Are you thinking of starting a family in the near future? If so, have you done any Preconception Planning?
Why is preconception care important? Well, you want to ensure that your body is up for the task, nutritionally, physically and emotionally.
What is the timeline for preconception? Keep in mind that immature eggs require 3 months to mature and sperm also take 3 months to develop, so ideally preconception care should begin at least 4 months prior to the planned conception.
We have all heard that being too stressed can prevent conception. How is this possible? Your adrenal glands are responsible for the body’s stress response by secreting stress hormones. All hormones in the body are connected, so if the stress hormone levels are too high, other hormones required for reproduction will be out of balance. You can keep your stress hormones in line by getting more sleep, taking deeper breaths, avoiding caffeine and other artificial stimulants, and eating balanced meals to ensure vital nutrient absorption and an even blood sugar.
By improving the diet, the body will digest and absorb more nutrients – nutrients that will feed the body’s reproductive needs and lay a foundation for the baby’s conception and growth. Eating clean is a function of two main actions – 1. eating more good; and 2. avoiding the bad, that is, eating more nutrient-rich foods while steering clear of the junk foods. We refer to these junk foods as “entertainment”, as they are eaten not to fulfill the body’s nutritional needs, but rather because one is bored, has the munchies, or just wants something convenient and easy.
Psychologically it requires less effort to increase the good food habits, than it does to take away a bad food habit. So drink more pure water, and eat more green vegetables and fresh fruits. Aside from avoiding the obvious bad foods, such as fried foods, chips and chocolate bars, there are many main-stream foods which should also be avoided to reduce and eliminate estrogen imbalance, water retention, kidney disruption and gastro-intestinal inflammation – all of which could be hindering your ability to get pregnant.
Just like preparing for sport performance, preparing for conception and pregnancy requires more nutrients over and above your daily nutritional needs. If you think taking a multi-vitamin will cover your additional nutritional obligations, think again – the body prefers to absorb nutrients from food, not from a pill or capsule (regardless of how clean the nutrient process to create the pill/capsule is).
So what do you need? The man’s body needs to ensure he has what it takes to create strong sperm, repel free radical damage to the sperm, and promote overall hormonal health. The woman’s body demands nutrients to ensure healthy, high quality eggs. prevent birth defects, and absorb extra oxygen to feed the fetus.
Not only do you want to clean up your foods, you also want to re-evaluate and improve upon all that which surrounds you. By eating more organic produce, you will circumvent the dioxins found in commercial produce grown with the help of herbicides and pesticides. Dioxins, most prevalent in meats and dairy, are known to lower sperm count, reduce testosterone levels and have a negative effect on estrogen.
Reduce your use of plastic food containers, as they typically contain phthalates and BPA, two chemicals which are harmful to the reproductive system. Instead, switch your kitchenware to glass containers. Estrogen-mimicking BPA is also found in the tin lining of canned foods, so replace the canned and packaged goods with more wholesome fresh foods.
When you clean your home, are you really cleaning, or are you spreading more harmful substances?. Choose to follow your grandmother’s (great-grandmother’s) cleaning methods by using white vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap to clean your floors, windows and bathrooms.
Likewise, your personal hygiene products – soap, shampoo, facial cleansers and cosmetics – should be purchased at a health food store, in order to ensure that the ingredients are safe and do not contain ingredients which may disrupt hormonal function.
Eileen Fauster is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Registered Acupuncturist and the founder of Essential Balance Holistic Health serving the GTA, Toronto, Vaughan, Yorkville, Woodbridge and neighbouring areas. She has helped many couples become parents.
Kirsten Colella is a Holistic Nutritionist who specializes in fertility and new-born nutrition.