You may not be considering having a baby right now. Perhaps you’re building your career, enjoying the single life, feeling conflicted about motherhood or coupled and waiting.
Regardless of your status, your future children are already living inside of you. As women, we are born with all the eggs we will ever have, with up to 2 million immature follicles tucked away in our infant ovaries.
For that reason we should prepare now for future parenthood. First things first: It’s not all about age. The choices you make can affect your reproductive health. At my company, Mama Glow, I’ve worked with women in their twenties who have challenges conceiving and women in their early forties who get pregnant right away. Biological age and chronological age do not run concurrently.
Eight percent of Black women ages 25 to 44 have sought medical assistance to get pregnant, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With the growing number of healthy women undergoing advanced treatment for infertility, and more women starting families later in life, be empowered to extend your fertility with proper lifestyle choices, cleansing and stress management. Here are my tried-and-true tips for getting baby-ready well before the bun is in the oven.
EAT FOR TWO.
Your little one is not just made up of what you absorb during pregnancy, but what you eat now. Your body will pull nutrients from your tissues to develop your bundle of joy. Start doing things today that will matter tomorrow. Add foods that stimulate the immune system, balance hormones and supply you with the right stuff, including whole grains, beans,nuts, vegetables, leafy greens and fruit. This creates building blocks for a healthy pregnancy later, and offers benefits now.
GET YOUR OM ON.
Yoga is a wonderful training ground for fertility, birth and parenting. It helps cultivate awareness and meditation in daily actions. Alicia Keys, a second-time mama and yogi, shared with me in a recent yoga session that she believes yoga is about mastering the mind and the body. Yoga honors your inner resources and innate wisdom.
CLEAN UP YOUR RELATIONSHIPS.
If there are people or connections in your life that need attention, the time is now—before you get pregnant—to negotiate healing. Use radical honesty and speak openly and truthfully about what bothers you, then let it go. Forgiveness is important to practice. It allows you to release the past and move forward.
In order to harness that positive and powerful energy that lives within each of us, we have to get out of our own way. It’s often our own beliefs about who we are and what we can and can’t do that keep us from realizing our full potential. Create a regular habit of celebrating yourself.
CHECK WITH YOUR GYNO.
I’ve grown very close to my gynecologist and actually look forward to my annual visits. I’ve met women who avoid checkups and “hope for the best.” Not only do your visits allow you to gather diagnostic information about your cervical and breast health, and what’s going on in your uterus, but you can also discuss your contraception needs and family planning options, including egg freezing.
PROTECT YOUR OVARIES.
We may have been schooled on safe sex, but too many of us sometimes “slip up” with protection. It’s not just about getting pregnant before you’re ready, but also guarding against sexually transmitted diseases. No matter how well you know your partner, you should both get tested prior to sex. Certain STDs can show no symptoms. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are curable, but if left untreated can harm your reproductive system and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and fertility issues. Up to 15 percent of women with untreated chlamydia develop PID, according to the CDC.
SUSTAIN WITH SUPPLEMENTS.
Act like you’re already carrying new life and upgrade your wellness with a daily multivitamin. Your routine should include at least a 400 mcg supplement of folic acid, a B vitamin you get in green leafy veggies.
MANAGE YOUR STRESS.
Did you know that stress can change the pH level and viscosity of cervical mucus, making it thicker and more challenging for you to conceive? Stress is a major obstacle to reproductive health. Using tactics like deep breathing and meditation and finding time for physical activity and outings with friends are great ways to shift from stress to bliss.
OWN YOUR ORGASM.
The uterus is a powerful player in fertility and gets a dress rehearsal for conception each time you climax. When women have a sexual release, we flood our system with endorphins that can be relaxing. An orgasm relieves the tensions on the nervous system and leads to better sleep and good moods. Doctors agree a healthy sex life improves your wellbeing. Embrace your primal appetite for sensual touch.
I love to encourage women to be selfish, especially when they’re trying to get pregnant. Make time for self-care. Relax, get a massage, take a warm bath or read a good book. You can also cleanse your body and space by detoxing, cleaning out your home and organizing your life.
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of ESSENCE magazine, on newsstands now.