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Pre-Preconception thoughts

April 13, 2012

What’s the most poetic way to say you’re on your period? “On my moon” comes to mind, though I have no idea what hippie resource I first procured that one from. I remember a college roommate (who later decided to identify as non-gendered) loved that particular phrase when I shared it with her as a freshman. Anyway, I’m menstrual, in the full flow of things, with nary a uterine lining in sight, except in the toilet or on my cloth pads (TOLD you I was a hippie).

Despite this turn of events, I’m hardly so baby-rabid that I’d care about actually being pregnant right NOW NOW NOW. Usually these days my period’s more relief than anything – we have way too much else to worry about besides impending spawn. But it does always make me think about my own health and what needs to be done to keep my plumbing, etc. in pristine baby-ready condition. Beyond getting finances in order and buying our first home, what else do XY and I need to think about to have a baby?

Men’s preconception stuff: XY is only 30 months and one day older than me, so his own timeline for worrying about things like faulty chromosomes is pretty well tied to mine. (Apparently risks for things like Down’s Syndrome do go up when a father is past 40, but neither of us is particularly concerned on this point at the moment.) Also, he’s less interested in health generally: he takes a multi-vitamin and 2000 i.u. of vitamin D daily (prescribed by his doctor, most likely because he’s a sun-hating vampire), walks home from work occasionally, and needs to lose a few pounds (but he’s got a big frame, so that hardly shows). I’ve pestered him about exercise and healthier eating (dropping his nightly microbrew or imported ale could be an easy way to lose the weight) but he’s not going to try anything until HE’S convinced, so there’s no point in me pestering. (Anyway, he needs the beer for his mental health some days, even if he’s not going to reap the B-vitamins from all that delicious hops.) None of this stuff really impacts reproduction as we understand it for men in their early thirties, so I might as well skip it. The stuff that would impact him: he’s a nonsmoker (no weed either), wears boxers, not a rabid cyclist (he currently doesn’t own a bike, though I’m buying him one for his birthday), and doesn’t spend loads of time in hot tubs. Barring the possibility of poor sperm count of unknown etiology, he’s healthy enough to sow his wild oats wherever he chooses. (PICK ME! KTHNX.)

My health: I can’t really claim such superiority to my husband to really bug him about his health, because my health is hardly a shining paragon to aspire to. I’m one of those freaks everyone hates because my metabolism is high (I blame low-grade anxiety, constant thirst, and an ever-pooping colon) and my BMI is consequently 19.5 (barely healthy, quite frankly). I manage to eat well enough to get good total cholesterol readings (seriously, my doctor writes “terrific” on my lipid profile, and we have hypercholesterolemia in my family) but I don’t work out aside from biking two miles to work for four days seven months of the year. Besides judging myself for not working out and not eating PERFECTLY, there are other things that make me a hypochondriac: I have a low-cold tolerance (my doctor hasn’t thought it necessary to test my thyroid yet, but I’m curious as to the reading) and a period with frequent pre-menstrual spotting. When I was 25 I learned about natural family planning and the evils of hormones and ditched the pill, switching to a diaphragm-plus-spermicide method that has so far worked very well for XY and I (No, it doesn’t hurt for me. Yes, I still come, and XY likes it better than condoms). I also spent about five months tracking my Basal Body Temperature and got so depressed about the fact that I NEVER spiked a temp (defining ovulation) that I gave up. My cervical mucous during my cycle looks like it should be saying “REPRODUCTION PLEASE!” with a very defined moment of egg-white in the middle, but BBT is supposed to be the best method of determining ovulation aside from ultrasound & daily hormone testing. Various gynecologists have tried to reassure me, but I remain unconvinced that getting pregnant will be as easy for me as just quitting the diaphragm when the time comes. Now that I work overnights, it’s pointless for me to contemplate going back to BBT anyway. I never sleep at the same time each day and my schedule changes from week to week. I’d imagine it’s a bit like a flight attendant tracking her cycle (are there any flight attendants who might have tips for this?).

Still, I might as well think about how I could still do better on the personal-health front. Right now I’m thinking about my iron stores and trying to build them up before reproduction. Since I eat about 90% vegetarian (with a little grassfed beef and bacon on the side), I don’t get a lot of dietary iron. I’m lazy, so I’d rather take a supplement. My current supplement regimen includes one tablet of a Cal/Mag/Zinc tablet (accounting for about 50% of the RDA for each mineral, since I don’t eat enough calcium, either, and my mom is osteopenic), 1000 i.u. of vitamin D (to help with the calcium absorption, especially now that I work overnights and never see the sun), and 400 mcg of Folate just in case the Occupy Uterus movement starts up without warning. All dietary minerals are tricky (like fat-soluble vitamins, they are more likely to cause problems in overdose and should be supplemented cautiously) but iron is the one that consistently gets me confused about how to supplement. I DON’T want to take 100% of the RDA, because high iron levels are associated with heart disease, diabetes, liver problems, and may contribute to long-term ill health (a few scientists theorize that the low-grade near-anemia associated with the half-lifetime of menstruation most women go through helps to keep away iron overload and may be why fewer women suffer cardiovascular disease or other iron-overload problems than men). But I did browse Whole Foods the other day and came across a supplement that might just give me what I want. 15 mg of iron (as ferrous gluconate; 83% of the RDA which is 18mg), folic acid, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin C to help absorption. Since the other vitamins included in the supplement are water-soluble they’ll just help as needed and go out with the pee if not. I’m taking it right now to help build my iron stores during my period; but I’m thinking of possibly only taking it for nine or ten days before, during and after my period on a regular basis. That way I can move my iron stores up a smidge over the course of the next year while still minimizing my risk of overdosing on iron (since I won’t be taking the supplement for 15-20 days of each month). And it’ll be easy to remember to take (especially since I’ll be taking it at a different time from my other supplements) since I’ll only be taking it while ON my period (when I get that little pre-spotting or the je-ne-sais-quois of P.M.S., I’ll know it’s time). If I get another blood test showing my hemoglobin above 13 in the next year, I’ll consider myself golden (right now it never drops below 11, but it never goes above 13, either. Weird. But I guess that’s my “normal”?)

As far as my other supplements go: I still think they’re good, but I’d like to improve my Omega-3 fatty intake. I bake my own bread with flax seed and tend to add flax oil to my salad dressings, but I hardly think that’s enough to get optimal health. Now that our oceans are littered with toxins (more on that later) I’d actually rather get my DHA and EPA from a supplement than a food source. So I’ve decided to switch out my vitamin D and take Cod-Liver oil (which has been processed to remove mercury and PCBs) instead. Cod Liver oil really doesn’t taste bad (I swear!) and has loads of vitamin D, though not as much as my Vitamin D supplement. The brand I chose is also low in Vitamin A, which has been linked to liver toxicity (albeit in HUGE quantities) so that’s not something I’m risking with my health (I get most of my dietary Vitamin A as beta-carotene, since I eat lots of veggies). I’m weighing the pros and cons of switching to a fish-oil supplement instead of the Cod Liver oil, and just adding that to the vitamin regimen with a side of vitamin D. But it does seem easier to just take one food-based supplement (along with my Cal/Mag/Zinc and folic acid) instead of adding one to an already relatively heavy supplement regimen (though in my defense, I DON’T take a multivitamin since my other vitamin needs are largely intact, I’ve analyzed my diet pretty well to come to my conclusions on what I should take, and my doctor is behind me on all these decisions so far.)

Anyway, that’s my thoughts on supplementation. Aside from trying to be as prepared as possible in as lazy a way as I can manage, I really REALLY try not to stress. For me, that means good time-management and lots of time spent eating good food, having fun with friends and snuggling with XY. It’s been way harder to do this while working overnights but we’re getting better about it (well, for two introverts we think ourselves pretty good.) I’d like to have regular exercise added in here too, but I’m not sure what’s best for me: jogging by the lake? Strength training? Pilates? I used to do twenty minutes of a yoga regimen most days but have totally fallen off the bandwagon. That’s probably where I should start (since I’m still too cheap to join a gym or take classes. Sigh…). Anyway, if the perfect form of exercise comes out and slaps me on the face, I’ll be sure and post about it. Later.

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