregnancy.

My one useful take away from this is, as other people have mentioned above, pelvic floor exercises! There is solid evidence that people who do pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy experience fewer incontinence issues in later pregnancy.

I don't mean to be a downer, but you are right that there is an element of luck involved in this, sadly in particular regarding miscarriage. Again, I'm not trying to be negative - there are obviously behaviours which increase or decrease your risk. I lean toward anxious myself and it makes me feel better if I am doing everything I can in terms of what I can control - then it makes it easier to accept what I can't, so this question makes sense to me. It just happens that most miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities, and that is sadly out of your hands.

Best of luck, and take care of yourself. I'm pregnant now and the "trying" phase was very odd - it felt like everything was in limbo while I was waiting to get pregnant. Someone upthread mentioned getting a hobby and they're probably onto something!
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 2:10 AM on December 24 [4 favorites]

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