By Tracey Gartner, Naturopath
Not everyone has the opportunity to prepare their bodies before conception. So if you can, I believe it is the ultimate gift you can give a child. Preconception care is optimising both sperm and egg quality as well as optimizing overall health of the male and female before conception takes place, ultimately improving health outcomes for both mother and child.
It is now well excepted that the health of the mother and the father prior to conception, the health of the mother during pregnancy, and the first years of the child’s life are pivotal to the future health of your child.
Shaping your child’s future
Epigenetics is an emerging field of science that studies how the environment impacts our genes. It is the study of how genes are turned on or off by the environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle, and toxins. To put it another way, it’s about how our genes decide to express themselves. Ultimately, when we are reproducing, we want our genes to express themselves to their best ability, don’t we? Believe it or not, we don’t have to be at the mercy of our genes. We do have control over gene. For example, nutrients, environmental toxins, and stress will all impact and change the way our genes express themselves. If you have a family history of diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune condition etc then preconception care is an opportunity to lessen the family history burden on your child.
For an example, low birth weight babies of less than 2.5kg go on to have a greater incidence of asthma, heart disease, leukemia, breast cancer, liver cancer. To explain this further, low birth weight has to do with the uterine environment, not genetic make up. Therefore, if we influence the uterine environment during preconception care and in utero, we have the opportunity to improve the weight of the baby and avoid the determinate effects of low birthweight.
Another example: evidence now shows that your grandmother’s health has an impact on your health. Or, put in another way, your mother’s health will have an impact on the health of your unborn child. Now we can not change what has happened to the generations before us but we do have the opportunity to prepare our bodies to the best of our ability, so our genes are expressed positively, therefore we can give our unborn child the best future.
Our diet is just not cutting it
Another issue I see is overweight and undernutrition. I so often hear people say, ‘I have a healthy diet, I don’t need to supplement.’ I call bullshit! I can probably do a whole article on this but I will just briefly point out that farming practices rob our food of nutrients, storage of food robs our food of nutrients; heating, freezing, drying, microwaving our food robs it of nutrients; heavy metals, toxins all compete with our nutrients and block absorption, gut health impacts your ability to absorb certain nutrients, stress will use up nutrients quicker, coffee and alcohol will rob your body of nutrients……..
Personally, I think it is imperative to use supplements during preconception and pregnancy if you want to give your baby the best start to life. But we have to get the foundations right first.
We have to take a hard good look at what a healthy diet really is. Are you eating 5 pieces of fruit, 10 serves of vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes/beans, quality protein and nourishing healthy fats every day? Are you drinking 2 Litres of water every day?
It Takes Two To Tango
Don’t just assume that I am talking about the female here. Preconception care is just as important for men as for women. It takes two to make a pregnancy and baby. I probably don’t need to explain that 50% of the genetic material is from the male sperm, and 50% is from the female egg. However, I can not tell you how many times I see the male not take part in preconception care.
The length of time for sperm to develop and mature before it gets ejaculated varies from male to male—varying between 90 -120 days. So, anything that happens in this time frame will have an impact on the sperm quality. I suggest 4 months preparation to be on the safer side and optimise sperm quality.
40% of all fertility issues are a result of the male sperm; and some research suggesting that it can be as high as 60%. So, with these figure it’s easy to see why men need to get involved with preconception care.
Men are now ejaculating 50% less sperm than they were 50 years ago. What is impacting the sperm? Well, it is environmental—Estrogens and estrogen-like compounds that disrupt hormones found in food and water supplies, pesticides sprayed on foods, detergents, plastics and preservatives.
Suggested Preconception Care for both the Male & Female
Goals of Preconception Care
- Stabilise or reverse any current health conditions
- Increase nutrients
- Remove harmful substance
- Stress management
- Get your body in the best physical shape so you can pass on good genes
Takeaway foods, fast foods and processed foods
Sugar, Biscuits, cakes, chocolate
Deep fried foods
Smoked meats or processed meats
Alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs and over-the-counter and prescribed medication drugs all have and effect on sperm quality. See your GP before coming off any prescribed medication.
Eliminate known allergens
Reduce or eliminate inflammatory gluten and dairy
Read labels; eliminate, colourings, MSG, additives, flavouring
Protein in every main meal – legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, natural yoghurt, tofu, tempeh, cottage cheese, egg, fish, turkey, red meat (keep animal products to a minimum)
Fruit– should contain a variety – aim for 2 – 5 pieces daily
Vegetables– minimum 8 – 10 different types of salads or vegetables
Nuts and seeds – ¼ cup daily
Whole grains– 1 serve daily; variety is the key; oats, millet, amaranth, spelt, quinoa, buckwheat
Fats with every meal: cold pressed olive oil, avocado, butter, fish oil, coconut oil.
Water – 2 L daily
Antioxidants– berries, green tea.
Note: wash fruit and vegetables& all nuts unsalted and varied variety, brazils, hazels, cashews, almonds, walnuts etc.
Book in to have a chat with me if you are interested in Hair tissue analysis to check for nutritional deficiencies, heavy metal toxicities – and appropriate treatment to rectify the problem.
Preconception blood tests performed by your doctor (always get copies of these records to take to other practitioners).
Detoxification 6 months prior to trying to conceive (contraception must be used, preferably not the oral contraceptive pill).
Detox home – remove all chemical from the home. Swap beauty, hygiene, cleaning and gardening products for natural alternatives. Visit your local health food store for advice on products.
I can help with detoxification programs, please click here to book a mini consult.
These herbs are not to treat any specific fertility issues; they are rather nutritive and nourishing—Alfalfa, Nettle Leaf, Damiana, Oats, Withania, Shativari
These supplements are not to treat any specific fertility issues; they are rather foundational—Multivitamin, Fish Oils, Probiotic, Antioxidant
Rest, relaxation, fun and romance
Gentle exercise 5 times a week. Yoga, walking, ocean swimming are great options
Avoid raising temperature of testicles. Choose loose garments
Avoid exposure to heavy metals, chemicals in environment particularly in the home
Avoid carrying mobile phone in pocket
These are all basic foundations to preconception care.
If you are wanting to address specific issues such as:
- Egg quality
- Reoccurring miscarriage
- Erectile problems
- Sperm quality
- IVF preparation
- Natural Killer Cell activity
- Antiphospholipid syndrome
- Auto immune disorders
- Structural problems with reproductive
- Implantation failures
- Failure to ovulate
- Unexplained infertility
Please book a time for a free 15 min consult so we can chat about specific ways to restore balance and get you pregnant so you can have a beautiful healthy baby.
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P.P.S Click on the link and listen in to my online Fertility, Pregnancy & Birth Summit
Other important Statistics
-60 % of all fertility problems for couples are from male factors.
-90 % of potential sperm donors are rejected, because their sample is sub-standard
-Many men have been led to believe they have great spermwhen in actual fact they do not.
-Most of this is related to misinterpreted results