Trying to get pregnant? Follow these helpful and healthy tips from our friends at the March of Dimes.
Choosing a Multivitamin Before Pregnancy
Healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, are the best sources of vitamins and minerals. But because it is sometimes hard to get all the nutrients we need from foods, all adults should take one multivitamin per day.
It is especially important for women who can become pregnant to get enough folic acid. Folic acid, a B vitamin, helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord when taken before and very early in pregnancy. It is available in most multivitamins, as a folic acid-only supplement and in some foods.
The March of Dimes recommends that all women of childbearing age take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, as part of a healthy diet.
During pregnancy, a woman needs more of some nutrients, such as iron, calcium and folic acid. For this reason, it is wise to start taking a multivitamin before pregnancy.
How to Choose a Multivitamin
Read the label. The label tells you which vitamins and minerals the multivitamin contains. It also tells you how to take the multivitamin safely and how to store it.
Most multivitamins typically contain about 20 vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Folic acid
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
Most multivitamins contain at least 100% of the daily value (DV) for nearly all vitamins, but they usually don’t contain 100% of the DV for minerals. (The DV is the amount of a vitamin or mineral that a person should consume every day. The Food and Drug Administration sets the daily values for the United States.)
- Be sure the multivitamin contains 400 micrograms of folic acid.
- Don’t expect a multivitamin to provide 100% of the DV of calcium. That much calcium would make the tablet too large to swallow. To get enough calcium, eat food rich in calcium such as milk, yogurt, cheese and broccoli. Or talk to your health care provider about taking a calcium supplement along with a multivitamin.
Avoid high doses. Some vitamins and minerals are toxic in high doses for women and their developing babies. Examples are iron, chromium, selenium and vitamin A. To avoid high doses, choose a multivitamin that contains no more than 100 percent of the DV for each vitamin and mineral. Before taking anything other than 100% of the DV, check with your health care provider.
Look for USP on the label. This means that the multivitamin meets the standards of U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP). USP is an organization that sets standards for content, quality, purity and safety.
Know about name brands and store brands. As you shop, remember that name brands may be no better than store brands. In fact, the same manufacturer may make both of them. Store brands often cost less than name brands. The most important thing is to check the label to be sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need. Although health care providers often write prescriptions for prenatal vitamins, you can get some brands of these vitamins at the drugstore without a prescription.
Know about natural and synthetic vitamins. In multivitamins, natural and synthetic vitamins have the same health benefit. Natural vitamins cost more than synthetic vitamins.
Avoid extras. Avoid multivitamins that contain herbs, enzymes or amino acids. You don’t need them and they add cost. Herbal remedies can be toxic. Never take them if you are trying to get pregnant, are pregnant or are breastfeeding. Many vitamin products contain extra ingredients such as herbs that are not considered essential under federal guidelines. Medical scientists do not know if these extra ingredients are safe and effective, especially during pregnancy.
Check the expiration date. Multivitamins can lose potency, especially in heat and humidity. An expiration date tells you when to buy a new bottle and throw away the old one. Buy only multivitamins that have an expiration date on the label.
Store your vitamins in a place that will help you remember to take one every day. Examples:
- On a kitchen counter or table
- Next to where you leave your wristwatch or jewelry you wear every day
Choose a place that is cool and dry. Avoid storing vitamins in bathroom medicine cabinets. Multivitamins can lose their strength when stored in places that are warm and damp.
NEXT: GET PHYSICAL
Getting Fit Before Pregnancy
- Benefits of physical activity
- Know your body
- Kinds of physical activity
- Amount of physical activity
- Special challenges
- Talk to your health care provider
- Physical activity tips
- Sneak in mini-workouts whenever you can
- Stay safe while active
If you’re thinking about pregnancy, or if you’re just interested in leading a healthier lifestyle, it’s important to include physical activity in your daily routine.
Many women know that regular physically activity is very important for keeping good health and maintaining a healthy weight. Now, more research is showing that the healthier a woman is before pregnancy, the better her chances are to have a healthy baby someday.
For example, a woman who is at a healthy weight before pregnancy is less likely to have serious complications during pregnancy, like high blood pressure or diabetes, or during childbirth. Her baby is also less likely to be born preterm, have birth defects, or face childhood obesity, which is a growing problem in the United States.
Benefits of Physical Activity
Physical activity is any form of exercise or movement of the body that uses energy. Having an active lifestyle can help all women be healthy. Regular physical activity can lower your risk of:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Breast or colon cancer
- Type 2 diabetes (often related to being overweight)
- Osteoarthritis (most common form of arthritis)
- Osteoporosis (weakens bones and affects many women)
Physical activity can also:
- Improve a person’s mood
- Reduce feelings of mild or moderate depression
- Help with managing stress
- Help with managing weight
- Help with quitting smoking
- Help with sleeping better
- Increase energy throughout the day
Know Your Body
Physical activity, along with a well-balanced diet, can also help an overweight person to lose weight. To find out if you are overweight, you’ll need to know your height and weight. You then can calculate your body mass index (BMI). BMI helps to determine if your weight is appropriate for your height.
Not only is lowering your body fat important to your health, but it also matters where you carry the fat on your body. Women with a “pear” shape tend to store fat in their hips and buttocks. Women with an “apple” shape tend to store fat around their waists.
Women with an “apple” shape are more likely to develop health problems related to being overweight than women with a “pear” shape. For women, a waist size of more than 35 inches increases the risk of heart disease.
Kinds of Physical Activity
Aerobic activities: There are two kinds of aerobic activities: moderate and vigorous. Moderate activities increase your heart rate, but you can continue doing them while carrying on a conversation with little trouble. Moderate activities include:
- Walking briskly
- Biking slowly or on a flat surface
- Doing water aerobics
- Dancing (ballroom or line)
- Playing sports in which you catch and throw a ball (baseball, softball, volleyball)
Vigorous activities also increase your heart rate, but it’s harder to carry on a conversation while doing them because you’re breathing heavier. Vigorous activities include:
- Jogging or running
- Biking faster than 10 miles per hour or uphill
- Fast swimming or lap swimming
- Aerobic or fast dancing
- Sports with a lot of running (basketball, hockey, soccer)
Strength-training activities: Strength-training activities help build muscles by improving their strength and ability. These activities include:
- Weight lifting
- Working with weight machines
- Working with resistance bands (giant rubber bands made especially for exercising)
Stretching activities: To improve flexibility and movement in your everyday life, stretching can be a big help. Moving more freely makes it easier to reach down and tie your shoes or look over your shoulder when driving your car in reverse.
Stretch after your muscles are warmed up (for example, after strength training). Stretching your muscles before they are warmed up may cause injury. Stretching activities include:
- Basic body stretches (reaching up above your head or reaching down to touch your toes)
Amount of Physical Activity
Aerobics: In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services updated its guidelines for physical activity. It recommends that all adults get at least 2 ½ hours each week of aerobic physical activity. This activity should be at least moderately intense.
You can break up the 2 ½ hours up however you like. But it’s best if you do this type of activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.
For example, you can do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 or more days a week. Another option is to do 50 minutes of moderate activity on 3 or more days a week.
You can also replace some or all of your moderate activity with vigorous activity. In general, 15 minutes of vigorous activity provides the same benefits as 30 minutes of moderate activity. So vigorous activity gets you similar health benefits in half the time that moderate activities take.
Strengthening: In addition, all adults should do strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. You can do these exercises on the days between your aerobic workouts. Focus on strengthening the muscles in your legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders and arms.
In each strength-training session, aim for 8 to 10 different activities that will work out the different muscle groups in your body. Repeat exercises for each muscle group 8-12 times per session.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get the physical activity you need. For aerobic activity, take a walk or jog around your neighborhood. If you need to be indoors because of weather conditions or safety concerns, try exercising to a workout video. You can also contact your local recreation center or house of worship to see if they have indoor activity programs that you can join.
For strength training, try using things around the house. Homemade weights, like plastic soft-drink bottles filled with water or sand, or a couple of soup cans, can help you strengthen your muscles. You can also use your own body weight by doing activities such as push-ups, pull-ups or sit-ups.
If you’ve never been active or haven’t been in a long time, it’s important to start slowly. Begin your physical activity program with short sessions of 5 to 10 minutes and build up to your goal.
If you’re a larger woman, don’t be afraid to get started. You may face special challenges in trying to be physically active, but you can work hard to overcome them. You may not be able to bend or move in the same way as others. You may even feel a little self-conscious. But don’t give up. Try doing activities such as swimming or exercising while seated. They put less stress on your joints because your legs are not supporting the whole weight of your body. Ask your health provider for help in coming up with a physical activity plan that is right for you.
If you have a disability, it may be harder to stay active, but don’t let that stop you. In most cases, people with disabilities can improve their flexibility, mobility and coordination by becoming physically active. Being active can help you stay independent. It can help prevent illnesses, such as heart disease, that can make it hard for you to care for yourself. Work with your health provider to develop a physical activity plan that is right for you.
- Are pregnant
- Have heart disease or are at high risk of developing this illness
- Have diabetes or are at high risk for this disease
- Are obese (BMI of 30 or greater)
- Have an injury or disability
- Have a bleeding or detached retina
- Had recent eye surgery or laser treatment on your eye
- Had recent hip surgery
- Had a stroke or are at high risk of developing this condition
- Pick activities that you like to do.
- Mix it up. Try different activities so you don’t get bored or lose motivation.
- Spread aerobic activity out over at least 3 days a week.
- Team up with your partner or a friend to help keep you motivated.
- Track your time and progress to help you stay on course.
- Once you’ve gotten into a groove, replace some moderate aerobic activities with vigorous activities. Try jogging for 15 minutes instead of walking for 30 minutes.
- If you have kids, make time to play with them outside.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park your car further away from the office and walk. Get off the bus or train a couple of stops earlier and walk.
- Go dancing with your partner or friends.
- If you’re going on vacation, take a walking tour or do your site-seeing on foot.
- Warm up before doing any activity. Try jogging in place for a few minutes to loosen muscles.
- Go at your own pace. Start slowly and work your way up to longer and more challenging workouts.
- Learn about the types and amounts of activity that are appropriate for your fitness level.
- Use the right safety gear and sports equipment.
- Choose a safe place to do your activity.
- Stop physical activity if you feel faint, dizzy, nauseous, pain in your chest or have trouble breathing. Talk to a health care provider to make sure you’re in good health.
NEXT: GETTING PREGNANT
You’ve thought carefully about having a baby and decided you’re ready. You stopped smoking and drinking alcohol. You’re eating a healthy diet and taking a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. You’ve visited your health care provider, and you’re putting money in your savings account each month. You’re ready to start trying to get pregnant.
How Pregnancy Happens
A woman’s ovaries release an egg every month, about 14 days before the first day of her period. This is called ovulation. When a couple has sexual intercourse (and does not use birth control) around the time of ovulation, a man’s sperm swim to meet the woman’s egg. When a sperm penetrates the egg, it’s called fertilization or conception. The fertilized egg (embryo) then travels to the woman’s uterus (womb), where it burrows into the lining of the uterus and begins to grow.
A Word About Birth Control
There are no rules about how long you should wait to start trying to get pregnant after stopping birth control. You can begin trying right away. But if you don’t have regular periods, it may be more difficult to determine the right time for conception.
- If you’ve been on birth control pills, you may not have regular periods for a month or two after stopping the pills.
- If you take Depo-Provera, it can take from three months to one year to ovulate regularly after your last injection.
- If you have an IUD (intrauterine device) or implants, you can start trying to get pregnant as soon as you have the device removed.
- The barrier methods – such as condoms, diaphragms and spermicides – stop working as soon as you stop using them.
When Is Your Body Ready to Get Pregnant?
A woman’s egg is fertile for only 12 to 24 hours after its release. A man’s sperm can live up to 72 hours after intercourse. So the best time to have sex if you’re trying to conceive is:
- A few days before ovulation
- The day of ovulation
The closer intercourse is to ovulation, the more likely it is you’ll get pregnant. And the more often you have sex, the more likely you are to get pregnant.
Figuring Out the Best Time to Try to Get Pregnant
If your period is regular (it comes the same number of days apart every month): Use the March of Dimes ovulation calculator to help you figure out when you can get pregnant.
If your periods are irregular (the number of days apart varies from month to month): There are a number of fertility tracking methods that can help you determine when you’re ovulating. They are listed below. It’s important to talk to your health care provider to learn more about the most effective way to use them.
- The temperature method: Use a basal body thermometer to take your temperature every day before you get out of bed. Your temperature will rise by up to 1 degree just as you ovulate. Having intercourse as close as possible to this temperature rise improves your chances of getting pregnant.
- The cervical mucus method: Pay attention to the mucus in your vagina. It gets thinner, slippery, clearer and more plentiful just before ovulation.
- Ovulation prediction kit: Ovulation prediction kits test urine for a substance called luteinizing hormone (LH). This hormone increases each month during ovulation and causes the ovaries to release eggs. The kit will tell you if your LH is increasing. You can purchase ovulation prediction kits at pharmacies.
If you use the temperature or cervical mucus methods, begin tracking changes a few months before you want to conceive. If you’re using an ovulation predictor kit, begin using it about 10 days after the start of your last period.
Signs of Pregnancy
The article How Will You Know You’re Pregnant? describes some signs of pregnancy.
When Things Don’t Go as Planned
If you don’t get pregnant right away, don’t worry. Nearly 9 out of 10 couples who try to get pregnant do so within one year. It may not happen immediately, but the odds are it will happen soon.
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than a year (or six months, if you’re over 35 ), talk to your health care provider. You can get tests to find out why you’re having problems getting pregnant. Some women have irregular or infrequent ovulation or damage to the tubes that carry the egg to the womb. Some men have low sperm counts or abnormal sperm. Many couples can overcome these problems with medical treatment.
For more information, read the article about Infertility.
Remember: It Takes Two to Get Pregnant!
If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, your partner can do things to help his sperm production:
- Quit smoking
- Limit the amount of alcohol he drinks
- Give up marijuana and other drugs
- Wear boxers and loose pants instead of briefs and tight pants
- Ask his provider about his prescription medications. Some medications used to treat high blood pressure, infections and other health conditions can make a man less fertile.
NEXT: PREGNANCY SIGNS
How Will You Know When You’re Pregnant?
Here are some signs that you might be pregnant:
- You miss your period.
- You feel sick to your stomach or throw up.
- Your breasts are big and sore. The area around your nipples gets darker.
- You crave certain foods. Or you really dislike certain foods.
- You feel tired all the time.
- A home pregnancy test shows you’re pregnant.
If you think you might be pregnant, go to your health care provider. The sooner you know you’re pregnant, the sooner you can begin prenatal care so that you can start taking good care of yourself and your growing baby.
Follow these tips for which vitamins to take and foods to eat (and stay away from).