Are you planning a pregnancy?
Achieving a healthy pregnancy starts well before you fall pregnant. The time leading up to conception is an opportunity to make good choices and aim for optimal health for both parents, as the father’s health is equally important as the mother’s during this period. Research shows that nutritional deficiencies, stress, exposure to toxins and illness can all affect both sperm and /or egg health. Aim to start your pre pregnancy preparation about 4-6 months before conception.
If you are thinking of trying to become pregnant, here are a few points to ponder.
- Have a health and medical check-up. This can include a visit to your doctor to have a range of preconception blood tests including various hormones, rubella, Rh factor, Vitamin D as well as any routine blood tests required. It is important to discuss the implications of any medications you may be taking, and any chronic medical conditions you may have, such as hypertension, diabetes, hypothyroidism, or autoimmune diseases. Discussing family history is important to identify any conditions that may impact your pregnancy or baby.
- Make sure you are ovulating. Knowing when, and if you ovulate and understanding the significance of cervical mucous can help pinpoint the ideal times to try for a pregnancy. There are many ovulation tracking apps and the old-fashioned thermometer and tracking sheet still work very well.
- Visit the dentist to ensure any dental issues are resolved. Good oral health is an important part of your preconception preparation.
- Adopt a healthy eating plan including good balance of macro and micronutrients. A Mediterranean type of diet – an anti-inflammatory diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, good quality carbs and protein is a good choice. Eating well is vital to build a sufficient level of nutrients to support a growing baby. A healthy diet will also help with weight control, as being either under or overweight can affect conception and the health of the baby. A visit to a nutritionist for guidance can be helpful.
- Certain foods are dangerous when pregnant, so if you suspect you may have conceived don’t eat undercooked foods, or other foods such as soft cheeses, bean sprouts, pre-prepared salads, raw meats and seafood, deli meats and pates, soft serve ice cream, unpasteurised dairy foods, and raw or partially cooked eggs. Salmonella, campylobacter, and E-coli are all dangerous food born bacteria which can impact a developing baby.
- Consider pregnancy supplements. There are a range of pre-natal supplements on the market that can be continued throughout your pregnancy to support the healthy development of your baby, and after birth during breastfeeding. These usually provide the B vitamin group and in particular folate – available as folinic, folic acid or bioavailable L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (L-5-MTHF), to reduce the chance of neural tube birth defects. They may also include-Vitamins D, E and C, zinc, iodine, selenium, iron, and copper. Other helpful nutrients may include magnesium, Essential Fatty Acids and CoQ10- which supports sperm motility and egg health. Probiotics provide health gut bacteria for both men and women.
- Ensure adequate water intake: aim for 1.5-3L/ day for hydration and waste elimination. Herbal teas such as ginger tea, dandelion, marshmallow, and chamomile are good ways to increase your water intake.
- High stress levels can impact achieving a pregnancy and can cause problems once pregnant. Find ways to reduce the effects of stress such as breathing exercises, regular fitness exercise, and sleeping well. Walking, and parasympathetic activities like yoga and meditation, can assist GIT function, stress and anxiety, general fitness, and immunity. Massage and Acupuncture can also help.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs when trying to conceive and stop smoking altogether. Do not abuse prescription drugs. This applies equally for men and women as sperm quality is also affected.
- Reduce daily caffeine intake and try decaffeinated herbal teas but check which ones are safe in pregnancy.
- Exercise- for both your mental and physical health. Regular moderate intensity exercise helps weight control as well. Vigorous walking daily is a good start so aim for 10,000 steps.
- Some harmful viruses can be contracted from animals. These include toxoplasmosis from cat faeces, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis from rodents such as mice and guinea pigs, and can cause miscarriages and birth defects in developing babies. So be careful of the cat litter tray, and wash vegetables and salad vegetables to remove all traces of soil which may have been contaminated.
- Avoid harmful chemicals both at home and at work which can affect your chances of getting pregnant and the health of a baby should you conceive.
Finally enjoy this exciting time and if you have questions or concerns reach out to your doctor or natural health practitioner for professional advice and guidance.
Pamela Nelson is a Naturopath, Clinical Nutritionist and Herbalist at Health Space Clinics Lane Cove