Preconception Planning

 Planning for a family requires preparation in several aspects of one’s life. Many experts now agree that the health and wellbeing of parents prior to conception has a major impact on their fertility. Preparing oneself with the power of good nutrition, natural remedies and lifestyle factors, which return the body back into balance results in optimal health for parents and their children. 

Preconception care involves creating a nourishing foundation to increase fertility and the likelihood of a healthy, full-term pregnancy. This entails ensuring that there is an adequate supply of essential nutrients for the developing sperm and egg, and the absence of any potential harmful substances. Ideally, preconception care begins 4 – 6 months prior to conception to allow the healthy development of sperm and maturation of eggs to occur. During this time both parents can undergo an evaluation to determine whether there are any specific issues that may be impeding optimal wellness.

Assessments may include evaluation of thyroid, adrenal and reproductive hormones, a reproductive health history, detection of environmental exposures, and current nutritional status. Upon determining the specific imbalances occurring for an individual, a specific plan can be developed for them. 

As we have all heard before, we are what we eat. This is especially true during the preconception period. Ideally, a diet with plenty of fresh, wholesome, organic foods are enjoyed by both parents. Fetal development is highly dependent on the mother’s nutritional status and often plays a crucial role before one may even realize they are preg-nant. Often, a highly absorbable multivitamin is suggested, along with diet, to ensure that all the essential nutrients are available. Optimal digestion is fundamental to assimilation of nutrients and plays a major role in the body’s ability to get the most out of what you eat. Ideally, one should feel refreshed after eating without fullness, gas or reflux. Elimination also plays a crucial role in balancing hormones and getting rid of potentially harmful substances from the body. Ensuring that all the organs of elimination, including the skin, lungs, liver, intestines, and kidneys, are functioning well is key to restoring one to optimal health. Cleansing the body of prior exposures and opening detoxification pathways in both partners can often play a major role in preparation for conception and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

Protecting oneself from harmful external elements is also vital in the preconception period. Avoidance of chemicals from dry cleaning, remodeling (paint, carpeting, etc), cleaning products, and second-hand smoke is imperative. It is also important to avoid electromagnetic influence by keeping cell phones and blackberries away from the body and making sure that laptops are not held directly against oneself.

Creating a baby requires a complex interweaving of genetic, biological, environmental and behavioral factors. Awareness about these factors empowers us to make healthier choices, reduce the impact of negative influences and to reap the benefits of positive living. Whether you are planning for a pregnancy in the months ahead, preserving your fertility as you look to the future, or are actively dealing with fertility challenges, natural medicine can support your journey.

written Caroline Friedlander, ND, LAc, LMP during her tenure at Acupuncture Northwest & Associates.  She now practices in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Resources:

Foresight, the Association for the Promotion of Preconceptual Care:  www.foresight-preconception.org.uk

Michael Lu, MD.  Recommendations forPreconception Care. American Family Physician 2007; 76:397-400.

Angela Hywood, ND. Natural Fertility Management, Tonic Australia. 2006.

Judith Brown. Nutrition Through the Life Cycle, 2nd ed.