Are you thinking about trying to conceive? Or maybe you’re already trying! Trying to conceive (often referred to in the fertility community as TTC) is a special time in life, as it marks the beginning of the monumental transition into parenthood (or growing your family, if you already have little ones).
Congrats! We are so excited for the journey you’re about to embark on, whether you end up being able to conceive on your own or need a little assistance from a fertility specialist.
Skip to a section:
- Why is preconception health important?
- What is the 90-Day Preconception Checklist?
- What can I do to increase my chances of getting pregnant?
- Lifestyle Changes
- Nutrition and Physical Activity
- Mental Health and Support
- Financial and Insurance Considerations
- The Final Checkmark: Conceive
- Ready to begin your TTC journey?
- More Fertility Resources
Why is preconception health important?
As the nurse manager for Illume Fertility's Trumbull office who has been with the practice for over 18 years, I feel privileged to have been a part of so many family-building journeys - each with their own unique path.
However, the one thing every journey has in common is the preparation stage. We wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of optimizing your preconception health before beginning fertility treatment (or trying to conceive on your own). Becoming the healthiest version of yourself before starting treatment increases your chances of having a successful pregnancy - which is what we're all rooting for!
At Illume Fertility, we urge each patient to follow the 90-Day Preconception Checklist, and as an experienced fertility nurse, I’ve seen how important these steps are to a patient’s journey. Let's explore what this checklist contains and how each step can improve your experience and hopefully, your final outcome.
What is the 90-Day Preconception Checklist?
Since your healthy pregnancy is our number one goal, we have developed the Illume Fertility 90-Day Preconception Checklist to help guide you through the most important steps. This checklist is uniquely designed by our fertility experts to help you achieve a positive pregnancy outcome, and most importantly, a healthy pregnancy and baby.
So, what does this 90-Day Preconception Checklist cover? We go over a variety of lifestyle pillars, including nutrition, lifestyle habits, emotional preparedness, and financial considerations. Our team has seen that by making these small adjustments to your lifestyle 90 days prior to conception, you not only improve your personal health, but you also improve your chances of successful conception.
Want to save this checklist for later?
What can I do to increase my chances of getting pregnant?
This is one of the top questions I am asked as a fertility nurse, and for good reason. Whether you're having trouble conceiving or simply curious about the process, everyone wonders: “What else can I be doing to improve my chances of getting pregnant?”
Enter: the 90-Day Preconception Checklist. Let’s get to it!
Since it is not known how much alcohol it takes to cause fertility issues or problems in a pregnancy, the safest bet is to avoid alcohol altogether if you are attempting pregnancy or are pregnant. Research has shown that even drinking lightly can increase the time it takes to get pregnant by affecting ovulation, which can make it difficult to conceive.
Review Medications with Your Doctor
If you're currently taking medications, supplements or substances of any kind, be upfront with your doctor and review the potential risks or benefits of continuing each one as you begin trying to conceive. Sometimes, current medications may need to be swapped out or tapered off of if they aren't safe for pregnancy. Always talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have and never stop taking your medication without medical supervision.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's a very important one. Smoking and second-hand smoke can have a huge impact on fertility and is also associated with miscarriage (because it impacts egg quality). So, if you or people around you smoke, consider taking steps to quit and avoid that second-hand smoke.
Limit Exposure to Environmental Risks
We recommend that you avoid any exposure to environmental chemicals such as cleaning products, gardening chemicals, synthetic fertilizers or bug sprays. These substances can impair the reproductive systems for both men and women and make it more difficult to become pregnant. Always refer to the listed safety labels and precautions on all products you plan to use, and ask your doctor if you're unsure about a product's safety.
Don't panic - your daily caffeine habit doesn't have to be eliminated completely! However, we do advise that you limit caffeine consumption to two 8-ounce cups of coffee a day. As long as you aren’t consuming high amounts of caffeine (i.e. greater than 150mg per day), you should be fine. Note: watch for hidden sources of caffeine often found in tea and soda.
Nutrition and Physical Activity
Consider Your BMI
Let me be very clear: you don’t have to have a BMI of over 18 or under 25 to get pregnant! Every body is different and deals with different challenges, and people with BMIs both under and over that threshold can and do have success conceiving. What's important is finding out how to give your body, no matter where it falls on the BMI spectrum, the best chance at fertility.
Having said that, being either underweight and overweight can impact your fertility. Hormones and metabolism play a major role in fertility, and when you're either underweight (BMI < 19) or overweight (BMI > 30), this can throw off the hormones that impact menstrual periods and ovulation.
If you're on the higher end of the BMI spectrum and are trying to get that number down, consider increasing your physical activity with gentle practices such as walking, swimming, or even yoga. Some studies have shown that losing 5-10% of body weight may positively impact your fertility. Always talk to your doctor about your individual situation and what they recommend for you.
Note: Your weight loss does not need to be dramatic in order to increase your chances of conceiving. Any movement toward a normal BMI range can help. Alternatively, if your BMI is lower than 19, you may want to consider reducing your exercise routine and/or upping your caloric intake.
Establish a Healthy Diet
Easier said than done, I know. But what does it really mean to eat healthfully? Let's explore.
A healthy diet is one of the first steps you can take to create the foundation for a healthy pregnancy. We always recommend consulting with a nutritionist. If you’re a patient at Illume Fertility, we have two registered dietitian nutritionists, Jill Hickey and Jenn Walsh, who are available to help you create a personalized nutrition plan!
Our nutrition team recommend eating a balanced diet that is inclusive of the following:
- Whole grains
- Lean proteins
- Heart-healthy fats such as unrefined oils like olive, flax seed, and canola
- Other heart-healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and omega-3 fish oils that are low in mercury (such as salmon) are also great choices
Your nutritionist can offer tailored suggestions for healthy, individualized nutritional options to get you closer towards your individual goals. Our team is a wealth of information that we encourage you to take advantage of!
Want to optimize your nutrition?
Consider Working with a Health Coach
A health coach who is specially trained to understand fertility can also assist you in making these nutrition and lifestyle changes. At Illume Fertility, we have a dedicated health coach, Monica Moore, APRN. Having a health coach in your corner can help you in accomplishing your personal goals by working around individualized schedules and personal circumstances to make them more achievable.
It’s clear that having a healthy diet can contribute to having an ideal BMI which can then improve your fertility and increase your chances of a successful pregnancy. These two things (BMI and nutrition) are interconnected.
However, don’t be concerned with following a strict diet, as they are unsustainable (and often restrictive). Our goal is a healthy foundation. Remember: it is more about developing a healthy lifestyle now, so that you can be the healthiest, happiest parent possible and be ready for all the joys and challenges your future baby will bring!
Take a Prenatal Vitamin
Another important component of the 90-Day Preconception Checklist is to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Start by taking a prenatal vitamin that contains an appropriate amount of folic acid (we typically suggest 800mcgs-1mg, but ask your doctor or nutritionist to confirm).
How should you choose your prenatal vitamin?
It's also vital to ensure you're getting enough vitamin D (we want to see levels greater than 32 ng/ml). It is easy to have this checked to ensure that your vitamin D is in a healthy range by doing a simple blood test with your doctor. If your levels are low, you can boost them with foods that contain vitamins and minerals such as leafy greens and dairy, and supplement with extra vitamin D prescribed by your doctor if necessary.
Drink plenty of water and avoid soda. Drinking water will aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Remember: no single diet plan is best. You just want to make sure that you are getting the appropriate calories and nutrients. Eating fresh whole foods whenever possible is a great way to ensure you are avoiding pesticides and other chemicals.
Get the Flu Vaccine
You should avoid getting the flu while pregnant, so making the vaccine part of your checklist is crucial.
Avoid Certain Foods
- Avoid processed foods high in sugars and artificial sweeteners
- Avoid fish that may contain high levels of mercury such as tuna, mackerel, shark, and blue fish
- Don’t eat unpasteurized cheeses like feta, brie, and goat cheese
- Avoid deli meats, as these can contain listeria
Feeling overwhelmed? We get it! Never hesitate to ask your Care Team for support. They are always happy to offer expert advice if you are feeling unsure about what to do.
Mental Health and Support
As you prepare for your pregnancy journey, it is also essential that you take care of your emotional health. How you think, feel, and act as you navigate the stressors that surround the trying to conceive process matters more than you might expect.
One of the best ways to care for your mental health is to utilize all the available resources that your fertility clinic provides.
Incorporate Stress Management and Meditation
At Illume Fertility, we have an entire program devoted to holistic mind/body fertility support called Integrated Fertility & Wellness. This program offers resources dedicated specifically to your mental and physical wellness, including counseling, acupuncture, nutrition, and more.
To aid in stress management and relaxation, we offer free Fertile Yoga classes that incorporate gentle movement and meditation, taught by founder Lisa Rosenthal. Lisa also serves as Illume Fertility's dedicated Patient Advocate, offering one-on-one emotional support throughout your journey.
Why is this important? Meditation can lower stress levels by decreasing your heart rate and slowing your breathing, allowing you to relax and destress. Lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, has also been shown to increase positive fertility outcomes.
Learn more about our holistic support options:
Consider Support Groups or Talking with a Professional
It can be helpful to seek the advice and expertise of a fertility counselor during this process. They are experts in strengthening existing coping skills or helping you develop new ones - allowing for more effective communication between you, your team, your partner or others.
We know that while it is exciting preparing for a pregnancy, it can also increase unforeseen stress and anxiety. If you want some extra support, we suggest finding a social worker that specializes in fertility or family building.
At Illume Fertility, we have two licensed clinical social workers on staff, Melissa Kelleher and Lisa Schuman, that specialize in this area. They offer both individual and couples counseling. Their goal is to help you find ways to reduce stress and make this journey a positive (even enjoyable!) one.
Identify Family and Friends to Serve as Support
Friends and family may be helpful during this journey, but only choose those that you consider to be truly good listeners and supportive. If you don't have any trusted friends or family members to support you, I always recommend trying out one of our support groups, where you're certain to connect with others on similar journeys.
Financial and Insurance Considerations
Finally, we need to address the practical matters of your trying to conceive journey, which include everyone's favorite part: the financial and insurance considerations.
Check Health Insurance Coverage
Your first step: confirm your health insurance coverage and family-building benefits allowance. All plans are different per patient, so it’s important to ask all the right questions.
If you are an Illume Fertility patient and have any questions regarding benefit plans, feel free to contact your Insurance & Billing Advocate, who can help you confirm coverage and discuss potential costs for your fertility journey.
Budget for Your Plan
Next step: make a plan with your partner, if applicable. How much will all this cost, realistically? How much will you need to save each month? Budgeting and planning now can save you a lot of time, stress, and money later.
The Final Checkmark: Conceive
Ha! If only it were that easy. Here's what to do to ensure you have the best chances of conceiving:
Schedule a Preconception Visit with Your OB/GYN
To start the process, you want to make sure you’re up to date on your mammogram and pap smear. Let your provider know that you are trying or going to start trying to conceive. They can you help you with any further questions in that moment.
Conduct Fertility Testing
For those having trouble conceiving or simply wanting to rule out any fertility issues before trying, we always recommend fertility testing. These tests measure multiple hormones and assess the reproductive system to understand your body and any particular challenges. These tests include a semen analysis, simple blood tests (FSH, AMH, etc.) and thorough physical exams (HSG, saline sonogram, ultrasound, etc.)
Concerned you may be struggling with infertility? Don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to help!
Ready to begin your TTC journey?
This is a very exciting time, and all of us here at Illume Fertility want you to be successful! 90 days may seem like a long time, but making small adjustments each week can truly add up to life-changing results.
If you’re thinking about conceiving, start working on your 90-Day Preconception Checklist now. If you’re actively trying to conceive, (you guessed it!) you should start working on the checklist ASAP. Each day you put effort into this will get you that much closer to your goal and maximize your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
We're all rooting for you!
Are you ready take TTC to the next level?
More Fertility Resources
If you're looking for additional support or tools on your fertility journey, we recommend exploring the links below!
- How Laser Acupuncture Improves IVF Success Rates
- What Are My Chances of Success with Fertility Treatment?
- What to Expect at Your IVF Embryo Transfer | A Patient’s Perspective
- What to Expect at Your IVF Embryo Transfer | A Nurse's Perspective
- Katie's Story, Part 1: From Infertility Diagnosis to Rainbow Baby
- [VIDEO] Laser Acupuncture Improves Implantation Success Rates
- How to Maintain Relationships During Fertility Treatment Stress
- 10 Ways to Take Back Control On Your Fertility Journey
- [VIDEO] Study Shows Fertile Yoga Reduces Stress During Treatment
- Ask Monica Q&A Video Series
- Read Patient Stories
Linda is a registered nurse and the office manager in the Trumbull office. She graduated from Syracuse University in 1982 with her BSN. She has been working at Illume Fertility since 2002 and loves helping her patients achieve their dream to have children. Previously, Linda worked as a nurse in the ICU and surgery/recovery.