Top 10 Tips for Preconception
Formation of sperm can take up to 116 days and ova are susceptible to damage for about 100 days before ovulation, so ideally both partners should be thinking about preconception health care for around four months prior to conception. Infertility is shared equally among men and women, so preconception care is not just something for women to think about.
Here are 10 top tips to consider when preparing your bodies to make a baby:
1. Quality all round wholefood diet – carbohydrates, protein and fats.
- PROTEIN: Essential for the number and quality of eggs produced, healthy sperm, the fertilisation process and the early development of the embryo. Legumes/Pulses: eat plenty of split peas, lentils, chickpeas, beans (kidney, borlotti, etc), nuts and seeds, tofu, tempeh, keep animal products to a minimum if you can and pick only organic. Remove or limit cow dairy and red meat. Smaller fish such as sardines are better (less mercury) than larger fish such as tuna and mackerel.
- CARBS: Essential for energy production, health of eggs and sperm and proper functioning of the digestive system: The majority of your diet should be vegetables and fruits, the majority of these are carbohydrate rich. For extra sustaining energy think sweet potatoes, white potatoes, pumpkin, carrots etc, plus also grains such as wholegrain bread/rice/pasta and organic where possible. Quinoa, buckwheat, millet, kamut, barley, amaranth, oat, rye, spelt, black rice, red rice, teff, corn and wheat. Avoid refined flour products (this includes rice cakes and rice crackers!) and read bread packets carefully to avoid those containing additives and preservatives. Try sprouted grains too.
- FATS: The fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E which are important for your health and the development of your baby. They are also a source of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) crucial for the production of healthy prostaglandins, precursors of hormonal balance, as well as healthy eggs and sperm. Think of getting your fats from whole sources such as nuts and seeds and olives. Do not go overboard with actual ‘oil’ but when you do choose extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil and chia seed oil. Be sure not to cook with the latter, only cook with olive oil and not on a high heat.
2. ORGANIC and biodynamic is best! If there’s ever a time that you’re going to take this on board and prioritise your food budget a little more to buy top quality produce, this is the time. The less contamination from chemicals in your body, the better. These can affect eggs and sperm and compromise nutritional status.
3. AVOID as much as possible: Xenoestrogens (found in heated plastic such as water bottles and cling wrap, tupperware containers), exposure to toxic metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, aluminium), chemicals (oven cleaners, pesticides, furniture polish, carpet cleaners), radiation (X-rays, microwaves, mobile phones), alcohol, sugar, refined and processed foods, saturated or hydrogenated fats or oils and trans fatty acids, caffeine, and cigarettes.
4. SLOW change is better than no change: Don’t feel overwhelmed by the list of dos and don’ts - doing something is definitely better than doing nothing at all! Start with the basics, do one thing at a time and set realistic goals.
5. SUPPLEMENT where necessary. Many people would benefit from a preconception supplement and possibly other supplements tailored to their needs. It would be nice to think we could get all our nutrients from our foods, unfortunately, this is not often the case. The reality is that many of our foods are robbed of their nutrients through chemical-laden growing methods, toxic environments, lengthy transit times, long shelf life etc.
- Folate (folic acid) - Particularly important for DNA synthesis and cell division in the epithelial cells of the uterine cervix and vagina. Folate deficiency during pregnancy is associated with neural tube defects such as spina bifida. It is essential that folate be supplied for at least 3 months preconception as the neural tube closes within 28 days of pregnancy. At least 500mcg/day is recommended.
6. HERBS: In addition to nutritionals, herbal medicine may be indicated to achieve some of the following therapeutic aims e.g. balance hormones (increase/decrease oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, prolactin etc.), improve uterine tone, assist liver clearance, nurture the nervous system, improve sperm morphology, motility and count and protect against miscarriage. Each couple will receive individual unique support.
7. TESTING: Diagnostic tests performed at our clinic and by your GP help us to get a clear picture of where your health is at. Not all tests are necessary for all people but we can advise you as to what is recommended given your history.
8. CORRECT BODY WEIGHT: This is really important for correct hormonal balance. Being underweight or overweight affects your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby. This is something we can certainly help you with.
9. Work on your digestion. Many of us tend to have poor functioning digestive systems. Be sure to get on top of this and work with a practitioner to help you out.
10. REDUCE YOUR STRESS – this should be number 1 actually! I think many underestimate the impact of the nervous system and how it can negatively impact hormones.
With credit to Franjos Kitchen for the suggestions.
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