Most of us spend a lot of our lives avoiding pregnancy, so how do we prepare for pregnancy? Here’s my (very detailed) journey on getting my mind and body ready for pregnancy, all while trying to keep my cool.

Deciding you and your partner are ready to start trying to have a baby is a massive milestone in any partnership. Most of the time, we are fighting unknown odds and faced with endless questions, usually stemming from the worry, “can I even get pregnant in the first place?”

For me, as someone who had been on hormonal birth control for about 13 years, I didn’t know what I was up against or what I would find fertility-wise when it came down to it. You can read more on the tools I used to help get a better picture of my fertility below.

Speaking of birth control, I removed my hormonal IUD in February of 2018 and gave myself a solid year to get back to my natural cycles using the Daysy Fertility Tracker (use my promo code for $20 off). The removal was a personal choice due to increased anxiety and brain fog, as well as reading about the harmful effects of synthetic birth control on our bodies.

Once my husband and I decided we were ready to start actively TTC (trying to conceive) instead of TTA (trying to avoid), I knew I had some work to do when it came to how to prepare for pregnancy.



A NOTE FROM CARLEY:

The act of preparing for pregnancy, pregnancy, and birth are all unique experiences for each mother and couple. What I’m sharing about my journey might not be the same for yours, but I intend to help you discover what’s best for you by putting as much information out there as possible.

No matter where you are on your path, I encourage you to – above all – get back in touch with your body and its cycles (whether they’re regular or irregular). Also, throw out your rulebook now and work on finding acceptance within yourself and discovering how to prepare for pregnancy – it’s more emotional, rewarding, and exhausting in ways I could never have imagined.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, and my advice does not replace medical care. Please seek proper support and care as needed.

preparing for a baby in the home

TIME FOR DATA DIGGING AND PREGNANCY PROFESSIONALS

As I mentioned above, although it felt like I had no idea what would happen when we started trying, there are a few insights I did have:

  • My cycles are regular and last 27-28 days
  • On average, my ovulation occurs around day 12-14

Note: the above data came from daily use of my Daysy Fertility Monitor and the BBT (basal body temperature) method. I used Daysy for almost a year to gather this data on my cycles to ultimately, help me prevent or avoid pregnancy.

I knew that understanding my fertile window was extremely important if I wanted to give ourselves the best odds of conceiving each month. I was shocked to learn that most women don’t know when their fertile window is (the five days leading up to ovulation and the day of), and most doctors give a blanket statement of, “you ovulate on or around day 14.”

If you’re a woman with irregular cycles or PCOS, that timing is most likely not the case.

No matter where you land, employing tools such as the FAM method, tracking your cervical mucus, using a BBT monitor, and diligently working with a naturopath and midwife can help you to get a better gauge (and possibly improve the regularity of) your fertility window. Of course, this might not work for everyone and know that there are always other avenues to explore.

woman holding flowers in her hands for giving life

Since data is essential to me, I also decided to test my current fertility hormones through Modern Fertility (I highly recommend this test for any woman preparing to conceive or actively trying without any luck).

Fertility hormone testing is typically something that a doctor needs to order and can cost upwards of $1,000, but Modern Fertility is making testing easy and accessible for those looking for more information.

Here are the hormones tested with Modern Fertility:

  • Ovarian reserve: AMH, FSH, E2
  • Ovulation: Prolactin, LH
  • General Body: Total T (testosterone), TSH, fT4

After receiving my results, I made an appointment with a local midwife to discuss my findings. She was extremely impressed with Modern Fertility and what hormones they chose to test.

With her support, I discovered that everything was within range except for a slightly elevated LSH, which meant my body was doing its job I came to conclude that I was ovulating monthly.

Not to mention, I tuned into my body around ovulation and began to notice the common signs of ovulation: EWCM (egg-white cervical mucus), a one-sided twinge, and a shift in my BBT patterns.

Curious about Modern Fertility? Read my review and save some bucks!

summer decorations preparing for child

THE IMPORTANCE OF A PRE-PREGNANCY DIET

I can’t stress the importance of nourishing yourself while preparing for pregnancy. This was one of the first things my midwife mentioned when I asked how I could actively support my fertility and how to prepare for pregnancy.

In general, here are some pre-pregnancy diet suggestions:

  • Focus on organic fruits and vegetables (check out the Dirty Dozen)
  • Ensure you’re eating adequate amounts of healthy fats from quality sources
  • Begin to take note of your mercury consumption
  • Cut back on dairy and gluten
  • Reduce alcohol consumption to one to three drinks per week
  • Consider seed cycling to help naturally balance cycles

If you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed at the thought of overhauling your diet, try not to worry. For me, turning to the organic meal delivery service from Sakara was a no brainer. Their pre-portioned and ready-to-eat meals helped my body fight inflammation, encourage fertility, and feel nourished.

Up next: Read my Sakara review and save 20% on your first order!

In addition to changes in diet, supplementation before pregnancy is crucial. Even the most well-rounded diet leaves gaps in nutrition caused by a lack of absorption. As per my midwife’s recommendation, I began taking a whole-foods based prenatal vitamin, in addition to some other supportive supplements, before becoming pregnant.

Here are the pre-pregnancy supplements I used to help my body prepare:

woman holding a green juice

YOUR PRE-PREGNANCY EXERCISE PLAN

In addition to making impactful shifts in your diet, getting in shape now will only pay off in dividends by the time pregnancy and birth come around. In fact, it’s a crucial step in how to prepare your body for pregnancy.

For me, this looked like pilates 2-3 times a week, horseback riding, and daily walks with the dogs. Now that I’m pregnant, I’m continuing with regular pilates and walking as much as I can.

Aim to find an exercise plan that feels realistic and sustainable, not one you won’t commit to or feel easily overwhelmed by thinking about. If anything, go for a ten-minute walk each day.

DETOXING YOUR LIFESTYLE BEFORE PREGNANCY

Plain and simple, if you’re a smoker or drug user, now is the time to quit.

If you’re consuming alcohol, I’d say it’s a smart idea to cut back on your consumption. For me, I was experiencing migraines around the time we were trying to conceive, so I had already drastically cut back on my drinking. That part was natural for me!

Additionally, think about additional chemicals and toxins you can begin to remove from your life. For me, I stopped getting Botox injections in my forehead and jaw as soon as we decided to stop avoiding pregnancy. Botox is a known neurotoxin, and I’m pretty sure it’s also what was causing my migraines.

Also, it’s essential to consider the toxins and chemicals found within your home and consider swapping them out to cleaner options. I highly recommend using the app Think Dirty to assess what’s lurking in your home and how it can impact your fertility – and ultimately, your baby – including:

  • Cleaning products
  • Dish soap and detergent
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dryer sheets (I use these instead)
  • Skincare and makeup products (here’s what I use)

If you’re looking for an option to easily replace the majority of the toxic products in your home, I’ve curated a bundle of my favorite non-toxic essential oil-based products that you can buy. Shop the clean home bundle now!

wool dryer balls prepping for child laundry

TIMING SEX FOR CONCEPTION

We can’t talk about how to prepare for pregnancy without talking about correctly timing sex. As you could have guessed, there are a few things to consider when it comes to timing the deed now that the end goal is to create life.

The first piece of advice I can’t mention enough is to begin tracking your cycles and understand when/if you are ovulating.

There are several tools to help with this practice, and as I mentioned above, I used the Daysy Fertility Monitor. Using Daysy allowed my husband and me to have more insight as to when I was fertile, which is only about five to six days a month for the average woman.

Here’s the thing: once released, eggs are only viable for 12-24 hours, and sperm can live up to five days. I knew that our best odds for conceiving would be to time sex every other day leading up to the day before ovulation so sperm would be waiting to fertilize an egg once released.

I don’t want all of this talk around timing make it sound like our conception process was mechanical, but there were some important considerations to keep in mind to make this magic happen.

Additionally, I can’t recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility enough. I learned so much about my body and its cycles within the first few chapters. What I discovered was genuinely mind-blowing, and I don’t know why no one ever taught us this important and valuable information in school!

Secondly, having sex to procreate can quickly feel like a chore and something to cross off the to-do list. Do your best to keep things exciting and romantic in the bedroom (as time allows, of course!). Be open and honest with your partner about your fertile window and set mutual expectations on timing.

PARTNER COMMUNICATION TIPS (SO CRUCIAL!)

Remember when I said that the process of conception could be an emotional one? Well, it’s more than accurate, and that makes it all that more important to have an open and honest line of communication with your partner.

My husband and I felt very grateful that I was pregnant within three months of deciding to stop actively avoiding. Even so, I still experienced intense feelings of discouragement and frustration with each passing negative pregnancy test and the arrival of my period.

At first, he didn’t quite understand why I was so frustrated and upset, but I had to do my best to be open and vulnerable and explain why I was feeling the way I did. Once I shared what was on my mind, he was better able to support me in the process.

The reality is, you could get pregnant in your first cycle, or it could take an extended amount of time or various fertility treatments to see a positive line finally. What’s important is that you both are on the same page and dedicated to supporting each other throughout the process – whatever comes your way.

couple holding hands and preparing for pregnancy

A PRACTICAL LOOK AT YOUR INSURANCE POLICY

Have you considered that insurance is an important part of how to prepare for pregnancy? While this isn’t the most exciting topic to read about, it’s super important. As health insurance is a tricky mess these days, I highly recommend taking a look at your current insurance policy and what it covers.

To be best prepared for pregnancy, take a look at what’s covered when it comes to:

  • Prenatal visits and care
  • Ultrasounds
  • Genetic testing
  • Blood draws
  • Birthing options (midwife, hospital, home birth, birthing center, etc.)
  • Group classes
  • Pediatric care

Due to the fact both my husband and I are both self-employed, we were a little hesitant when it came to our insurance coverage when it came to pregnancy and prenatal care. We worked with a local independent health insurance agent to help us find the best plan for our budget and future needs.

I know, this process sounds so adult and boring, but I promise, I’m so glad we took that extra step to ensure we have the best coverage possible.

pregnant woman with hands on her belly

PREPPING FOR AN EMOTIONAL JOURNEY

The journey to the double line is just the beginning of a rewarding, unnerving, and humbling ride, and I will share more on my pregnancy journey in another post.

I didn’t talk to many people about the process of my husband and I trying to get pregnant or how I was preparing for pregnancy, other than the trusted professionals I mentioned above.

In our society today, there seems to be a lot of secrecy, shame, and fear around the pre-pregnancy journey, and I’d like to help shift that mindset into an empowering one. Every woman’s journey is different, but they’re all beautiful and truly a miracle.

As a friend, below is the best advice I can offer you on how to prepare for pregnancy:

  1. Throw out the rulebook and your expectations
  2. Be open and curious about the process and your body
  3. Gather advice, but ultimately, follow what feels most natural for you
  4. Doctors don’t know everything – do your research and become an advocate for yourself
  5. Remember, your body is not broken
  6. This process takes time – you’re working to bring a new soul into this world
  7. Work on your self-care practices and create relaxing, calming rituals
  8. Set boundaries, stick to them, and communicate them as needed
  9. Try to stay as stress-free as possible and work on relaxing your mind

WHEN I SAW THE DOUBLE LINE…

On a personal note, I discovered I was pregnant the day after returning from a trip to New York in late April.

I woke up and tested the first thing in the morning and was shocked at how quickly my test was turned up positive as it was a full five days before my missed period (these are the pregnancy tests I used).

Everyone asked, did you cutely tell your husband? Nope.

I yelled, oh sh*t!!!” from the bathroom and proceeded to start feeling all of the emotions.

From there, I took a digital test (this one) because my husband wasn’t fully convinced by the double lines.

As soon as I saw, “pregnant,” I quickly called my hospital and to schedule an HCG test to confirm the pregnancy and assess how it was progressing, followed by a frantic call to my mom to share the news!

We are so grateful for our growing little one and truly in awe of the journey so far. We can’t wait to see what’s to come and I’m looking forward to sharing more with you!

Read next: Surviving the First Trimester and Early Pregnancy