What You'll Learn
- The Value of Community and Education in Conception and Pregnancy
- How Partners Can Get Involved in Preparing for Pregnancy
- Why Supplements Aren’t Always Helpful in Preparing Your Body for Pregnancy
- Why Nutrition Matters When Preparing Your Body for Pregnancy
- Anxiety in Conception and the Perinatal Period
- How Long to Wait After a Miscarriage
- Navigating Secondary Infertility
Preparing your body for pregnancy can be confusing. There’s a lot of misinformation online about supplements and fertility, along with well-meaning but misguided advice from friends and family.
Today, I’m joined by Leslie Schrock, author of Bumpin’ and Fertility Rules, to discuss infertility, preparing your body for pregnancy, and navigating anxiety after loss.
Pregnancy and a Roller Coaster of Emotions
I remember first finding out I was pregnant and experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. I quickly became overwhelmed with all of the information about what to do and not to do with my body.
All three of my pregnancies were spontaneous, and each came with a similar roller coaster. I also suffered a miscarriage between my second and third. As a result, my third pregnancy was different. I was more hesitant, unsure of whether to let myself get excited.
The emotional and physical journey of having a baby begins long before the birth—and for the many moms who experience infertility, miscarriage, or other trauma, that journey begins even before pregnancy.
Leslie knows that firsthand—after suffering an early miscarriage herself, she became pregnant just two weeks later. But that pregnancy ended in a loss—her NIPT showed a fatal chromosomal abnormality called Trisomy 18. She had to abort the pregnancy, leaving her feeling devastated and lost.
After her experience, she realized resources on the topics of trying to conceive, conception, and pregnancy were either lacking in information or overwhelming with too much information in a non-digestible way.
She wrote her books to shine a light on the complexities, provide evidence, and offer practical advice from medical providers, parenting experts, therapists, nutritionists, and personal trainers.
I was so excited to welcome her to the podcast and talk with her about preparing our bodies for pregnancy, coping with infertility and secondary infertility, and how to separate the myths from the truth surrounding the journey.
The Value of Community and Education in Conception and Pregnancy
Leslie pointed out that we often turn to our support systems when we’re on the journey of having a baby—but not everybody has a community to offer help, advice, and support. Some people don’t have close family relationships or friends who have gone through similar experiences.
That’s why she wanted to provide digestible information to moms. Every journey is different, and we need access to evidence and advice as a framework for making the best decisions for our family.
Leslie pointed out that there are many medical complexities, like what she experienced, that are beyond our choice and control. This period of time is often full of nuance, rather than black-and-white decisions.
There are also things that we can make decisions around. Knowledge and evidence can help us through both.
We’re living in the age of information—which is a good thing. But it can also be overwhelming. Millennial and Gen Z families want to know how to sort through the information and find what’s relevant to them. They want to know how to prepare their bodies for pregnancy, how to maintain their mental health, and how to invite their partners into the process.
How Partners Can Get Involved in Preparing for Pregnancy
Leslie pointed out that partners want to be more involved than ever—but are often kept at arm’s length. This occurred often during the height of the pandemic, when partners were sometimes not allowed at appointments.
There are many ways for partners to get involved at every stage of the process—attending appointments when possible, helping with research, and bonding and communicating with the birthing partner.
Leslie pointed out that it’s also important to talk about men’s health on a broad scale. Half of infertility issues are rooted in men’s health. Yet moms are often the ones tracking, monitoring, and adjusting their lifestyle habits to promote fertility.
Leslie said that the issue begins early on. There is a problem with reproductive health education in general—girls are taught very little about their bodies, with minimal education about the menstrual cycle. But boys are taught even less. Men don’t grow up knowing anything about sperm health or what they can do to improve it.
Men don’t grow up knowing anything about sperm health or what they can do to improve it.
Due to a lack of education and stigma around infertility and health, men often don’t seek help for their fertility issues. But Leslie pointed out that unlike damage to eggs, which cannot be reversed, men have the ability to make changes, treat their issues, and repair their sperm. In fact, lifestyle adjustments can often allow men to improve their fertility naturally.
If we approached reproductive health differently, offering more support to men, many fertility issues might be more easily treatable. Fertility clinics should also ensure that they are testing partners upfront.
Unfortunately, the infertility industry isn’t likely to push for change. Leslie pointed out that it’s a cash-pay industry that thrives off of expensive treatments and major interventionist approaches.
Why Supplements Aren’t Always Helpful in Preparing Your Body for Pregnancy
While lifestyle adjustments are a great first line of defense to prepare our bodies for pregnancy and help us promote fertility, it’s also important to understand the evidence behind what’s actually helpful and what’s not.
Many people turn to supplements as a solution. We often want a quick fix—so it makes sense that supplements would be appealing. But Leslie cautioned against this belief in supplements. She pointed out that influencers push supplements as a magic fix, but the clinical evidence says otherwise.
Influencers push supplements as a magic fix, but the clinical evidence says otherwise.
Physical issues like fallopian tube problems or blockages can’t be fixed by supplements. That’s why it’s important to work with a provider to uncover what’s really at play.
Leslie pointed out that evidence has not shown that supplements are effective. The only supplement you should be taking as a person who’s trying to conceive is a prenatal vitamin with folic acid.
She said that men and women should be taking a prenatal vitamin starting ideally at least three months before they are trying to conceive. (Men can take just a regular multivitamin, but there are also men’s prenatals available.)
Why Nutrition Matters When Preparing Your Body for Pregnancy
Leslie also said that nutrition plays a huge role in fertility and overall health. This can be complicated because we’re often bringing in more psychologically with our relationship with food that goes beyond what we’re eating.
We often bring in more psychologically with our relationship with food beyond what we eat.
The internet will instruct you on very specific diet tips—for example, eat salmon, berries, and nuts to improve fertility, or avoid all refined sugars. But that is a very narrow view on the subject. It doesn’t take into account our culture, dietary preferences, finances, or relationship with food.
Leslie said what’s more important than strict diets is viewing nutrition as a marathon—sustaining healthy nutrition over time. She recommends the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the time you try to eat whole foods or less processed foods, and 20% of the time you enjoy other foods that you like. If the recommended foods don’t work for you, find an alternative.
It’s also important to not be too restrictive or too focus heavily on losing weight. Being underweight is just as much of a challenge to fertility as being overweight. Leslie said that neither will preclude you from becoming pregnant but both could cause issues to arise at some point in the process.
Leslie also pointed out that the need for sustaining our bodies with nutrition doesn’t stop after we have a baby. We need to fuel our bodies and our minds when we have little ones.
How Long to Wait After a Miscarriage
One common question Leslie hears is, “If you have a miscarriage, how long do you have to wait to try again?” The answer is that there is no one answer.
Leslie said that if you have a DNC or procedure, it’s best to wait a couple of months to heal, while if your body takes care of it you might be able to conceive again quicker.
But it’s not just about when you’re physically ready—it’s also about when you are mentally ready.
It’s not just about when you’re physically ready—it’s also about when you are mentally ready.
Leslie said that it’s important to let your mind heal. Pregnancy can be stressful even if it’s healthy and typical, with no major concerns. If you’re carrying any kind of trauma, you might carry that anxiety into the next pregnancy and increase the discomforts and stressors.
She pointed out that it’s vital to have support—but that support can look differently for everyone. It might look like working with a therapist, practicing self-care, exercising, or any form of mental healthcare. It’s about stepping back and thinking about what feels good to you—not comparing yourself to other people or feeling like you have to pursue a specific thing.
It’s also helpful to set boundaries if people in your life offer unhelpful advice (like “just relax and you’ll get pregnant”) or toxic positivity (like “It’s in God’s hands”).
Leslie pointed out that when people say these things, there isn’t malicious intent. But we can exercise boundaries and let them know that what they are saying is not helpful.
Navigating Secondary Infertility
Leslie also shared that secondary infertility (difficulty in conceiving after you’ve had at least one live birth) is very common, and can often blindside parents. This can arise from physical issues like blockages or scarring, especially after a C-section.
That’s why follow-up care after childbirth is critically important. Sometimes these issues can be caught early on so we can be prepared for what subsequent pregnancies might look like.
Follow-up care after childbirth is critically important.
Secondary infertility can also arise from lifestyle changes. When we have children, we often put our needs on the back burner, and we might not have as much time for taking care of our bodies. We don’t get as much sleep and our bodies are often different. This can contribute to secondary infertility in both men and women.
Leslie said it can be helpful to work with your partner on lifestyle adjustments together, to continue to preserve your overall health.
There’s also value in knowing that we are not alone. Secondary fertility might not be talked about as much, but if you are struggling, you are not the only one. Continue to be forgiving of yourself and don’t hesitate to work with a provider on testing and creating a plan that works for you.
Anxiety in Conception and the Perinatal Period
The period of trying to conceive often lays the groundwork for anxiety. We’re starting to understand more about postpartum anxiety, but anxiety during pregnancy or even through fertility is often overlooked.
It’s common for this period to come with additional worries and concerns, especially if you’re struggling with infertility or have experienced a miscarriage or loss. But if we veer too far into hypervigilance or are unable to think about anything else, we might be teetering over into anxiety.
We might feel like we need to over-research or cling to any amount of control we can as a way to ease our anxiety or discomfort. But this can become unhealthy or lead us to blame ourselves for things that are not our fault.
Leslie pointed out that perfection is not a reasonable goal—humans need a little bit of grace. She went through self-blame and went through grief counseling after her experiences.
Perfection is not a reasonable goal—humans need a little bit of grace.
But when she was able to find peace and step back, she realized that there wasn’t anything she could have done differently apart from possibly having kids earlier in life—which she wouldn’t have done because she hadn’t even met her husband.
If we have trouble releasing blame from ourselves or overanalyzing every decision, seeking support from a professional can help. If untreated, our anxiety can persist even into parenting.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or coping with grief from loss or infertility, our mom therapists are hear to help! Book a FREE 15 minute virtual consult today.