From avoiding dairy to eating your placenta à la Kim Kardashian—there’s no shortage of tips for healthy postpartum recovery. But what if the key to getting pregnant, staying pregnant, and avoiding the baby blues lies in preparing your body adequately before trying to conceive? It’s the same idea as training for a marathon: First-time athletes tweak their routines for up to a year before tackling the real thing.
“There’s no reason to believe that you’ll have a hard time getting pregnant, but most women need to slow down to make room—both physically and mentally—for a baby,” Kimberly Johnson, a women’s health expert and doula otherwise known as The Vaginapractor tells CR. “There can be a neurosis around preparation in today’s wellness sector, but it’s important to get in touch with yourself before such a major life shift. Listening to our bodies prior to getting pregnant is empowering, because it lets us know what we really need.”
A good place to start, says Johnson, is to come off hormonal birth control and see what state your menstrual cycle is in. If you were prescribed the pill to remedy irregular, painful periods or to combat acne—it’s likely that these irksome issues will return as soon as you stop taking it. “Periods are like oracles that you can read,” she continues. “The color, texture, and length of each one means something different. If you have dark, chalky blood, for example, it’s likely that you have problems with progesterone which is regularly linked to adrenal fatigue.” Sipping on dandelion tea instead of your usual oat milk latte can help smooth the transition if you were prescribed birth control for your skin.
Books like Women’s Code by Alisa Vitti and Dr. Aviva Romm’s The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution are reputable sources if you’re looking to savvy up on you flo via some at-home reading, but women experiencing clots the size of a quarter should consult a doctor as the issue has been associated more severe hormonal imbalances. Dr. Esther Eisenberg, a medical officer from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and an obstetrician-gynecologist by training, warns that it can take up to a year for hormonal birth control to exit the system, depending on the dosage, so patience while taking the leap is key. IUD’s are typically the easiest for the body to recover from: Once removed, it generally takes around one full cycle to reestablish a healthy uterine lining.
Under the supervision of a doctor, coming off other medication well before getting pregnant is also worth considering. “There’s some data that suggests certain types of antidepressants interfere with the menstrual cycle,” says Eisenberg. “So it’s not a good idea to be on a selective serotonin uptake inhibitor if you’re thinking of conceiving in the near future. It depends on how well you can handle the symptoms and a balancing act on the degree of depression, but it would be wise to schedule a preconception appointment with your physician.”
A history of depression, unresolved pre-existing trauma, and not feeling supported have been identified as the biggest causes of postpartum distress, so working through past issues with the help of a therapist, couple’s counseling, or a woman’s group pre-pregnancy can be cathartic. Johnson also recommends vaginal steaming (which has taken some heat—pun intended—in the press recently), and establishing an internal pelvic floor routine to help with the healing process. “Our pelvis holds a lot of our health history,” she explains, “so if a woman’s had an abortion, been in an accident, or suffered from sexual abuse, something about that trauma will still live in her body. Letting go of past pain makes space for you to enjoy your pregnancy and tells your baby that they’re in a safe place.”
Taking stock of your weight, dietary choices, and fitness level are more straight-forward pre-steps for women to check off. “Ideally, you want to be in the best shape of your life prior to getting pregnant,” advises Anna Kaiser, the founder of dance-cardio studio AKT and personal trainer to star moms Sarah Jessica Parker and Shakira.
“A year out, commit to exercising four to five days a week and don’t waiver from the program. In particular, train your core, focus on deep diaphragmatic breathing, and strengthen your inner thighs and upper body so that you can carry your baby in good form when the time eventually comes,” she says. “You’re technically recovering from an injury for 12 months after childbirth, so the stronger you are before, the quicker you’ll bounce back and the lower your risk of incontinence, ripped pelvic muscles, split abs, and lower back pain.” Starting a new program when you’re already pregnant, she warns, won’t yield the same protective benefits.
Cutting out or at least moderating your intake of caffeine, alcohol, soy, soda, sugar, and low-quality animal products and adding in a daily pre-natal vitamin are other easy fixes. A more serious detox is something to think about too: Two separate studies conducted by the Environmental Working Group in 2005 and 2009, found 232 toxins and 287 industrial chemicals (180 of which are known carcinogens and 280 of which are harmful to the brain and nervous system) in newborn umbilical cords. “It’s hard to give a blanket statement on nutrition as the best diet is an individualized one,” enlarges Eisenberg, “but increasing your intake of nutrient-dense foods and being mindful that you’re getting ample folic acid is a good place to start.”
Most chemical detoxes include a do-over of bathroom beauty cabinets and laundry detergent, in addition to food. Some standout ingredients on the pre-baby naughty list in particular: parabens, mineral oil, lead-containing lipsticks, and hydroquinone, which is illegal in Europe. “We still don’t know the longterm effects of Retin-A and fillers either,” cautions Angelina Umansky, founder of San Francisco clean beauty emporium, Spa Radiance, “so I’d advise everyone to steer clear until both have been appropriately researched.” Among her ‘safe’ recommendations, you’ll find cult-serum Vintner’s Daughter and anything by True Botanicals, Patyka, and Marie Veronique.
Above all else, one thing all four experts agree on is that a happy mom equals a happy baby—so focus on what makes you smile the most. “No matter how hard you try, nothing can truly prepare you for motherhood or the extraordinary changes that your body will go through during pregnancy,” reflects Kaiser, a new mom herself. Even with the best intentions, Johnson adds, sometimes life has other plans for you and things aka babies show up unannounced. “I’m a single mom to a beautiful, fierce daughter,” she says to end. “It wasn’t how I expected motherhood to be, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”END
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createdAt:Tue, 23 Jan 2018 20:26:56 +0000