It is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) and the theme is, “Flip the Script”. This is about changing the conversation around infertility. One of the things we want to accomplish around this theme is to get the public thinking more about fertility in general. For us, flipping the script is to get the public to be proactive instead of reactive about their fertility health.
If you’re considering having a family, we’ve put together a preconception planning checklist for you to start going through and considering now. So get your pencils out and let’s go through each one, shall we?
Check It Off
✔ See Your Primary Care Physician: Speak to your doctor about your pregnancy plans, have a complete physical and request they look for any conditions that might impact your chances of getting pregnant or carrying a healthy baby to term. In general, knowing you are in good health is always a good idea!
✔ Don’t Hesitate to Vaccinate: When was the last time you had a tetanus shot? Also, are you up to date on your chicken pox and rubella vaccinations? Make sure to review all of this with your primary care physician. Some illnesses can potentially cause miscarriages or severe birth defects so if there’s something to help avoid that, it’s best to do so sooner rather than later. If it turns out you do need to get certain vaccines, also ask your doctor how long you should wait (if at all) between the vaccinations and getting pregnant.
✔ Medical Condition Lock Down: Pregnancy significantly increases demands on your body - changes in hormones, metabolism, blood circulation, etc. If you have a chronic condition, speak to any of the necessary specialists to take the time now to find ways to manage it or address it ahead of your pregnancy to make it more manageable.
✔ Get a Fertility Work Up: If you’re a woman, you would see either your OB/GYN or a Reproductive Endocrinologist to run bloodwork to check your Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH), estradiol and Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH). Your FSH will indicate how many follicles/eggs you have in your reserve and your AMH provides insight on the quality. Then, an ultrasound will be performed to examine the number of follicles on your ovaries. The number of follicles you have directly correlates with the number of eggs you have in your reserve. They will also look at your uterus and fallopian tubes to see if there are any polyps, fibroids, cysts or blockage. The blood work, ultrasound and a review of any health issues or family history, can give the doctor an overview of your fertility health. If you’re a man, you can go to a urologist to have a semen analysis done. A semen analysis looks at three main factors: Sperm Count, Morphology (the shape of the sperm) and Motility (how well it swims).
✔ Pop Those Prenatals: Taking prenatal vitamins ahead of time can help ensure your body is getting what it needs in advance of pregnancy. Especially the right amount of Folic acid as that is a key component in preventing neural tube defects that occur in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. You can ask your doctor if there is a brand he or she recommends.
✔ Stop Smoking: In addition to research showing that couples who smoke are twice as likely to be childless after five years of not using protection, smoking is bad for both your health and your baby’s. This is a good time to quit the habit.
✔ Eat Healthy: Fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean protein, leafy green vegetables and enriched bread! Yum! Since you’ll soon be eating for two, why not make sure you’re eating only the very best food that is packed with vitamins, fiber and nutrients you need!
✔ Explore Genetic Counseling: This may not be for everyone but it’s worth asking about. Genetic testing or carrier screening can help inform the health of your baby. If you or your partner have any heredity diseases or concerns, definitely mention it to your doctor and they will hook you up with a counselor to review your options.
✔ Be a Healthy Weight: It doesn’t matter if you’re underweight or overweight, being an unhealthy weight can impact your chances of getting pregnant. Speak to your physician about what weight (or BMI) is the healthiest for your height and body type.
✔ Start (or Continue) to Exercise: Exercising can positively impact both your weight and lower your stress levels. Low-impact activities (yoga, walking, swimming, etc.) are smart options as they can be continued (with your doctor’s approval) while pregnant. If you undergo any fertility treatment though, speak to your doctor about exercising while taking any hormone medications.
✔ Be Mindful of your Mental Health: If you’ve had a history of depression or anxiety, or you’re currently on medication related to your mental health, speak to your psychiatrist, OB/GYN or your reproductive endocrinologist to plan accordingly. They can help you find an antidepressant that's safe to take while you're trying to conceive and throughout your pregnancy.
It's All About Awareness
The biggest goal of National Infertility Awareness Week is to do just that: Raise awareness. So, whether you know for certain you want to have children or are still undecided, to be aware and know your health as it relates to conceiving can be life changing!
And if you have any fertility concerns or need any help, we are always available for a consultation!