The period of time prior to the conception of a brand new human being is one of the most important times in which to pay special attention to your health. The egg and sperm that will become your future baby are being formed in the time prior to conception. The ‘blueprint’ for your baby is decided at the moment of conception, with formation of organs beginning within days.
Unfortunately for many prospective parents-to-be, life in the 21st Century is playing havoc with reproductive capabilities, with disorders of the reproductive system becoming more and more common. In addition, the rate of infertility has been steadily increasing, and now affects as many as one couple in six. This is a worrying statistic, however, there are steps that you can take to improve your chances of conceiving.
The ideal time to begin a preconception care program is at least four months prior to trying for a baby. This gives time to build optimal levels of nutrients in the body. Folic acid (the synthetic form of the B-vitamin folate) is often recommended during this time, however certain individuals can have trouble breaking this down within the body, and may be better to take an activated form of this vitamin that is more bio-available (meaning that the body can utilize it easier). In addition, there are many other vitamins and minerals that are crucial during this time period, and your levels of these may be less than ideal, particularly if you have been taking the contraceptive pill or other medications.
Men are often overlooked when it comes to preconception, however it is important to remember that half of the genetic material is provided by the father, and sperm are easily susceptible to oxidative damage (free radicals), as well as dietary and environmental factors that can affect production & quality.
Tips for the preconception period (for both partners):
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine (coffee and cola) and other drugs. These have all been shown to reduce conception rates, as well as being harmful during pregnancy.
- Limit chemical exposure as much as possible. For instance, household cleaners, petrol fumes, paints, solvents, glues, chlorine, pesticides. Switch to ‘green’ non-chemical based cleaners where you can, put off any non-urgent work that involves chemicals, and buy organic food where you can.
- It is best to also avoid as much electromagnetic radiation exposure (microwaves, computer screens, long-distance plane travel) as possible.
- Avoid processed foods. Packaged, refined foods are not going to do your health or that of your reproductive system any favours at all. Get back to home-made meals, with a focus on plenty of fresh vegies, good quality protein and healthy fats to provide your body with some good baby-building nutrients.
- Avoid varieties of fish that may have high levels of mercury – usually bigger fish (they accumulate mercury over time) such as tuna, shark (flake) and swordfish. Smaller varieties of fish are fine, and a valuable source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Choose organic and/or free-range poultry where you can. In addition, grass-fed meats are a better choice than grain-fed meats, as this is more in line with the natural diet of the animal.
- Make a conscious effort to include more fresh fruits, vegetables, raw nuts & seeds in your daily diet. These provide valuable vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that help to support health during the preconception period.
- Exercise at least a few days per week. Exercise increases pelvic circulation, thereby increasing nourishment to the developing sperm & eggs. Exercise also helps support healthy blood sugar levels – which in turn has a beneficial effect on fertility.
- Reduce stress as much as possible. Stress can influence both fertility and a developing baby. Take a walk, try meditation, yoga, or take up a hobby you enjoy.
- Men should avoid hot saunas & baths (even raising the temperature by 2°C can adversely affect sperm production), prolonged sitting, tight underwear and physical trauma.
If you would like personalized care, with the highest quality, most effective natural medicines, I offer a naturopathic pre-conception care program for couples in the clinic. This is a personalized program that is designed just for you and your partner, with a focus on improving your chances of falling pregnant, staying well during the pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby.