Conceiving consciously affords you the chance to prepare your body and soul for the pregnancy journey. Whether you're just considering getting pregnant, several months into "trying," or in your fifth round of in vitro fertilization, Dr. Tracy Gaudet offers these steps.
1. Explore your feelings.
Begin by checking in with yourself. Keep a journal on your deepest fears about conceiving, not conceiving, or both. Don't be afraid to look at any "dark" feelings; this exercise will shine a light on your emotions, making them far less scary. Ask your partner to do the same, and then, without judgment, share your reflections with each other. Do this every step of the way.
2. Optimize your health.
Think of pre-pregnancy as an ideal time to optimize your diet, fitness, and emotional well-being. See your OB/GYN for a preconception appointment, and begin taking prenatal vitamins or simply 400 mcg of folic acid a day. If you don't have a fitness routine, start one -- at least a half hour of aerobic exercise three times a week. Be sure you're getting enough choline (a compound that helps support normal fetal brain development) in your diet; good sources include eggs, wheat germ, and soy. Limit your daily caffeine intake to less than 135 mg (one cup of coffee or about two cups of black tea); some studies have shown a correlation between high caffeine intake and miscarriage. If you drink alcohol, have only an occasional glass of wine or beer, particularly in the second half of your cycle (after you've ovulated). Avoid "megavitamins" or supplements, as they haven't been studied in pregnancy and some have been shown to create problems; concentrated bioflavanoids, for example, have been associated with an increased risk of early childhood lymphomas. And take stress-reduction as seriously as nutrition and fitness: Incorporate yoga, breathing exercises, tai chi, laughing fits with your friends -- whatever you enjoy -- several times a week.
3. Know your integrative options.
Traditional Oriental medicine is one of the best-researched alternative medical systems; there's very interesting evidence about the benefit of using acupuncture during IVF, before and after placing embryos into a woman's uterus. Although acupuncture hasn't been specifically studied outside of IVF, I often recommend it as an adjunct to Western approaches. And consider working with an experienced hypnotherapist for a session or two, ideally with your partner, to help visualize conception. Ask the therapist to make a tape of the session so that you can use it regularly on your own.
4. Look ahead.
Learn about all of the fertility-treatment options up front, including sperm and egg donors and adoption. If you don't learn about these options early, they may become synonymous with "failure" in your head and heart. By doing research, you'll be able to make conscious decisions at every step.
Read more in Dr. Gaudet's Complete Guide to Boosting Fertility.