For many women, the path to getting pregnant is as smooth as silk. For some others, it can be a little more bumpy. Whatever group you belong to, here are 9 things to do that'll prepare you; body, mind and soul for the magical journey. Learn your basic anatomy That's a great place to start, especially for those who are not really familiar with the inner workings of the female anatomy. You can just skip this step if you are. You'll be surprised how little many Nigerian women know of the female reproductive system. Once, I was blog hopping along the Nigerian blog streets and I came across comments where women (many!) thought sex and urine take place in the same orifice! Someone even commented that peeing after inter course prevents pregnancy because you're rinsing it out...*blink blink*. It's the internet age ladies! Don't hide behind kunya and wallow in ignorance. Familiarise yourself with the workings of your uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes (oviduct), cervix, vaginal cavity and vulvas. Here's a diagram to get you started.Stop contraception This may seem like a no brainer, but hear me out. If you've got a tentative timeline for when you want to conceive and you're currently on a contraceptive (especially hormonal!) you might want to give some time for the hormones to washout of your system and your cycle to stabilise. For example, women that choose to use depot injections might have to wait long periods before their fertility returns to normal. That's because the progestogen injected is deposited into their muscles and gradually released in micrograms over time. So even though it is said to last 3 months, that just means that the manufacturers (and pharmacists) can only guarantee you 99% pregnancy prevention for 3 months. After that, the pregnancy prevention (99%) won't go away immediately but will diminish over time. I've created a table below that tells you approximately how soon fertility returns after stopping the use of a contraceptive.
Women need to know these numbers BEFORE picking a birth control method so they can plan accordingly. Notice how I have a "What to do" section? That because my cousin just told me a horror story of how her friend removed her IUD by herself at home watching YouTube videos! WHY, WHY, WHY? Please don't attempt to do so. There's a reason why only trained medical personnel perform certain procedures and it's not to make your life more difficult. Quite the opposite, actually. There's nothing convenient or easy about pelvic inflammatory disease.
Know your cycle
Monitor your monthly cycle over a few months so you'll have a clear picture of your most fertile days. I.e. Your ovulation period. Ovulation happens halfway into your cycle when your brain signals the release of the lutenising hormone (LH) which causes one (if you're lucky, both!) of your ovaries to release an egg, which travels down the Fallopian tube to get fertilised. Based on the fact that sperm cells can last up to 5 days in the female body, your most fertile days start 5 days before ovulation and shortly after. Download a reliable period app or draw up a calendar and set up reminders for your ovulation period. I've drawn up an example calendar below that can serve as a guide for drawing up yours too.
|Don't forget to get your partner involved but also, don't turn it into mundane task. "I'm ovulating, pants off." This can cause performance anxiety in many men. Instead, have fun with it and plan romantic dates that will take the pressure off. Whatever the outcome, you'll still have fun!|
|This calendar is based on a 28 day cycle. Most cycles vary from 21 to 35 days, so please adjust yours accordingly.|
Get checked out
You're about to embark on a physically draining journey of 9 months, so it's important to see your doctor before hand to make sure you're well equipped for the ride. This is also a great opportunity for you to run questions by your doctor and separate all the junk you've been reading online from scientific fact. Some very important parameters to check include Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar Level, weight, BMI, HIV and Hepatitis statuses. If you haven't done so within the last two years, you might want to get a Pap smear test too. Also, a vaginal swab for bacterial vaginosis because many people have BV without any symptoms and untreated BV increases the chances of miscarriage, preterm birth and post delivery infections.
Take folic acid
Folic acid is certainly the most important supplement a pregnant woman takes as it ensures adequate development of the neural tube of the embryo and therefore prevents birth defects like spina bifida and cleft lip. However, before pregnancy, folic acid helps boost fertility and should be taken by both males and females when they are ready to conceive.
In the female, Folic acid helps with oocyte maturation (development of the egg in the ovary before ovulation), implantation of the fertilised egg into the uterine walls and the development of a healthy placenta, all of which are incredibly essential for developing a healthy baby. It also boosts fertility in the female, especially if they've been diagnosed with idiosyncratic (unexplainable) infertility. In the male, Folic acid aids spermatogenesis, which is the production and maturation of sperm cells.
We've established that folic acid is such an important, essential vitamin and because the human body cannot make its own folic acid and folate rich foods do not produce enough for you and your baby, you will need to take folic acid tablets to ensure you and your partner have sufficient folate intake. In Nigeria it's sold as 5mg tablets and comes in packs of 100 tabs, so stock up and get popping!
Avoid Using Lubricants & Enhancers (Kayan Mata)
There is a longstanding debate over the effect of lubricants on sperm motility. While lubricants contribute immensely to a couples pleasure during intercourse, many studies suggest that the use of lubricants, especially water based, silicone based and oil based reduce the ability of the sperm to move forward, hereby preventing fertilisation. Others argue that the effects are only seen under the microscope but yet, see no difference in fertility between couples that use lubricants and those that don't in real life. I personally feel that it's best to avoid them temporarily when you're trying to conceive to increase your chances. The human body was designed to procreate and with the appropriate amount of foreplay, intercourse can be enjoyed without enhancers.
For my Arewa Babes, this also means you should avoid the use Kayan Mata (local aphrodisiac herbs and concoctions) when you're trying to conceive since most of them work by changing (thickening, scenting) the composition of the vaginal discharge. Especially the ones that require inserting.
It is important to maintain a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables while trying to conceive. Not only are these foods rich in a wide range of vitamins and minerals which are necessary for good health but some of them contribute to fertility like leafy greens, which are high in folic acid and other B vitamins to boost fertility in the female and generate healthy sperm in the male. You'll also benefit from a diet rich in plant proteins (Beans, soya beans, lentils) and dairy products (full cream milk, cheese) which help boost ovulation. Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids like oily, low Mercury fish (Salmon) stimulate blood flow and help regulate hormones and ovulation.
Buy test strips... But don't use 'em just yet
Buy 2 to 3 pregnancy tests and keep on hand. Try not to be obsessed with taking pregnancy tests though. I know chick flicks have us all taking tests with different brands of pregnancy tests to "confirm," but guess what? From my experience, they're all the same.
Pregnancy tests work by detecting levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels in the urine. HCG is detectable in both urine and blood once implantation has taken place so try not to take tests too early or else you'll get a false negative. Even though some brands claim to detect pregnancy from as early as two weeks, I feel getting a negative will stress you out and make you addicted to taking pregnancy tests so you end up spending heaps of money and gaining lots of stress from being anxious over negative results. Stress decreases your chances of conceiving so you see the vicious cycle?
I say buy 2 test strips (they cost 200 naira!) get a disposable cup and keep them in your bathroom. Monitor your cycle every month and see what's normal. Wait till one or two weeks AFTER your missed period then take the test. I guarantee you'll be saving yourself from so much stress.
Relax! And have FUN.
As I've mentioned earlier, stress decreases the likelihood of conceiving, so the best thing you can do for yourself is relax. The best way to not stress is to be informed. Don't go crying to your GP every month over negative tests. Avoid reading too many pregnancy forums, only go there when you have genuine questions. Just prepare yourself and wait, it'll happen in its own time. Indulge yourself with work, pick up a hobby, take long, warm baths, travel. Do things that make you happy and things you may find difficult when pregnant.
That's it guys! If you walk into a pharmacy when I'm on duty, these are tips that I'll offer you. They're derived from my personal experience and knowledge of physiology and pharmacy practice.
I hope you find my tips helpful. Which ones worked for you?
Have I missed any useful tips?
Let me know I'm the comments below!
Lots of "Bumpy" Love,