Whether you’re actively trying to get pregnant or think you want a little one down the road, there are countless tasks to cross of the good ‘ol to-do list: Take a prenatal vitamin, track your cycle, save more money, read the parenting book your BFF raved about (oh, and the eight others your sister-in-law recommended), eat this but not that, find a provider...
Whew — take a breath. As much as we enjoy tackling tasks, it can get overwhelming. Today, let’s talk about two — yep, just two — important things to do when you’re ready to grow your family that will have you feeling prepped: Prenatal vitamins and fertility testing. Naturally, we put them in a checklist format for you.
Popping a prenatal vitamin is one of the first things a doctor will recommend to those trying to conceive. Even if there’s nothing inside your uterus (yet), it’s essential to build up your supply of certain minerals and vitamins essential to a fetus’ health. If you become pregnant, you’ll have these nutrients stocked in your system because you’ve been taking a prenatal for awhile.
For example, did you know a baby’s brain and spinal cord start developing inside the womb during the first month of pregnancy? But here’s the thing: Many don’t know they’re pregnant at this point. Folic acid, an ingredient in prenatal vitamins, is necessary for preventing infant brain and spinal cord abnormalities, like spina bifida. Therefore, consuming enough folic acid early in pregnancy — even before you see that double pink line — is crucial. If you’re not trying to conceive, it’s not a bad idea to take a prenatal instead of a regular multivitamin, just in case. This is especially true if you’re sexually active and not using a reliable form of birth control.
Plus, when pregnant, you need enough nutrients for two. As our favorite nurse practitioner, Kara Earthman, once told us, “Obviously, since there’s an extra human in there!” This is why most prenatal vitamins have larger doses of folic acid, calcium, iron, and vitamin D than multivitamins. Iron helps carry oxygen to the baby, while vitamin D and calcium work hand-in-hand to help the fetus grow strong bones and teeth. While eating a nutritious diet is the best way to get vitamins and minerals, a prenatal acts as a form of insurance.
If you’re curious about brand, we recommend checking in with your doctor. They can give you options based on your personal diet, health, and history. While vegetarians may need more iron, others may need a gummy vitamin if they’re prone to nausea, for instance. If you want to do some preliminary research, check out Labdoor — an online resource that assesses vitamin quality.
While prenatal vitamins may seem like an obvious conception to-do, there are others that aren’t quite as “duh” but are still enormously valuable, like fertility testing. Fertility testing can be administered via a blood sample that’s taken at your doctor’s office, a lab, or in the comfort of your home with Modern Fertility’s test. In turn, the sample gives you a snapshot of your reproductive hormone levels. Hormones like estrogen, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) regulate your reproductive system. You can think of hormones as the fuel that enables things to run properly down there.
For example, ovulation — a function required for spontaneous conception — is triggered by a surge in LH. If your LH levels are low, your ovaries may be struggling to release an egg each month. (In order for conception to occur, that egg needs to be released and fertilized by a sperm.) Additionally, your ovarian reserve (AKA the number of eggs remaining in your ovaries — which naturally declines as we age) directly correlates to the amount of AMH in your blood. So, high AMH likely means you’re working with healthy number of eggs. The bottom line: There is no absolute predictor of fertility, but we have tools (like AMH) that can help us understand our fertile window.
Like we mentioned earlier, natural conception is largely dependent on your reproductive system (and your partner’s — hey, it takes two to tango), so why not get the oil — your hormones — checked? (Swear that’s the last car metaphor we’ll use to describe your vagina.) It’s helpful to get a baseline to understand your current status before trying to reach a goal, whether that’s hitting a new mile time or trying to get pregnant. Instead of beginning your conception journey in the dark, why not go in with as much knowledge about your body as possible? Armed with this intel, you can set expectations or even initiate an important conversation with your doctor.
So, go ahead and get that bottle of prenatal vitamins. We recommend checking in on your fertility, too. (While you’re at it, draw an imaginary check mark through the boxes above. Feels good, right?) Rest assured that you’re caring for your body by consuming the nutrients you need, but also your mind by consuming information that helps you understand your fertility.