Special thanks for Carly Hartwig, holistic reproductive health advocate and fertility awareness educator through CLWC, for today's post!
Did you know that it takes six months for an egg to mature? This means that the lifestyle changes you make for six months prior to conception will majorly affect your pregnancy and your baby’s development. The good news? There are some super easy steps you can take that will make a huge difference! As a fertility awareness educator, here are give things I recommend doing (and I did myself!) when you’re trying to conceive.
1. Swap your prenatal
Have you checked the nutrition label on your prenatal lately? Because sadly, a lot of the big brands out there are majorly lacking in nutrients that are critical for mama and baby! It’s essential to start a prenatal at least six months before you start trying to conceive to get your nutrient stores up but quality really does matter. It’s also important to look for absorbable forms of nutrients, including methylfolate. And don’t forget the choline! It’s often overlooked (and completely missing from many major brands!) but it’s just as important for brain and spine development as folate. I personally look for the “Clean Label Project” certification on my supplements, too. I tried over a dozen brands before finding Beli. Some made me nauseous, others I could barely get down (I’m talking 8-10 capsules in a serving), and then the rest didn’t contain any choline. I was so happy when I found Beli, as the three minty capsules a day didn’t make me nauseous and it had the highest level of choline out of any prenatal I’ve seen.
2. Take your prenatal daily
Your prenatal won’t be supporting your fertility (and your baby’s development once you conceive) if it’s sitting in your cupboard. Try leaving it next to your toothbrush so you’ll have a better chance of remembering it every day. You can take it morning or night, but I recommend taking it with food and not on an empty stomach.
3. Clean up your personal care products
Did you know that our bodies can easily absorb certain ingredients through our skin? Some ingredients are known to be unsafe during pregnancy and others are TBD (more research is being conducted). Start reading your ingredient labels on things like skincare, makeup and bath/body products and avoid products that contain retinol or other retinoids (these can cause serious birth defects), hydroquinone, and prescription-strength salicylic acid (over the counter products are likely fine).
I also encourage you to avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates and parabens, as there is some data linking them to reproductive issues later in your baby’s life (including impaired development of sex organs). Parabens will be on the label (typically with a prefix like methylparaben or propylparaben), but phthalates aren’t always listed. To be safe, avoid products with the word “fragrance” or “parfum” on the label, as that indicates there are undisclosed ingredients and phthalates are likely one of them. Lastly, I’d encourage you to switch to mineral sunscreen since the active ingredients aren’t absorbed into your skin like chemical sunscreens. Just don’t skip the sunscreen because your skin becomes even more sensitive to UV rays in pregnancy and exposure can cause hyperpigmentation! I personally used Beautycounter’s skincare and makeup during pregnancy and my pre-conception window. The products are free from harmful ingredients, including endocrine disrupting chemicals, retinoids and known carcinogens, and every batch is triple tested against 23 health and safety points, including cancer risk and reproductive risk.
4. Clean up your household products
Similarly to your skincare, you’ll want to avoid toxic ingredients in your cleaning products too. Switching to less-toxic cleaning products will support your overall health and especially your respiratory health. Avoiding products with bleach and fragrance is a great place to start. Fortunately you can clean your home effectively without both. Branch Basics is my favorite cleaning products and I love that you can clean your whole house with just one concentrate. It’s completely free from added fragrance too which is great, especially since many pregnant mamas become extra sensitive to scents. If you want to disinfect, Force of Nature is a great EPA-registered disinfectant that’s completely free from toxins. It converts salt, water and vinegar into a powerful disinfectant.
5. Ditch the plastic
I mentioned avoiding phthalates in skincare but another huge source of exposure is plastics. Phthalates are used to make plastic more durable, so using more glass containers is a great move when you’re trying to conceive. If you do have to use plastic containers, avoid heating food directly in them (and if you get takeout, remove the hot food as soon as possible). Not only does heat expedite the leaching process for phthalates, but it also allows microplastics and bisphenols to leach into your food or beverages. Bisphenols (including BPA) are known endocrine-disrupting chemicals so it’s especially important to avoid them when you’re trying to conceive, as they can impact your hormones, and when you’re pregnant, as they can impact your baby’s reproductive development.