Every couple benefits from addressing their overall health and wellness in preparation for pregnancy, even if they are not having fertility issues. This preparation supports a healthy and happy pregnancy and eases the transition through postpartum into parenthood.
For all the gardeners out there, consider this metaphor: preconception planning is much like preparing/improving the soil. Creating a healthy environment for your growing darlings even before they are planted optimizes their chances of thriving — sometimes in ways that later care doesn’t allow (e.g. water and sun; or, in our case, pregnancy care).
Health Foundations offers preconception planning services, including comprehensive visits to discuss your health and create an individualized plan that works for your family.
When should preconception planning begin?
Ideally, we love to see couples three to six months before they hope to conceive. This gives us time to correct any nutritional deficiencies (such as low iron or Vitamin D), which can have a significant impact on the pregnancy. Sperm live for approximately 3 months, so we want to get dad as healthy as possible before conception so that his contribution to the pregnancy is healthy and strong. Eggs begin their maturation process around this time too; when, like sperm, they are most vulnerable to toxins, radiation, and nutritional deficiencies.
What does a preconception planning visit look like?
During a preconception visit, we will talk with you and your partner about your current health, lifestyle, diet, personal and family medical history, medications you are taking, work and home environments, past pregnancies, and you and your partner’s desires and concerns about getting pregnant. Here are some of the issues we will explore during your appointment:
- General current health:
- We recommend women receive a pap and cultures during a well-woman visit (which Health Foundations can provide)
- Visit a dentist to get a cleaning and any necessary work done prior to conception
- Talk to your provider about current medications to make sure they are safe at this time
- Discuss any history of hormonal birth control
- Have diagnostic/lab tests for various issues that can impact pregnancy and maternal health (all offered at Health Foundations)
- We can work with you to optimize your diet to ensure the greatest health prior to and during pregnancy
- Eliminate caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs.
- Drink plenty of water (aim for 8 glasses a day)
- Weight: women 15% below their ideal weight may benefit from added pounds during pregnancy; women who are overweight, however, do not benefit from crash dieting prior to pregnancy, as this can deplete their health. In either case, we can create a plan to create optimal health for you.
- Establish a consistent exercise pattern
- Inventory your environment for chemical, heavy metal, and other toxic exposure (you may want to work with a professional on a detox plan)
- Address emotional health and stress
- Use of supplements
- We recommend women begin prenatal vitamins at least three months prior to conception (folic acid is especially important to begin prior to conception to avoid neural tube defects in baby)
- Omega-3 and DHA are also important
- Nutritive herbal infusions such as alfalfa, nettles and red clover can support overall health
- Vegans and vegetarians may want to begin B12 supplementation
- Additional supplements may also be recommended based on the individual
- Men’s health
- Men should follow the same dietary and lifestyle recommendations as their partner
- Men should also take a multi-vitamin for the months leading up to conception
- Fertility awareness
- We help couples understand their fertility so that they can maximize their chances of conceiving.
- Taking Charge of your Fertility by Toni Weshler (book and website) and Fertility Friend (website) are great resources for understanding fertility awareness and how to chart your fertile periods each month
- Inexpensive, reusable fertility test kits are available (less expensive than one-time ovulation tests)
- Useful therapies
- Acupuncture has proven benefits for women wanting to conceive
- Massage, yoga, aromatherapy, and chiropractic can also help by reducing stress, balancing hormones, and overall physical wellness.
- Having fun
- Above all, we encourage couples to have FUN during this process! It takes an average of 6 to 9 months to conceive—being stressed during this time will only make conception more difficult. Plus, this is your time to really enjoy your partner and all those things that can be a bit more difficult to enjoy during pregnancy and into parenthood.