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Starting Your Fertility Journey (full text)

If you've decided it's time to have a baby and you're just not sure where to begin, or if you've been working on it and nothing is happening, this post is for you. I'll give you a step-by-step guide to help you achieve the best possible outcome on your babymaking journey, as quickly as possible. These steps are beneficial for everyone, so I encourage you to implement them even if you're achieving pregnancy through Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as IUI and IVF.

1. First and foremost, once we consciously decide to become parents, we want to adopt a fertile lifestyle. The best way to sum this up is to think of everything in our lives as either nourishing or toxic. And then think about all of the ways we can maximize nourishment and minimize toxicity in every area of our lives. This goes for what we put into our mouths, what we put on our skin, and what we cook and clean with. This also includes what we listen to and watch in terms of entertainment and news, and the activities that we engage in. The same is true for our relationships. We want to avoid toxic people, and instead, spend time with loved ones who nourish and uplift us.

In addition, we want to ensure that our home and work environments are as peaceful to the extent that we have control over, and avoid exposure to chemical toxins in the environment and in the workplace as much as possible during this time.

2. The next step is to get to know your body. We want to understand basic things about our menstrual cycle. For example, how long it is from the beginning of one period to the next. Do we ovulate, and if so, on what day? Also, do we have signs of healthy ovulation like egg white cervical mucus and an increase in basal body temperature, which is our resting body temperature first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. The point is to understand how your unique and special body works. And the best way to do this is to use an app to track our cycle and the changes we experience in our body throughout the month. Once we've tracked our unique cycle and fluctuations for a couple of cycles, we begin to notice patterns that allow us to know our body more intimately, and with greater certainty.

3. Next, it’s important to have routine exams, both related to general and reproductive health. General health exams include physicals and routine blood work including thyroid function. Basic gynecological and reproductive health exams include a pap smear and hormone panel, and possibly more advanced exams to look at reproductive anatomy. These routine exams are beneficial because they provide important information that healthcare providers use to recommend any additional necessary diagnostics based on our unique health and family histories.

4. Once we have the ball rolling on each of the steps above, it’s important to begin planning for life as a parent. This is important for both parents, but I have learned from working with patients that this is especially important for women because we tend to feel - and understandably so - that it is our lives that will change so drastically with pregnancy and motherhood. I’ve also seen that couples can feel apprehensive about how their relationship will change with a new addition - once again, understandably so. The best way to deal with these very real questions and concerns is to acknowledge them and to feel safe to discuss them openly as a couple. Many couples

find it helpful to see a counselor or therapist who specializes in fertility or family planning to assist them in working through things that may come up. Just working through something as simple as a plan to ensure that there is adequate support for the primary caregiver during the first weeks and months of having a new baby can replace anxiety with great ease and surrender. At the same time, it’s important to understand and work on our beliefs around our fertility and parenting. It is normal for fears and worries about our inadequacies and the unknown, as well as for issues surrounding our family of origin to pop up. It’s important that we acknowledge and work through them as a couple so that they don’t interfere with our ability to get pregnant. These are concerns that every new parent faces, and working through them truly becomes our first undertaking as co-parents.

5. And finally, prepare! Once we decide that we're ready to have a baby, we want it to happen yesterday, but the path of least resistance is one that involves preparation. The rule of thumb is to allow at least 90 days to prepare for conception. This allows us to be mentally ready as we work through stumbling blocks individually and as a couple, while also preparing our body to be at its best for its new role. During this time, we want to focus on our own optimal health, both mentally and physically, as this will maximize the health of the eggs and sperm that will ultimately become a healthy baby.

I always tell my patients that we want to begin living as if we are already pregnant during our preparatory phase. So eat the best nutrition possible, get lots of good quality rest, avoid anything and everything stressful and toxic to the best of your ability, and work through emotional things that come up. These new habits will maximize your health, giving your future baby their best health, as well as the gift of new healthy habits to pass on to them!

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