In prepare your body for pregnancy part 2 we’ll cover the nutrient and lifestyle recommendations. Part 1 covered the dietary recommendations which help enhance fertility and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy. Please note that diet came first on purpose! This is because unless you are eating correctly, all the pills, potions and panaceas in the world wont make much of a difference. A healthy diet is the firm foundation, and nutritional supplements are the reinforcements. Now let’s jump straight in;
It is always wise to supplement with a high quality prenatal multi to cover your basics. I would suggest supplementing immediately (even if you’re not pregnant) as most nutrients covered in a pregnancy-specific multi help enhance fertility as well.
Omega 3 Fish Oil:
These essential fatty acids will benefit both mom and baby. From brain health, heart health and mood (mom) to nervous system, ocular and immune system development (baby). We simply do not get enough Omega 3’s in our diet! Supplementation reduces the risk of deficiency, as well as pregnancy-related conditions such as premature birth. Always buy the highest quality you can find. Trust me when I say that this is one supplement you do not want to pinch pennies for.
Digestive health plays an important role in the preparation for pregnancy and conception. Having sufficient levels of good gut flora is essential for the proper assimilation of nutrients. If your levels are low, you will not benefit from nutritional supplements or dietary changes made towards increasing fertility. Poor gut health also gives rise to inflammatory diseases such as Endometriosis, PCOS, uterine fibroids, and other infertility-related conditions. Supplementing with high dose probiotics protects against these issues. Other benefits include reduced risk for yeast infections and protection of the baby at birth. Also probiotics ensure reduced risk of developing food allergies and skin conditions, and improved immunity.
Vitamin D3 is essential both for enhancing fertility and ensuring a healthy pregnancy. It plays an important role in immune system function, is responsible for calcium absorption and bone formation. Also, vitamin D3 detoxifies the brain and body of heavy metals, aids in proper gene expression and provides the building blocks for hormone production. It is highly recommended that you get your levels checked (the correct test is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D). A deficiency of Vitamin D before, during, and after pregnancy is detrimental to the health of both mom and baby.
Vitamin K2 ensures proper calcium and magnesium utilization and absorption. It also ensures activation of proteins that control cell growth, and the development of teeth, bones and facial form. It is particularly important to supplement in the third trimester when deficiency often occurs.
Folic Acid (folate, folinic acid or 5-MTHF):
Folic acid is absolutely essential. It reduces the incidence of a wide range of fetal abnormalities. Folate is needed to synthesize, repair and express DNA. These are all essential processes to improve your baby’s health. It is also used to form healthy red blood cells in the bone marrow, and is essential for zinc metabolism. Men would also benefit from supplementation as folic acid improves sperm count and motility.
Vitamin C (Ester C):
Vitamin C is recommended for women trying to conceive because it can increase the level of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone helps regulate the menstrual cycle, thickens the lining of the uterus and reduces anxiety. A moderate amount of supplemented vitamin C thus enhances fertility, and provides additional antioxidant and immunological benefits.
Vitamin B6 helps regulate reproductive hormones as well as corrects deficiencies in women that have just come off the pill. The pill in fact depletes all B vitamins so a B-complex supplement would be highly recommended. B6 also helps alleviate morning sickness particularly when taken with magnesium during pregnancy.
A deficiency of magnesium has been linked with female infertility. This amazing mineral also helps prevent complications during pregnancy. These may include pre-eclampsia, premature birth, high blood pressure and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Magnesium is necessary for energy production, muscle relaxation and helps improve sleep quality.
Zinc boosts immunity, helps prevent stretch marks and pregnancy acne as well as prevents low birth weight.
Calcium supplementation is normally recommended in pregnancy. However if you are consuming the diet recommended in Part 1 you shouldn’t need to take extra. When calcium is not absorbed and assimilated correctly, it can do you more harm than good! Another important nutrient is iron, however, you should only supplement if you are deficient. First, get your levels checked, then visit Lifestyle Health to get a non-constipating, absorbable form. Iodine may also be a necessary nutrient if you have an under-active thyroid. Hypothyroidism can result in mental and physical retardation in children. Again check your thyroid function before supplementation. Iodine is important for modulating the estrogen pathway. This will help keep female reproductive function in good order, as well as promote healthy breast tissue function.
Reduce your toxic load:
Reduce your toxic exposures from pollutants to pesticides and non-organic cosmetics and household cleaning products to artificial hormone and drug consumption. In addition, men should avoid excessive heat exposure around the reproductive area as sperm are sensitive to high temperatures. Also avoid the use of laptops on the lap, and carrying cell phones in front pockets. This will reduce exposing the testicles to damaging radio-frequency electromagnetic waves.
Get to a healthy weight:
When it comes to fertility, too thin is as bad as too fat. Being excessively underweight or overweight significantly reduces your ability to conceive. Fat is essential to fertility and is necessary in order to ovulate. Aim for a body mass index (BMI) of between 20 and 25.
Exercise is essential for total body health. You should aim for a combination of aerobic, anaerobic, flexibility and resistance training to ensure a high level of fitness.
This is a no brainer! Especially in men as it significantly reduces sperm count.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine:
Studies have shown that the more you drink, the less likely you are to conceive. Switch to water, herbal teas, green vegetable juices, coconut water and home-made iced teas. Its good to practice now anyway because once pregnant it is even more important that you avoid these beverages.
This is one of the main reasons that so many couples fall pregnant on holiday! Stress is an enemy of fertility, so anything that will help you relax is encouraged. Examples are yoga, deep breathing, music therapy, being creative, reading, spending time outdoors, playing games etc.
Have smarter sex:
Of course the most important element for falling pregnant is sex. But not every night! Track your cycle and around ovulation. Have sex once every 48 hours, so as to maintain the high quality of the sperm.
It takes on average about three months for a woman’s immature eggs (oocytes) to become mature enough to be released during ovulation. Also, it takes three months for a man to make a completely new batch of sperm. Therefore wait at least 3 months before falling pregnant so that dietary and lifestyle changes have time to take effect. We call this ‘pre-conception care’. It is just as important to take care of your health during this pre-pregnancy period as it is during pregnancy itself.