Have you stopped to contemplate what it takes to make a baby?
Have you been trying to conceive for some time without success? Perhaps you are planning your first or fourth child and concerned about your health and your chances of falling pregnant naturally? Have you ever considered what it actually takes to make a baby?
Before I studied naturopathy my understanding of conceiving a baby was not much more than to have sex. Now that I am a Naturopath and have two beautiful boys, my knowledge in the area of preconception care and conception has grown exponentially. When you understand the complexities of our reproductive systems, both male and female, you can’t help but be in awe of what our bodies can do, and amazed we can fall pregnant at all.
Whilst falling pregnant is often the goal for my clients, it is also important to consider and optimise your health for the benefit of your future child/children. Planning for pregnancy allows you the opportunity to create the right environment for the healthy development of a baby, right from conception and beyond.
Preconception care not only increases your chances of falling pregnant, but also impacts the health of your baby!
Why is preconception care so important?
Falling pregnant is more than just sperm meeting egg.
In order to conceive we have to consider:
- the intricate relationships of our hormones
- the anatomical structure of our reproductive system
- the fertile window
- the nutritional requirements for making healthy sperm and eggs
- the negative or positive effects of diet and lifestyle choices
- nurturing a welcoming uterus to house a baby for 9 months.
The timeframe for an egg and sperm to develop is not just a few days. An egg can take approximately 120 days to mature and sperm can take approximately 100 days. Therefore, it’s a good idea to start preparing your body a minimum of 3 months prior to conception.
From a nutritional and lifestyle perspective, you want to consider:
- Nutritional status
- Stress levels
- Smoking habits
- Alcohol intake
- Exercise routine
- Sleep quality
So a couple of questions for you… If you were planning to fall pregnant today, what have you been feeding your eggs and sperm for the last three to four months? A diet which incorporates all the essential nutrients required? And has your lifestyle been supportive of good health or not?
Where do you start with preconception care?
For the woman, the first step is to understand your menstrual cycle:
The menstrual cycle can be broken up into the following parts:
- The menses (period)
- The follicular phase which occurs prior to ovulation
- The luteal phase which occurs after ovulation
Your chance to conceive during this cycle is in the 6 days (approximately) leading up to ovulation, known as the ‘Fertile Window’.
Your Hormones drive your menstrual cycle. You need the right amount of oestrogen, progesterone, follicle stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone in order for ovulation and implantation to occur. You can learn more about your reproductive hormones here. Or, if you’re having issues with your menstrual cycle, check out our previous blog “Is your menstrual cycle ruining your life”.
In addition, as recently as 2019 studies have shown your diet and lifestyle choices directly effect the quality of your eggs . Healthy eggs, create healthy babies, so if you need to make some changes you need to start prior to pregnancy.
For the man, we need good quality and quantity of sperm available to fertilise an egg.
- The morphology of sperm relates to the shape of the sperm. Shape is important as it indicates whether you have a good chance of fertilising an egg. Having at least 15% normal sperm is a good start.
- The motility of sperm refers to the way the sperm can move to fertilise an egg. If the sperm has impaired movement, then it is less likely to fertilise an egg.
Studies confirm dietary patterns influence semen quality. So the best place to start is to boost your nutritional status.
6 tips to get you started on preconception care
If you are wanting to conceive, there are some basic things you can do to get started:
- Ensure you are eating a varied, colourful diet of wholefoods. If you’re not sure where to start, make sure you’re incorporating these 5 key nutrients and fertility enhancing foods into your diet.
- Incorporate relaxation and stress management techniques into your daily routine if you need to. Stress can have a profound impact on the health of both males and females in relation to your fertility outcomes.
- Stop drinking alcohol (or at least moderate your intake)
- If you are a smoker, now is the time to quit
- Make sure exercise is incorporated in to your weekly routine if it isn’t already
- Pay close attention to your menstrual cycle. If you’re experiencing irregular menstrual cycles it will be difficult to identify your fertile window.
If you need advice and support with any of these, as a naturopath, I can guide you with more indepth advice and treatment.
Do you want naturopathic help with your preconception care plan?
Preconception care planning allows you to focus your efforts on optimising your health to improve your chances of conceiving, and enhancing the health of your future child. You are basically (for the females) giving your body away to a baby for 9 months (and longer when breastfeeding) so the more you can do now to boost your health before you conceive the better off you and your baby will be.
It can be challenging making the necessary changes required to boost your chances of conceiving, especially if they are not already part of your lifestyle. That’s why I’m here to help.
Our 12 week preconception care program is carefully designed to improve your overall health and wellness to boost your chances of conceiving. It also gives your future baby the best possible start for their health and wellness as they grow and develop into adulthood.