Are you healthy enough to fall pregnant?

 

You’re clucky. Everywhere you go you see pregnant women, doting mothers with their adorable newborn baby, smitten fathers playing and laughing with their toddler, proud grandmothers taking their grandchild for a walk while it sleeps peacefully in its Bugaboo. You’re at lunch with your girlfriends, and while they notice the cute guy with the cute puppy dog sitting outside the window, all you see is the deliriously happy couple completely engrossed by their baby’s giggles and gargles sitting next to him.

It’s time. Time to start a family. It feels like the single most important thing to be doing: for you and your partner to become a family of three. It’s no longer a “one day” thing, it’s a yearning deep within you that must be met. Immediately, if not sooner.  

It’s an exciting time and all you want to do is start trying, let nature take its course. But before you get carried away, you take a moment of pause to consider that it takes two very healthy parents to make a very healthy baby. And of course you want to give your baby the best possible start in life. Your wish is for a quick conception, an easy pregnancy, uncomplicated delivery and the arrival of a happy and healthy bundle of joy within a week or so of the due date.

So what next?

Science tells us it takes up to 4 months for both the sperm and the egg to mature and that both are susceptible to damage during this period of maturation. It makes sense then that what you eat and what you’re exposed to in the 4 months leading up to conception can make a difference in the healthy growth and development of your baby throughout pregnancy and beyond. Ideally, both prospective parents need to enjoy a period of optimum health which spans a period of at least 4 months (if not longer) immediately preceding any attempt to conceive.  

How do you achieve“optimum” health?

By eating a diet rich in the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed for a conception and essential for nourishing baby during those critical first few weeks of pregnancy. Completely giving up alcohol, smoking and caffeine for at least 4 months before trying to conceive. Taking practitioner quality supplements, exercising regularly, getting quality sleep, minimising stress and exposure to toxins and chemicals (in your environment, skincare and cleaning products). 

So where do you start? 

Start by giving up cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs including caffeine (which is found in cola drinks, chocolate, tea and coffee) for at least 4 months leading up to conception. 

Alcohol can seriously affect nutritional status, decreasing the absorption of all B-complex vitamins (which are needed for the formation of the sex hormones) and also increasing the urinary excretion of zinc (essential for proper fertility), magnesium, calcium, chromium and Vitamin C. Its ingestion may contribute to miscarriage and has effects on the physical and mental development of baby.

Smoking has been associated with reduced sperm count, compromised ovarian function, reducing levels of important nutrients needed for reproduction, and increasing levels of heavy metals such as cadmium in the body which affects foetal growth. It has been estimated that up to 13% of infertility cases may be caused by cigarette smoking. Heads up: passive smoking can be just as harmful.

Caffeine has harmful effects on all aspects of reproductive health. It affects the way in which sperm move forward and can cause reduced fertility in women. The ingestion of caffeine at meal times inhibits the absorption of iron and destroys B-complex vitamins. Consuming caffeine during pregnancy has ben associated with an increased rate of spontaneous abortion and with a number of congenital abnormalities. 

Then what?

Nourish your body (yours and your partners) with a balanced diet consisting of whole foods that are organic where possible, unprocessed and rich in the nutrients that help to boost fertility, aid conception and support baby’s healthy growth and development in those first critical weeks and beyond. Eat plenty of leafy greens, fresh fruit and vegetables, organic lean meats and wild caught fish that are loaded with folate, zinc, magnesium, iron, Vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E as well as Vitamin D, EFAs, selenium, potassium, manganese, iodine, calcium, protein and amino acids. 

And when it all gets too hard?

All of this may sound impossible at first, but when you consider all the amazing benefits of making these few lifestyle changes for a few short months (well, for the woman a few short years) of your entire life it suddenly doesn’t feel so daunting. Every time you’re tempted, remind yourself of why you’re making these choices: to give your little one the best possible start in life. 

Ease yourself into it. You could kick things off by becoming more conscious of what you’re eating and drinking and gradually making a few tweaks. Try swapping out that glass of wine with dinner for a soda and lime, cutting back from 3 to just 1 cup of coffee a day and then substituting it with herbal tea, picking up a piece of fruit rather than a chocolate bar, adding something green to every meal, investing in practitioner quality supplements (and forgoing the over-the-counter-not-very-potent variety), stopping the pill and switching to barrier contraceptives, having a few blood tests to check your levels of folate, active vitamin D, B12, iron (serum ferritin levels), iodine and testing for zinc using a “Zinc Tally” before trying to conceive (this can be very reassuring), and then relaxing about the “trying” phase and, while giving yourself the best chance possible, letting nature take its course. 

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Bianka Ganser