It is an exciting time when a couple decides that they are ready to start their family or make it larger. Maybe this is the first time you are considering having a child, or perhaps you already have a child or more. Either way preconception care is vital and often greatly underestimated step in preparing for a baby. It is a moment for you and your partner to optimise your health and correct any nutritional deficiencies in the 3-4 months before trying for a baby.
Many studies recognise that nutritional deficiencies, illnesses, toxin expose and other health factors influence egg and sperm DNA.
It is suggested that you start preconception care 3-4 months before conception because it takes 100 days for an oocyte (immature egg) to mature and 74 days for spermatogenesis to occur – the production of mature sperm. This means that if you are nutritionally depleted during these 3-4 months while the egg and sperm are maturing, it could affect the egg or sperm's DNA. Meaning this can then affect the health and development of the baby.
Preconception care is about prevention. By taking action now before pregnancy, you can prevent many future problems for yourself, your ability to conceive, your growing foetus and eventually your child.
Things to consider in Preconception
Come off hormonal contraception
When you have been on hormonal contraception, it can take several months before your menstrual cycle returns to normal. When you are coming off hormonal contraception, your body will be detoxifying itself from all the synthetic hormones. Meaning your natural hormones will be adjusting for some time. This can result in all sorts of post-contraception symptoms like irregular periods, painful and heavy periods, acne and so on. It is ideal, to establish a regular, happy and healthy period before conception. What is more, hormonal contraception depletes the body of many nutrients that are essential for healthy fertility. It is a good idea to replenish these nutrients before trying for a baby as this will give you and your baby the best chance of a healthy pregnancy.
Suppose you are experiencing symptoms due to coming off hormonal contraception. It may be a good idea to get some nutritional and herbal support.
Are my hormones out of balance?
Suppose you are currently experiencing PMS, irregular periods, painful and/or heavy periods, this is a sign that your hormones are out of balance and there is room for improvement. Before trying for a baby, it is good to have a good understanding of your cycle. Knowing when you are in the different stages of your cycle will help you sync with your cycle. Living in sync with our cycle is very empowering, and I recommend it to every woman, whether trying to conceive or not. It can be helpful to track your cycle with a Period App. Many beautiful herbs help with hormone balance like chaste tree, peony, dong-Quai, amongst others. Balancing hormones is something naturopaths excel in. Please reach out if you think you are needing help with balancing your hormones.
Why preconception matters to men?
Whilst men do not carry the baby for 9 months; they play an integral role in the health of the baby's development. Preconception care defines the quality of the DNA within the sperm. Studies have found that male preconception care can prevent a multitude of diseases, including cardiovascular health. Preconception care improves male fertility by increasing sperm quantity, quality and motility, which increases the chances of the sperm entering the ovum.
How do I improve liver detoxification?
You may benefit in doing preconception detoxification if you have been smoking, drinking, taking medication/recreational drugs or on been on hormonal contraception. Enhancing liver, kidney and gut function before conception will decrease the mother's chances of digestive disturbances, morning sickness and other complications during pregnancy. It will also improve male fertility and the quality of the sperm. Ensuring both partners are clear of toxins will also greatly benefit the health of your baby by preventing.
You have the power to set your baby up with the most EPIC DNA, designed to withstands the storms of life!
What nutritional supplements should I take for preconception?
It can be challenging to eat all the nutrients needed for conception and pregnancy. A good quality prenatal is essential to ensure you are consuming all the nutrients necessary to avoid health complications for mum and bub. You can purchase good quality prenatal supplements through naturopaths and holistic nutritionists, soon to be available on my online store.
Other nutrients may be required if your body is currently depleted or under a lot of stress. Each individual may need different supplements; this is why having a holist assessment before taking supplements is essential. You don't want to be wasting your money on supplements you may not need.
Reasons as to why you may be nutritionally depleted may include:
long-term hormonal contraceptive use,
drug and alcohol use.
The Top 7 Essential Nutrients for Fertility, Pregnancy and Beyond
Folic acid – well known for its importance in preventing neural tube defects. It is essential for healthy DNA and RNA synthesis.
Iron – adequate levels of iron before conceiving is essential to allow enough iron reserves for the increased requirements during pregnancy and the healthy development of the infant’s brain and neurocognitive. Adequate iron levels during birth are important in the event that you lose a lot of blood.
Zinc – optimal zinc status is essential for numerous functional pathways in the body, including reproductive (egg and sperm health), immune health, neurotransmitter production and is the most critical nutrient for pregnant women.
Iodine – ensures that your thyroid is functioning optimally. Thyroid hormones are essential for sperm and egg maturation. Sufficient iodine levels ensure the cognitive development, hearing and vision of your child is optimal.
DHA - During pregnancy, women need at least 200 milligrams daily of this powerful omega-3 fatty acid to support the development of baby's brain, eyes and nervous system. Plus, getting that daily dose of DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labour, increase birth weight, and support postpartum mood in new mothers.
Probiotics (strain specific) - can help with regulating recurrent UTI’s, recurrent thrush, bowel movements and stimulating the immune system. It has also been found to assist with reducing the risk of GPS. Manipulating the gut microbiome with probiotics before, during and after pregnancy is a rapidly evolving research area to help promote maternal and infant health and enhance good health later in life.
Vitamin D – enhances male and female fertility and immune health. It plays a vital role in sperm production and transportation. It is also essential for hormone regulation.
Mentally and emotionally preparing for pregnancy
Getting of top of your stress and anxiety before conception will increase your chances of falling pregnant. Plus gaining skills on managing your stress will help you know how to manage your stress, during pregnancy and postpartum. Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy because pregnancy is a time of many changes. Your family life, your body and your emotions are changing. You may welcome these changes, but they can add new stresses to your life.
During pregnancy, stress can increase the chances of having a premature baby (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or a low-birthweight baby (weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces). Babies born too soon or too small are at increased risk for health problems. Recent studies have also found that increased stress during pregnancy can result in the baby developing more cortisol receptors. Meaning the baby is more likely to have a heightened sympathetic nervous system. Suggesting that the baby/child may struggle to calm down once he/she is older.
Thyroid dysfunction has been found to be associated with a range of adverse outcomes such as miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, placental disruption, preterm birth, postpartum haemorrhage, low birth weight, neonatal respiratory distress and decreased cognitive function in babies. Some studies have also found an interrelationship between postpartum depletion and thyroid dysfunction. Nutritional supplementation and herbal medicine are very effective at correcting thyroid issues. Unfortunately, most conventional health care practitioners do not look into subclinical hypothyroidism, which is why seeing a naturopath is a good idea.
Before going to see you naturopath it is a good idea to get some blood tests done. These tests will reveal any underlying nutritional deficiency or poor detoxification. This will help your naturopath design an individualised preconception plan for you.
Tests to ask your doctor for preconception may include vitamin D, iron, B12, folate, thyroid and liver function.