Congratulations on your decision to start a family, it is a special time of life for you and your partner. It is beneficial for both partners to do a thorough cleanse and detoxification prior to attempting to conceive as this helps to increase fertility levels, decrease the risk of miscarriage and minimises nutritional deficiencies. It is ideal to do some preconception preparation beforeconceiving and a Naturopath will generally recommend at least 6 monthsof preparation prior to conceiving. This includes a cleanse or detoxification as well balancing hormones and addressing any hormonal deficiencies such as B vitamins, essential fatty acids, Zinc, Iron, Folic Acid, Calcium and Iodine.
I recommend you personally have a naturopathic consultation asthis can help find any nutritional deficiencies you may be unaware of,educate you in your lifestyle choices and prepare you forpregnancy. It is helpful before conceiving to acquire a full blood profile which includes iron and nutrient levels, thyroid function, liver enzymes, salivary test to diagnose hormonal imbalances. It is also a good idea to chart your cycle by charting changes in temperature, mucus discharge and premenstrual symptoms (PMS) symptoms as this information helps to determine when you are actually ovulating.
Diet tips for preconception
- Increase water intake to at least 6- 8 glasses of filtered water daily
- Drink herbal teas such as Dandelion Root, Peppermint, Green Tea, Chamomile and Ginger
- Foods to increase include whole grains including breads, cereals, rice, pasta; nuts and seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, fruit and vegetables.
- Limit the following foods: refined sugars, salt (Celtic Sea Salt is the best salt to use), tea, soft drinks, butter and polyunsaturated fats, coffee, animal fats, caffeine, processed foods, deep fried foods, alcohol and cigarettes
- Make a smoothie by blending ingredients such as apricots, bananas, figs, dates, prunes, berries and slippery elm powder for an ultra nutritional boosted smoothie
- Squeeze half a lemon in a small glass of warm water first thing in the morning before your breakfast. This will cleanse the bowel and stimulate digestion for the day
- Vegetable juices such as beetroot, celery, ginger, spinach, apple and carrot. One fresh vegetable juice a day will increase liverdetoxification and improve digestion
- Increase the amount of essential fatty acids in your diet (deep sea fish, nuts and seeds, raw olive oil, avocados, flaxseed oil) in your diet. Essential fatty acids are very important for the babiesbrain and nervous system development
Lifestyle factors for preconception
- Begin an exercise regime if you haven’t already. Exercise is one of the best ways to improve health and vitality, cleanse the body, clear any excess weight and prepare the body energetically and physically for sustaining a pregnancy
- Quit smoking
- Manage stress. It is so important for you NOT to be too stressed while pregnant and in the preconception stage! If this feels impossible try to rebalance your life in little ways. If you are very tired you really need to try and find the space and nurturing your body needs. Can you do simple things to give back some energy to yourself such as: getting a massage, going for a walk, doing a yoga class regularly? Little lifestyle changes can dramatically turn your stress around
- Avoid alcohol
- Improve diet and liver function
- Seek tests for fertility if you are having problems with conceiving
Natural remedies for preconception
- Probiotics, fermented foods and green barley help to cleanse the body of impurities and build levels of healthy bacteria in the bowel and immune system
- The herb Vitex is extremely beneficial to take for at least 6months prior to conception to ensure that the hormones are in sync andfor healthy functioning of the reproductive organs. Vitex can assist conception by regulating the menstrual cycle when it is disrupted such as long term oral contraception pill (OCP) use. Recent use of the oralcontraceptive pill may contribute to fluctuations in hormone levels andcause the appearance of fertility problems and menstruation irregularities. Vitex assists with hormonal modulation, correctingLuteal hormones (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormones (FSH), Oestrogen and Progesterone, all female sex hormones needed for menstrual cycle regulation, conception and during pregnancy. Vitex must only be used prior to conception, once you fall pregnant discontinue
- Herbs such as Dandelion, Bupleurum, Shizandra, St Marys Thistle help the liver to gently detox and cleanse the body of excess stored wastes. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is believed that the liver influences reproductive health and the functioning and health of the female sex organs
- A multivitamin to address any vitamin deficiencies and improve nutritional status
- Fish oil helps to increase essential fatty acids in the body, an important part of the babies brain and nervous system development
- Are your zinc levels adequate? Zinc is a mineral essential for successful conception and foetal development. Take your partner along too, as zinc is just as important for the male reproduction and development of healthy sperm
- Folic acid is a B-group vitamin essential for your baby’s development in the first three months of pregnancy and should be taken as a supplement three to six months before conception to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables, organ meats, cereals, grains and legumes
- Assess your Iron levels, extra supplementary iron should only be given if there is a proven requirement and this is best detected by having your blood haemoglobin (Hb) and ferritin levels tested regularly. Prenatal check ups will routinely test for your Hb levels and appropriate dietary changes or additional iron supplements will be prescribed as required by your health professional. We recommend extra iron only after your blood levels have been ascertained. The best dietary source of iron is the haem-iron form, or iron which is obtained in red meat. Iron is also found in green leafy vegetables (non-haem form), although this form is not as readily absorbed. Iron is also found in fish, eggs, chicken, nettle tea, green leafy vegetables, organ meats and wholegrain foods. Iron requires the presence of Vitamin C to be properly absorbed. Tea, coffee or soft drinks inhibit the absorption of iron, particularly if consumed with the meal. Often it is difficult to change the diet to the extent it is needed to meet the increased requirements for iron
- Calcium is also an important nutrient for development of the skeletal system, approximately 800mg/day is recommended. Foods which are high in Calcium include: dairy foods, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, humus, tahini, sesame seeds, fish with small bones such as salmon, molasses, carob and figs
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