Preconception Planning and Pregnancy
Before we buy a house, we do the diligence, right? We get pre-approval from the bank for a loan (a scarily big loan if you’re buying in Sydney!). We research the housing market. We do building and pest inspections. We team up with a solicitor. We spend a huge amount of time and energy to to give ourselves the best opportunity to find the house we really want. The same goes for prepping our bodies for pregnancy, motherhood and fatherhood. Preparation is key. After all, as parents your genetic material gets passed on to your children.
What is preconception planning?
Preconception planning aims to prepare your body for pregnancy, birth and motherhood or fatherhood. I recommend a minimum 3-month period and ideally a 6-month period, before conceiving or trying to conceive. This will allow time to get your vitamins and minerals at optimum levels, balance your hormones, modulate your immune function and optimise your fertility.
The reason I recommend 6-months preconception planning is because it takes 2 and a half months for men’s sperm to grow, develop and be ejaculated. For eggs to complete their journey to ovulation, they receive a signal to begin their final maturation process about 5 months before they would be released from the ovary. Therefore, a 6-month preconception period is ideal, to get eggs, sperm and health in to tip-top shape.
If you miss the preconception planning window and you’re already pregnant, it’s even more important to hop to it, get your testing done (there's more on testing below) and switch to a wholefood diet, while you reduce exposure to chemicals and toxins.
Preconception planning can reduce miscarriage, gestational diabetes and postnatal depression and increase your chance of having a healthy baby. Whether it’s your first or fourth pregnancy, preconception planning can give your body and baby, the best to chance to be at optimal health.
General dietary and lifestyle recommendations:
- Eat a wholefood diet: focus on vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, seafood, grass-fed meats, olive/flaxseed oil, and if you can tolerate grains include oats, quinoa and brown rice.
- Ditch processed foods and sugary foods, as they contribute to oxidation that can damage eggs and sperm
- Eat a handful of berries a day, as they are high in antioxidants, boost immune function and support stress hormones
- Move your body – walking, swimming, yoga, pilates etc.
- Manage stress naturally, such as good quality sleep, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, etc.
- Focus on your ideal weight, as being underweight/overweight can put the mother at greater risk for developing symptoms or complications in pregnancy. For example, obesity is one of the risk factors for the development of pre-eclampsia.
- Quit smoking
- Reduce alcohol intake and caffeine
- Take a good quality pregnancy multivitamin (that contains folate) and fish oil. I’m a brand snob and recommend naturopath-only products as they contain activated vitamins for better utilisation in the body and higher quality ingredients
- Reduce your exposure to toxins and chemicals, including hygiene products, make up, cleaning products and plastic containers. Opt for organic products where possible.
A few further recommendations:
I recommend a few key tests as part of a thorough preconception program, including:
- Full blood test (FBT) – prescribed by GP or Naturopath
- Vitamin D should be included in the FBT
- There are studies that show low Vitamin D in pregnancy is linked to women developing gestational diabetes in pregnancy and postnatal depression
- Iron levels should be included in the FBT
- It’s estimated that at least 1 in 5 women have iron-deficiency anaemia during pregnancy, which increases the risk of preterm delivery and subsequent low birth weight
- Thyroid study should be included in FBT
- It’s believed 5% of women develop thyroid dysfunction within the first 12 months of giving birth; it’s important to get thyroid levels at optimum before giving birth
- Mineral and heavy metal toxicity testing
- 80% of Australians have a mineral deficiency, such as zinc and iron deficiency
- We can identify and address mineral deficiencies and heavy metals in a 3-month period
- I also test specific metals, as they cross the placenta to the baby, including copper, zinc, lead, mercury and arsenic
- Based on a patient’s history and health picture I may recommend or perform further testing, including food intolerance testing, live blood analysis, stool tests, hormone tests, sperm tests, coeliac disease test, methylation test, insulin resistance testing, etc.
In conclusion, preconception planning is not a fad. It’s not fancy words. It makes sense – you do your research and tests to identify any deficiencies or imbalances, you nourish your body with good quality food, you show your reproductive system some TLC to balance hormones and you set up your future children with the best start to life you can.
If you are interested in preconception planning or you're pregnant click here to book in your initial naturopathy consultation with Olivia.
Olivia McFadyen, based in Lane Cove on Sydney's North Shore, is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritional Therapist, Herbalist and Homoeopath. Whilst Olivia is a qualified Naturopath and Nutritionist, she is also a realist and understands the demands of modern day life, offering nutrition, herbal medicine and homoeopathic consultations and support without compromising on the enjoyment food can bring. She is passionate about supporting patients to reach their lifestyle goals, optimise their health & develop a healthy yet balanced way of life through naturopathy and homoeopathy. She services her clients by consultations and offering consultations, corporate workshops and natural health programs from her clinic in Lane Cove on Sydney's Lower North Shore.