There is a specific type of question that I get a lot. I’ll give you one example, but just know that there are many ways to ask this same question (though, I have heard this specific example much more than once).
My doctor recommended that I take prenatal vitamins since I am not on hormonal birth control anymore, but I am afraid to take them because I don’t want to make myself more fertile, since I am trying to avoid pregnancy. Should I take the vitamins?
In this instance, the doctor is recommending prenatal vitamins because they are afraid the patient will get pregnant and they want to make sure that if they do get pregnant that they have their micronutrient needs covered since the vitamin folate is needed to develop a healthy neural tube and the neural tube actually closes around the 6th week of pregnancy. That means 2 weeks after your missed period, a time when many women don’t even realize they are pregnant if the baby was unplanned as 50% of pregnancies are, you need to have had adequate folate levels to prevent neural tube defects.
We’ll ignore the fact that I am annoyed at the doctor for immediately thinking someone not on hormonal birth control is going to get pregnant AND ignore the fact that someone using fertility awareness would definitely know if they were pregnant before 6 weeks.
A lot of women worry about doing something that is good for pregnancy or fertility when they don’t want to get pregnant. I’ve written about this a bit before when I talked about why you want good hormonal health whether or not you are trying to get pregnant, but I only talked about once aspect.
Let’s dive in… First of all, I want to mention that with the specific question above, prenatal vitamins don’t really increase your fertility at all. They are basically a normal multivitamin that generally has a higher amount of iron and folate. Unless your poor hormonal health was directly the result of a micronutrient deficiency the chances of your hormonal health/fertility improving by taking a prenatal is incredibly tiny. Should you take prenatal vitamins? Your choice. If you are eating a healthy diet and don’t want to take supplements you certainly don’t have to. If you feel like you want to take them, by all means, go ahead.
But what about things that do increase your hormonal health/fertility? Do you have to worry about making yourself healthier and then getting pregnant unexpectedly?
1.) Hormonal health is important for much more than just getting pregnant. Both long and short term having good hormonal health means going through life healthier. Please do not neglect your hormonal health because you are afraid of unexpectedly becoming pregnant. Instead, be a conscious user of your preferred method of birth control.
2.) BIG ONE! If you are using fertility awareness as birth control, which many women reading this are and most women asking me these questions are, it is actually easier the better your hormonal health is. Poor hormonal health can result in a longer potential fertile phase due to late ovulation, a sloppy temperature shift that leaves you counting more and more days before you can consider yourself infertile after ovulation, potentially constant or harder to distinguish cervical fluid. If you feel confused or have a long potentially fertile phase you will not find fertility awareness fun.
So yes, do everything you can to help your hormonal health and fertility out. Just as it’s not birth control to be as unhealthy as you possibly can it’s not going to immediately get your pregnant when you have awesome hormonal health.