Preparing your body for pregnancy is ideal for any individual deciding to become a parent. In today’s world we are exposed to more chemicals than ever before; our food lacks the nutritional value it once had; and many, many more individuals complain of hormone imbalances. And these common factors have all been linked to chronic health conditions in children, beginning with conception.
Deciding to have a child used to simply be a lifestyle and financial decision based on the readiness of the family; however, now we have come into an age where preparing the body to produce a baby requires a bit more attention. Health issues such as asthma, allergies, behavioral disorders, immune system disorders, and chronic digestive issues have the potential to be significantly reduced by preparing the body for pregnancy – both mom and dad – anywhere from 3-12 months prior to conception.
Effective preparation includes a detoxification program, nutritional optimization, hormone balancing, and lifestyle adjustments.
Detoxification. The detox stage in a preconception program is one of the most vital steps in today’s world to improve the long-term health of the baby. On average, over 200 chemicals can be found in breast milk, which means the baby has potential for exposure in utero, as well as during the first year of life from the mother’s body.
Eliminating waste from the body prior to conception assists in clearing harmful agents that may alter conception and fetal development. Environmental toxins can affect DNA, lower sperm count and quality, cross the placental border and absorb into the fetus, potentially change neural development, and have correlations with behavioral disorders. Engaging in a detoxification program, ideally 6 months prior to conception, allows the release of toxic chemicals from the body, thereby decreasing the toxic load on the fetus during development. It also takes 98 days to make sperm, and so any sperm having been exposed to excess toxins would need to be 4 months after a detox to be ‘clean,’ so to speak.
A proper detoxification program will run for a minimum of 21 days and include elimination of foods that can cause burden on the body, as well as supplemental support to draw out and eliminate toxins from the body. Foods that can prevent elimination of chemical waste, such as coffee, alcohol, gluten, dairy, and sugar, are avoided during any detox to better enable the release of toxic substances and decrease the burden on the liver and general body inflammation. Detox supplements vary in ingredients, but should include liver cleansing herbs and nutrients, soluble and insoluble fiber, super green foods, and antioxidants.
Nutrient Optimization. Nutritional health is obviously important to any person, but is of vital importance to a developing fetus. Nutrients are the ingredients needed to build and maintain a healthy body. So, any nutrient deficiency can alter fetal development. A healthy nutritional base supports easier conception, healthier pregnancies and babies, and gives the first opportunity at a lifetime of health and wellness. Nutritional health is important for both parents-to-be, as good nutritional status positively affects healthy sperm development as well.
Nutritional assessment can be attained through blood tests which are highly recommended to get accurate information prior to conception. With a minimum of 3 months prior to conception, almost any nutritional deficiency can be altered with specific dietary adjustments and supplementation. There are specific nutrients that are always recommended a minimum of 3 months prior to conception, but ideally 6-12 months prior. Women should begin prenatal vitamins with 800mcg additional methyl-folate, 2000 IU vitamin D3, DHA, and a calcium/magnesium blend, at a minimum. For men, a good multivitamin-mineral with a minimum of 200mcg of selenium, 20mg zinc, 2000 IU vitamin D3, DHA, and CoQ 10 is recommended.
Additionally, enacting a clean, organic, plant-based diet with only organic, free-range and/or wild protein sources coupled with plenty of purified water enriches and boosts the nutritional status of the body. Supplements alone are not sufficient to maintain optimal health.
Hormone Balancing. Balancing hormones before conception improves fertility and viability of a pregnancy. It helps determine ovulation times, reduces estrogen dominance that is often present in women, and increases testosterone levels in men for healthier sperm production. It can take a few months to fully balance hormones, so the earlier a program begins, the better the results. In addition to female and male hormones that are directly involved in conception, it is also important to test and assess adrenal and thyroid function. Many struggles with fertility can be addressed with simple support for struggling thyroid and adrenal glands. A total hormone overview can significantly improve fertility and overall pregnancy wellness.
Lifestyle. In addition to changes in diet and supplements, there are many lifestyle adjustments that reduce toxic exposure to the mother and baby and are great long-term changes for any individual. Skin care products are more toxic to the internal system than most individuals are aware. Many chemicals in facial care products, body lotion, sunscreen, make-up, and even shampoo and conditioner can alter the body’s hormones, congest the liver, and can be potentially carcinogenic.
Switching to organic, non-toxic skincare can significantly reduce the body’s long-term toxic burden and exposure to harmful chemicals daily. It can also help improve hormone balance and reduce exposure to the fetus in utero. There are many skincare lines with a focus on organic, non-toxic ingredients. Many are produced locally and or can be found in local health food stores.
A few other steps include reducing plastics in the home which can eliminate harsh BPA’s and other harmful chemicals which can cross the placental border and are easily absorbed by baby’s skin. Of course, regular exercise also improves detoxification of the body, promotes natural hormone balancing, and enhances general health and wellness.
While many parents-to-be consciously plan the right time to bring a baby into their family in terms of finances, work schedules, and lifestyle adjustments, very few consider how to improve the health of their own bodies before baby. Spending time detoxifying, enhancing nutritional status, and balancing hormones can dramatically and significantly improve the life-long health of your baby, and whether it is the first baby or third, a pre-conception health program is always important for the health of the newest addition to the family.
Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer is state licensed naturopathic doctor with a focus on fertility, family wellness, and pre-conception health. She can be reached at Optimal Health Center (760) 568.2598.