Trying to Conceive? Follow the 90-Day Preconception Checklist
So, you’re thinking about trying to conceive?
Or maybe you’re already trying?
Trying to conceive (aka TTC) is a special time in a person’s life, as it marks a transition into familyhood (or larger familyhood!). Congrats! We are so excited for the journey you’re about to embark on, whether it’s a natural conception or one that needs a little assistance from a fertility specialist.
My name is Linda Connolly, and I am the nurse manager for the Trumbull office at RMA of CT. I have been with RMA of CT for over 18 years, so I’m privileged to have been a part of so many family-building journeys, all with their own unique paths. The one thing all these stories have in common, though, is the preparedness we wish for our patients and how we help them become the healthiest version of themselves before we embark on treatment.
At RMA of CT, we always implement the 90-Day Preconception Checklist, and as an experienced nurse, I’ve seen how important it is to a patient’s journey.
What is the 90-Day Preconception Checklist?
Since your healthy pregnancy is our number one goal, we have developed the RMA of CT 90-Day Preconception Checklist. The checklist is uniquely designed to achieve a positive pregnancy outcome, and most importantly, a healthy pregnancy experience. The checklist covers a variety of lifestyle pillars, including nutrition, lifestyle habits, emotional preparedness, and personal finances.
We have seen that by making the small adjustments to your lifestyle 90 days prior to conception, you not only improve your personal health, but you also improve your fertility chances.
Want to take this Preconception Guide to-go?
What Can I do to Better My Chances of Becoming Pregnant? The Checklist.
This is one of the top questions I am asked as a fertility nurse. “What else can I be doing to better my chances of getting pregnant?”
Enter: the 90-Day Preconception Checklist. Let’s get to it...
First, I tell them to start with any lifestyle changes that can be amended, such as limiting alcohol. Since it is not known on how much alcohol it takes to cause fertility issues or problems in a pregnancy, the safest and best advice is to avoid alcohol altogether if you are attempting pregnancy or are pregnant. Research has shown that even drinking lightly can increase the time it takes to get pregnant by affecting ovulation, which can make it difficult to conceive.
Another lifestyle change that I quickly redirect is smoking. There’s no other way to say it, but… quit smoking! Smoking and second-hand smoke can have a huge impact on fertility and is also associated with miscarriage because it impacts egg quality. So, if you or people around you smoke, consider taking steps to quit and avoid the second-hand smoke.
Limit Exposure to Environmental Risks
Additionally, we recommend that you avoid any exposure to environmental chemicals such as cleaning products and gardening chemicals. Avoid chemicals like synthetic fertilizers or bug sprays. These substances can injure reproductive systems for both men and women and make it more difficult to become pregnant. Always refer to safety labels and precautions on products.
I am also asked about caffeine intake quite a bit. It is advised that you limit caffeine consumption to two 8-ounce cups of coffee a day. As long as you aren’t consuming high amounts, greater than 150mg per day, you should be fine. Also, watch for hidden sources of caffeine found in tea and sodas.
Nutrition and Physical Activity Changes
Consider Your BMI
Let me be very clear: You don’t have to have a BMI of over 18 or under 25 to get pregnant! Every body is different and deals with different challenges, and people both under and over that threshold can and do have success. Let’s find out how to give our own bodies, no matter where they fall on the BMI spectrum, the best chance at fertility…
Having said that, both being underweight and overweight can be impactful on your fertility. Hormones and metabolism play a major role in fertility, and by being either underweight, (BMI < 19) or overweight (BMI >30), you can throw off hormones which impact menstrual periods and ovulation.
If you are in the higher end of the BMI spectrum and are trying to bring that number lower, you should consider increasing your physical activity such as walking, swimming, or even yoga. it has been shown that by losing 5-10% of body weight may positively impact your fertility.
Your weight loss does not need to be dramatic in order to increase your chances of conceiving. Any movement toward a normal BMI range will help. Alternatively, if your BMI is lower than 19, then you may want to consider reducing your exercise routine and/or upping your caloric intake.
Establish a Healthy Diet
That’s easy to say, sure, but what does it mean to eat healthfully? Let’s get into it.
A healthy diet is one of the first steps you can take to create the foundation for a healthy pregnancy. Therefore, it is also recommended to consult with a nutritionist. If you’re a patient of RMA of CT, that would be Dietitian Nutritionist Jill Hickey. Hickey recommends eating a balanced diet that is inclusive of the following:
- whole grains
- lean proteins
- heart-healthy fats such as unrefined oils like olive, flax seed, and canola
- Other heart-healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and omega-3 fish oils that are low in mercury, such as salmon are also great choices.
Your nutritionist can offer suggestions for healthy, individualized nutritional options to get you closer towards your individualized BMI goals. Our nutritionist is a wealth of information.
Looking for a fertile-friendly diet plan?
Another consideration could be a health coach to assist you in all these lifestyle areas. At RMA of CT, that would be Monica Moore APRN. This role can help you in accomplishing your personal goals by working around individualized schedules and personal circumstances that may make goals more achievable.
So, it’s clear that having a healthy diet can contribute to a healthy BMI and therefore, increased chances of fertility and a healthier pregnancy. These two changes (BMI and nutrition) are interconnected.
Don’t be concerned with following a strict diet, as the goal is a healthy foundation. Remember, it is more about developing a healthy lifestyle now, so that you are fit, healthy, and ready for all the joys and challenges your future baby will bring!
Take a Prenatal (and Double Check All Your Other Nutrients, Too!)
Another important component of the checklist is to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients necessary for a healthy pregnancy.
Start by beginning a prenatal vitamin that contains an appropriate amount of folic acid, 800mcgs-1mg suggested.
Picking a prenatal vitamin can feel overwhelming.
Make sure that your vitamin D is greater than 32 ng/ml. It is easy to have this checked to ensure that your vitamin D is in a healthy range by doing a simple blood test with you doctor. Boost important foods that contain vitamins and minerals such as leafy greens and dairy.
Drink plenty of water and avoid sodas. Drinking water will aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Bear in mind that no single eating plan is best. You just want to make sure that you are getting the appropriate calories and nutrients. Fresh whole foods are the best to ensure you are avoiding pesticides and other chemicals.
Get the Flu Vaccine
You should avoid getting the flu while pregnant, so making the vaccine part of your checklist is crucial.
Avoid Certain Foods
Avoid processed foods high in sugars and artificial sweeteners.
Avoid fish that may contain high levels of mercury such as tuna, mackerel, shark, and blue fish.
Don’t eat unpasteurized cheeses like feta, brie, and goat. Avoid deli meats as well, as these can contain listeria.
Feeling overwhelmed? Never hesitate to ask your health care support team for their expert advice if you are feeling unsure.
Mental Health and Support
Now that you are preparing for your pregnancy journey it is also very important you take positive steps to achieve your goal for a healthy pregnancy by taking care of your emotional health. Our emotional health is how we think, feel, and act as we cope with the stress that surrounds this process. The best way to manage these feelings are by utilizing all available resources that your fertility clinic provides.
Incorporate Stress Management and Meditation
At RMA of CT, we have an entire team devoted to your mind/body wellness. We offer resources dedicated specifically to your mental wellness, including multiple social workers on staff. Additionally, to incorporate stress management and relaxation, we offer fertile yoga taught by Lisa Rosenthal, a well-known advocate in the fertility community.
Why is this important? Meditation can lower stress levels by decreasing your heart rate and slowing your breathing, allowing you to relax and destress. Lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, has also been shown to increase fertility outcomes.
Consider Support Groups or Talking with a Professional
Sometimes it is helpful to seek the advice and expertise of a fertility counselor during this process. They are experts in strengthening existing coping skills or even developing new ones allowing for more effective communication. It is exciting preparing for pregnancy, but it can also invoke unforeseen stresses. We suggest finding a social worker that specializes in fertility or family building.
At RMA of CT, we have two licensed social workers on staff, Melissa Kelleher and Lisa Schuman, that specialize in this area. Some patients see them as individuals or couples. The goal is to reduce stress and make this journey a positive and even enjoyable one.
Identify Family and Friends to Serve as Support
Friends and family may be helpful during this journey, but only choose those that you consider to be truly good listeners and supportive. I make sure to let my patients know about all our support options because considering a support group that shares your similar journey can be truly empathetic.
Finally, we need to address the practical matters of this pregnancy journey, which includes the financial/insurance concerns.
Check Health Insurance Coverage
Your first step: check your health insurance coverage and family building benefits allowance. All plans are different per customer, so it’s important to ask all the right questions.
If you are an RMA of CT patient and have any questions regarding benefit plans, feel free to contact your RMA of CT financial counselor to discuss cost of fertility and insurance options.
Budget for Your Plan
Next step: make a plan with your partner, if you have one. How much will all this cost, realistically? How much will you need to save each month? Basic budget planning now can save you a lot of time, stress, and dollars later.
The Final Checkmark: Conceive!
Ha! If only it were that easy.
Schedule a Preconception Visit with Your OB/GYN
To start the process, you want to make sure you’re up to date on your mammogram and pap smear. Let your provider know that you are trying or going to start trying to conceive. He/she can you help you with any further questions in that moment.
Conduct Fertility Testing
To those having trouble conceiving or just wanting to be hypervigilant before trying, we always recommend testing multiple hormones and reproductive systems to understand your body and its particular processes. These tests include a semen analysis, simple blood tests (FSH, AMH, etc.) and thorough physical exams (HSG, saline sonogram, ultrasound, etc.).
If you’re concerned about infertility, don’t hesitate to contact RMA of CT. We are here to help.
Take on the #TTC Journey!
This is a very exciting journey, and we are here at RMA of CT to help it be a healthy, successful one! 90 days may seem like a long time but making a small change each week can add up to life-changing results.
If you’re thinking about conceiving, start working on the checklist now. If you’re actively trying to conceive, (you guessed it!) start working on the checklist now. Each day you put effort into this, you will be that much closer to your goal.
By following this checklist prior to conception (whether naturally or with treatment), you’ll give your body the best chance at a healthy pregnancy.
Are you ready take #TTC to the next level?
About Linda Connolly
Linda is a registered nurse and the office manager in the Trumbull office. She graduated from Syracuse University in 1982 with her BSN. She has been working at RMA of Connecticut since 2002 and loves helping her patients achieve their dream to have children. Previously, Linda worked as a nurse in the ICU and surgery/recovery.