Dr. Annie Answers: Getting Pregnant

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It’s kinda crazy to me that a lot of us spend so much of our lives worrying about NOT getting pregnant and then you go straight from that to worrying about getting pregnant. This, like many issues addressed here, can be influenced by many personal health issues. Talk about it with YOUR doctor. I’m just here to give some basic info. This advice also is less applicable if you’re using a sperm donor or other fertility treatments for any reason, but some of it still applies.

So you think you want to get pregnant…

Number 1: Start a prenatal vitamin. *Ideally* you’re already taking one if you are of childbearing age (aka teens through 40s). If not, start NOW. You should be on a prenatal vitamin at least 3 months, and ideally 1 year before you conceive. What if you’re already trying to conceive? Start now. Better today than next week. Just, the sooner the better.

Which prenatal vitamin is right for me? There are lots of brands, gummy options, drinkable options, etc… to choose from. Find one that you can tolerate taking. The basics it needs to have are 400-1000mcg of folate, 27mg iron, 1000 units vitamin D, and 100mcg iodine. If your diet does not have a lot of healthy omega oils, also get a 1000mg daily DHA/EPA supplement. I personally use Honest company prenatal and DHA.

Talk to your health care provider about any medications you’re taking and if they are safe while trying to conceive. Make sure any chronic health issues such as thyroid problems, diabetes, or high blood pressure have been checked and are in good control. Plan ahead for these!

When to get off birth control…medicine-thermometer-tablets-pills.jpg

This depends a little on what you were using. You CAN get pregnant the month (or week) you stop any form of birth control. So don’t stop using anything unless you are A-OK with being pregnant right away. That being said, hormonal birth control is more likely to have a “wash-out” period where you don’t ovulate regularly and are less likely to conceive. DepoProvera, oral pills (especially if you’re skipping periods), the patch, the nuva-ring and Nexplanon/Implanon all have a 3-6 month expected wash-out. I have seen it take up to a year with Depo. IUDs are less likely to have wash-out, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it took 3 months or so.

So, let’s say you want to get pregnant “sometime in 2019”. Easy. Go off birth control after you have that New Year’s blow-out party. What if you have a more specific window? You can plan to go off birth control 3-6 months in advance of that window, but use condoms to prevent pregnancy until then. Know that condoms are only 85% effective at best and you could still get pregnant earlier than you think. So, if, for example it would be devastating to get pregnant in February (calculate due date from theoretical conception date out here), don’t stop birth control until after that.

How to get pregnant….

SO, um, there are of course some basics here I’m assuming everyone knows about human reproduction. If you’re confused on the what goes where, may I refer you back to wikipedia under “birds and bees”. If you’re not in a relationship where sperm is readily available or you can’t have intercourse for any reason – see a fertility specialist about how to get that all going.

If those exceptions above don’t apply to you… the most reliable way to get pregnant is also the simplest. Have unprotected intercourse every other day from right after your bleeding stops until you start bleeding again. Every. Other. Day. Not every 3 days. Not twice a day (but good for you if this is your issue!). This gives you optimal semen volume and you will never miss your fertile window because it lasts 2-4 days. Boom.

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Now we get to the people who are absolutely opposed to having sex every other day. For some couples, that’s not sustainable over the several months it can take to get pregnant. That’s totally fine! If that’s the case, I usually recommend the Glow Ovulation, Period Tracker App. This lets you track cervical mucus, basal body temperature, ovulation sticks and pregnancy tests, sexy time and everything else about your cycle. Take at least 1 month to track everything while still using condoms so you get some understanding of your cycle.

Then, go for that fertile window! Again, sex every other day or daily. What kind of sex? Pretty much whatever. Position doesn’t matter. Ideally, the person trying to conceive should have an orgasm during or after (though there isn’t evidence that this is necessary, it has little down side!). And if you’re gonna use lube, use this lubricant. Chill out for 5-10 minutes after sperm gets in there then go about your business.

Did you say cervical mucus? Sounds so gross, but is actually the easiest way to check if you are fertile. Just look at the TP after you wipe when you go pee. When you’re approaching fertility and fertile, you’ll notice a clear discharge like egg white. When this is super gooey/stretchy – that’s peak fertility. More nitty gritty here.

How long is this going to take?

If you’re under age 35 it is normal to take up to 1 year to get pregnant depending on your health and the health of your partner. Most couples will get pregnant within 3-6 months. If you’re over 35, the timing gets a little more pressured because fertility starts to decline significantly around age 37. In this case, we would usually only give you 6 months before further testing. If you’ve already been trying to conceive for that long – go see your doc.

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Photo cred: FionaMargoPhotography.com

Final note: Don’t sabotage your efforts.

If you’re in the exciting phase of ‘trying to conceive’, don’t do things that are going to stress you out and make it harder or threaten an early pregnancy. Ask your health care provider if any medications you’re taking are safe. Don’t go binge drinking. Don’t smoke marijuana. Don’t smoke anything for that matter. Have your sperm provider avoid hot-tubs, tight underwear and long bike rides. Eat lots of healthy fruits and vegetables and proteins and fats (first trimester is ROUGH ya’ll, you will need those nutrients stocked up). Exercise regularly. Avoid over the counter medicines other than tylenol and tums without asking your healthcare provider. And… enjoy the ride!

ps. Make sure you follow us for an update on my own adventure trying to conceive baby #3 coming soon 😀

94

Dr. Annie is a family physician and married mom of 2 in the Sacramento Area.

Dr. Annie Answers: Kid Vitamin Basics

Mother’s Day is this weekend which has me thinking about all the things moms have to worry about… one of the most common being the nutrition and health of our precious little ones. Almost every day at my clinic, I get some sort of question about vitamins – What’s safe? What’s necessary? Where do I get good ones? The answer, of course, varies by your particular health needs and should be discussed with your own medical provider. A few things are pretty generalizable though and I’ll delve into them here by age. This post is about kiddos – coming up next will be an adult version, so make sure you FOLLOW US to get that update!

Breastfed Babies, Birth through 12 months: 400 units Vitamin DScreen Shot 2018-03-09 at 2.08.17 PM

Vitamin D is needed for all babies who are breastfed half or more of their milk intake. I nearly always recommend Baby Ddrops for those who can afford the $10/month averaged cost. These are concentrated drops so, instead of getting your tiny baby to choke down a whole milliliter of vitamin D like the generic ones at the pharmacy, you only have to put 1 drop on your clean finger and put on baby’s tongue before a feeding. If your baby is formula fed, no vitamins needed, they’re already in there – see below for details.

Breastfed Babies, 4 months through 12 months: Add 6-11mg Iron

Iron is recommended for breast-fed babies after the first 3 months of life. Mom’s iron from the womb keeps them going up until that 4 month mark.

Sidenote…. One of the potential benefits of delayed cord clamping at birth is increasing baby’s iron stores for that first 3-4 month period (great review on this by Dr. Raju et al here.) . This is, of course, an important thing to discuss with your own pregnancy care provider, but worth considering for this and other benefits if there is no reason not to do it.

From ~4 months through the rest of the first year, baby will start eating more and more ‘real’ foods which can supply some iron, but usually not enough. The recommended amount by the American Academy of Pediatrics for babies 7-12 months is 11mg per day. For reference, you’d have to get your baby to eat 2 cups of cooked spinach to get that much – not gonna happen.

Option 1: at this age, stop Vitamin D supplement and change to multivitamin. Poly-vi-sol with iron is the go-to recommendation for most health care providers. However, my daughters both projectile vomited it, so we had to use alternatives. Other options are Zarbees Baby Multivitamin with Iron  and Honest Company makes an easy-to-give vitamin powder: Link herepexels-photo-533360.jpeg

Option 2: continue with Ddrops and give iron-only supplement like this one or give a serving of iron-enriched cereal daily. I personally, along with a growing number of pediatric care providers, recommend the former along with introducing iron-rich foods such as pureed meats, dark leafy vegetables, beets and beans before cereals as part of a healthier early diet. Baby cereals don’t otherwise have much in the way of nutrition or “taste education” for that little one. (References here in AAP News and here from NIH)

Formula-fed Babies up to 1 year

Breast-milk is best for moms and babies that can do it in all aspects except these 2 vitamins. Formula comes conveniently stocked with both Vitamin D and Iron so you don’t have to worry about the supplements. Certainly not a reason to choose it over breastmilk, but a nice side-benefit if it ends up being the right option for you. I usually recommend Baby’s Only Organic Formula or Plum Organics Grow Well Formula. Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 5.58.09 PMThey are well tolerated (review here), have the right amount of all important nutrients and both come out to roughly $1/ounce (compare to Similac Advance Non-GMO at $1.25/ounce). They are also organic and free of corn syrup solids and chemical additives – which, when you’re talking about the ENTIRE nutrition of your tiny rapidly growing baby is important. AND!! You can get them both on auto-ship from Amazon so no leaving the house – bonus!

After 1 year: Vitamin D 400-1000 Units Daily +/- others…pexels-photo-61129.jpeg

This now depends on how picky of an eater your kid has become. If you have that amazing, adventurous eater who loves a variety of meats, fruits, and vegetables and drinks 2+ cups of milk per day, multivitamins are unnecessary. If your child doesn’t get 400-1000 units Vitamin D from fortified milk and other foods, they will need a vitamin D supplement again. Why? What about kids before the advent of vitamins?? Well, kids were outside ALL DAY without sunscreen back then. We now know better and protect their skin – the downside of which is low vitamin D.

If you do have a picky eater  – even if you’re not sure how picky is picky – a multivitamin can fill in the gaps. Again, the above mentioned Zarbee’s and Honest options are great as is Renzo’s Picky Eater Multi. If they’re getting extra of some of those vitamins, they will pee them out.

Hang on…. I hear a question coming out of the Ether….

“Dr. Annie, are the examples you listed above the only good options?? What about Flintstone’s vitamins or Olli Chewables?” Of course those aren’t the only vitamin brand options. If you want to check out others, just read the fine print on the label on the back and make sure they have the right amounts of the recommended vitamins.

Wait…. another one coming in…. “What about probiotics??” I’m so glad you asked! YES probiotics are so important from infancy through the rest of life – so important I’m going to write a separate post all about it ;^)

94 Dr. Annie is a family physician, wife and mom of 2 picky eaters In the Sacramento Area.