Preconception Care

Taking good care of yourself impacts positively on the health of eggs, sperm and the uterus. A robust reproductive system influences the chances of successful conception and healthy pregnancy.  There are a number of preconception programmes out there. The one I really recommend is Foresight by the Association For The Promotion Of Preconception Care which is a registered charity.  Their programme optimises the chances of natural conception. They also offer hair analysis which measures the status of your essential minerals and levels of heavy metal toxins, which can impact upon the healthy development of the foetus.

Some suggestions of things you and your partner can do to prepare yourselves for conception …….

Fertility awareness – As ovulation nears, your cervical mucus becomes, clear, still and stretchy. To help pinpoint your most fertile time you can also use fertility testing kits and monitors  and/or chart your basal body temperature

Basal body temperature is your temperature upon first waking in the morning before you get out of bed. Ovulation causes a slight raise in temperature and remains this way until it dips around day 28 when your period is due. You are most fertile on the day your temperature spikes and on the few days after this.  Spikes can happen on other days but unless your temperature remains high then you probably aren’t ovulating.  It might take a couple of months charting your temperature to get an accurate picture of the day you ovulate.  If your temperature remains elevated just before your period is due, this is a strong indicator of pregnancy.

Most experts agree that it’s best to have sex every other day for at least the week before and until a day or two after ovulation. This helps to keep the man’s sperm count high and ensures you will be having enough sex during your ‘fertility window’.  Make sure any lubricants you use are ‘sperm friendly’ as most commercial lubricants are toxic to your partner’s little swimmers.

Exercise – Improves heart efficiency and blood circulation needed to direct essential nutrients to the reproductive system quickly.

Diet – I recommend detoxing your body for at least a month before trying to conceive. A sensible programme I followed was Detox Yourself by Jane Scrivner; a realistic plan which cuts out things like wheat, diary, sugar and meat giving your body a complete energy overhaul.

If detoxing isn’t for you, or if you want to a healthy plan after detoxing, then focus your diet on the following healthy foods; organic, whole grains, meat, poultry, fish, fruit and vegetables, eggs and diary.  Avoid refined (white flour) and processed foods, sugar, excess chocolate, tea and coffee, alcohol and smoking.  Drink filtered water to avoid nasties like lead.

Optimising your nutritional in take will maximise the amounts of vitamins and minerals needed for a  healthy reproductive system.  You can also supplement your diet with a multivitamin geared to conception; I used Pregnacare Conception which contains the recommended levels of folic acid, B vitamins, zinc and antioxidants like vitamin E to protect genetic material from free radical damage.  You can also find a selection of supplements in Health and Wellbeing.

Folic Acid. Needed for foetal neural tube development during the first stages of pregnancy and helps reduce the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida.  The essential time to take it is from a few months before conception until the end of the first trimester.  
B Vitamins. Important for the production of sex hormones and balancing oestrogen and progesterone.  B12, B6 and inositol are important for the female reproductive system. B5 (healthy testes), B12 (sperm count and motility) and inositol (healthy prostate) are important for male reproductivity.  
Zinc. An essential ingredient of genetic material and needed to utilise the reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. Very Important for a healthy sperm count and well formed sperm.  

Avoid, reduce and eliminate toxins …….

Caffeine. Tea, coffee, chocolate, fizzy drinks. Research has shown a link between excess caffeine and low birth weight.  The risk is still low but guidelines say to stick to a maximum of 200 mg caffeine a day which is roughly two cups of instant coffee.
Alcohol. Decreases the absorption of vitamins, particularly B vitamins, and increases the elimination of zinc which can lead to problems in conceiving.  Alcohol causes a whole range of problems for the developing foetus interfering with brain development.  
Smoking. There is plenty of research to show that smoking can reduce fertility and cause miscarriage, premature birth, still birth, low birth weight, sudden infant death as well as other developmental deformities

 

Environment – There are a number of substances that are potentially harmful during pregnancy; lead and mercury. Lead is found in lead based paint. Traces can also leak into water from household piping, so use a water filter if this is the case. Mercury is present in top-of-the-food-chain fish like tuna and shark.  It is also found in dental amalgam fillings.  If you need dental work and are trying for a baby or are pregnant, ask for a white filling. Avoid chemical pesticides found in gardening products.

‘Organic your life’ for peace of mind, and use safe and natural products. Use ‘green’ cleaning products.  Avoid dyeing your hair during the first trimester, and if you really need to afterwards, best to use purely organic products. Also try to stick to organic skin care ranges and cosmetics.

Stress and relaxation – There’s nothing worse than blaming yourself for not getting pregnant because you are too stressed and then being too wound up to relax. In the Essential Over 35 Pregnancy Guide Ellen Lavin reassuringly dispels the myths about stress and points out that the relationship between stress and conception has been turned into ‘an elephant’.  After all, women get pregnant during very stressful times for example during war and as a result of rape.  Ellen says that unless stress levels are so high that it interferes with menstruation and ovulation, no emotionally stressful state can really influence the likelihood of pregnancy.

Having said that, there is still absolute benefit in laying the psychological and emotional foundations for conception.  There is enough evidence to demonstrate the powerful affect the mind has over the body. In fact, mind and body are deeply interconnected.  The greater connection you feel to your body, the more positive you may feel about getting pregnant.  Also, it makes sense to take care of your ‘mind, body and soul’ and approach preconception care from a holistic point of view. Relaxation can really help prepare your body.

Even taking regular breaks or going on holiday can help.  How many stories have you heard of couples trying for years then conceiving on holiday? I conceived the month after returning from honeymoon; I’m sure all the reflexology and massage treatments helped.

Regular meditation, even if only 10 to 15 minutes a day, can help reduce levels of stress and alleviate depression.  It helps to relax and calm the breath and mind, creating more awareness of your inner world and body. In addition, creative visualisation and affirmation, which can be used in conjunction with meditation, are power tools for creating positive changes. Exercise like swimming, yoga and tai chi are also great ways of creating a healthier mind-body connection and increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the reproductive organs.

If you find relaxing difficult or uncover emotional blockages along the way, then counselling can help you work through these.  Therapy could offer invaluable support as you journey on the road to pregnancy.

Natural Treatments ….

Acupuncture. Helps to balance hormone levels. Regulates the menstrual cycle. Increases blood flow to the reproductive organs. Strengthens the uterus lining and can improve egg quality.
Reflexology. Balances mind and body. Detoxifies to optimise nutritional intake. Regulates the menstrual cycle and balances hormones.  Can kick-start ovulation after a course of contraception.
Homeopathy. Balances mind and body. Regulates menstrual cycle and hormones. Stimulates ovulation.
Aromatherapy. Helps regulate female reproductive system and balance hormones.