Women’s Health – Fertility and Preconception Health Care

If you are thinking about having a baby now or further into the future, it is not too early to start preparing for a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Preconception Health Care

Preconception health care simply aims for optimum general and reproductive health of both partners to ensure viable fertility and the health of egg, sperm and nurturing environment within the uterus.  It is the ultimate preventative medicine!

Foetal exposure to a variety of factors may play a role in the development of many common chronic diseases for your child.  Being prepared and ensuring you and your partner are in the best possible health, may positively influence your child’s health for years to come.

The Critical Four Months

The preconception period is a minimum of four months.  The instant egg and sperm combine, an irreversible genetic code is formed for future development of that baby.  The health of egg and sperm reflects health/toxicity of the environment in which they grow. 

Oocyte (egg) development takes approximately 100 days to mature.  During this time they are vulnerable to toxic exposure and nutrient deficiency.

Sperm development takes over two months.  Illness, toxicity, trauma and/or poor nutrition that was present during the first cycle may affect mature sperm, regardless of a man’s health at the time of examination. Male infertility is most often a result of abnormal semen parameters due to:

  • Age;
  • Toxicity;
  • Testicular varicoceles;
  • Oxidative damage to sperm;
  • Radiation exposure;
  • Poor to low nutritional status; and/or
  • Social toxins: alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, poor food

Diet & Lifestyle

In order to lay the foundations for your baby’s growth, health and development, there are some simple, healthy lifestyle practices that both parents may do to enhance the health of both the parents and the baby.

  • Detoxification for “Him” and “Her” – this includes assessing the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. Detoxifying your body prior to conception may help your fertility status. Ideally, this should be completed prior to the “Critical Four Months”.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Include detoxifying foods such as beets, carrots, yams, garlic, dark leafy greens, lemons and apples.
  • Keep your weight in a healthy range. Being overweight or underweight may affect your fertility and your baby’s health.
  • Participate in regular physical activity – this may provide both physical and emotional benefits by reducing stress, weight and assist with recuperation after pregnancy.
  • Reduce stress – this may be affecting fertility and the future health of your child. Practice relaxation exercises such as meditation or yoga, or simply creating a time to rest and do activities you enjoy.
  • Cease smoking and reduce intake of alcohol and caffeine. It is recommended to avoid alcohol and caffeine altogether.  Foetal alcohol syndrome has been traced to preconception in both parents.  They both reduce conception rates and may be related to other health problems in relation to fertility/pregnancy/foetus. Preferably, switch to herbal teas such as peppermint, ginger or chamomile teas, or (low caffeine tea) such as green tea.  Decaffeinated is not recommended.
  • Avoid all sugary drinks entirely.
  • Support yourself with supplements – giving yourself a little boost in addition to changing your diet and lifestyle may help optimise your health. Rather than grabbing the cheapest formula off the shelf, ask your Naturopath to recommend a high quality comprehensive formula to ensure that you are both getting all the nutrients that you need, at the correct dose, to grow a healthy baby.
  • For males – avoid high temperatures generally such as saunas and hot baths. However, it is also important to avoid high temperatures around the pelvic region (e.g. an issue for chefs using ovens, or resting laptops on lap for extended periods of time).  Men should also avoid pressure, such as prolonged sitting, tight underwear, prolonged cycling or physical trauma.
DIET
  • All foods to be fresh and organically grown/fed wherever possible.
  • Higher in nutritional value, lower in toxins, hormones and pesticides.
  • Eat seasonally. Look at what is in season and stick to eating those fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat locally grown product. Think about where your food is coming from.
  • Minimise refined foods as they deplete the body of magnesium and other essential nutrients which are required for normal hormone production.
  • Drink 8-12 glasses of purified water daily. Mineral water is okay occasionally.
      Healthy Fats
  • Avoid toxic nonorganic saturated fats which disturb hormone and nutrient balance.
  • Avoid fried food – which is pro-inflammatory.  Stir-fry is okay.  Cook with minimal amounts of sesame oil, organic butter or coconut oil.  These are monounsaturated fats, and will not saturate on heating.
  • Use cold pressed plant based oils on salads (extra virgin olive, flaxseed, nut oils). These oils are high in essential fatty acids and should not be heated.
  • Store out of light (in dark containers), in the fridge (except olive oil, which is fine at room temperature).
  • Add lemon/pepper/garlic and/or herbs to make homemade salad dressing.
      Protein

Include a source of protein at least four times daily.

Plant Protein: combining any two of the food groups below, you will have a complete protein source:

  • Nuts
  • Grains/seeds
  • Legumes/pulses

Toast or soak grains and legumes before cooking to avoid phytates which may lead to mineral deficiencies.

  • Fish – Avoid farmed fish. Choose wild ocean fish – trout, salmon, sardines, mackerel.  Eat fish 3 times weekly.  Avoid large fish such as tuna, shark (flake), swordfish, marlin, barramundi and sea perch as they are too high in mercury.  Avoid crustaceans as they are often polluted, and raw fish may contain bacteria.  Fresh fish is definitely preferable to tinned/frozen varieties. 
  • Chicken and Eggs – trim the skin to avoid fats. Use certified organically fed only.  Be aware that free range is not necessarily organic as they may still be fed with hormones and antibiotics.  Eggs are an excellent source of protein.
  • Dairy – limit cow’s milk/cheese as it is linked to endometriosis, and may create mucus in tubes and malabsorption. Natural cultured non-flavoured yoghurt is good if you are not hypersensitive to cow’s milk.  Pasteurised goat’s/sheep’s milk is preferred.  Rice and oat milk is also okay however it is not very high in protein.  Unsweetened almond milk is also another option.  Avoid all soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, feta, blue, or those kept unsealed in water as they may contain bacteria.
  • Red Meat – eat lean, red meat in moderation, avoiding raw/undercooked meat. Avoid organ meats, offal, sausage or mince unless it is certified organically fed.  Avoid delicatessen meats that may be high in fats, have offal content and toxic preservatives.  Organ meats contain high levels of toxins such as pesticides/hormones.
      Carbohydrates
  • Consume moderate levels of low glycaemic carbohydrates where possible. Mostly non-starchy vegetables, pulses and unrefined wholegrains.  High glycaemic foods may disrupt your hormones.  Refined carbohydrates may also leach nutrients from your body’s stores.
  • Eat lots of vegetables every day, especially dark green leafy, red and orange, and avocado. You may eat both raw and cooked regularly.  To increase vegetable intake, try adding juices throughout the day, and salads to your meals.  Avoid pre-prepared salads which may contain bacteria.
  • Keep fruit to a maximum of 2-3 pieces per day due to high sugar content. This includes fruit that may be added to your vegetable juices.  No dried fruit.
  • Whole grain and organic wherever possible. Avoid refined flour products.
  • As mentioned previously, avoid all sweet things including honey, sugar substitutes, undiluted fruit juices, cakes, biscuits, soft drinks, and anything ending with “-ose” such as sucrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, etc.

For further assistance in achieving your goals, come see one of our dedicated Naturopaths at Nurtura Health for a comprehensive assessment for both you and your partner.

Disclaimer:  The advice on this website is of a general nature only and Nurtura Health expressly disclaims all liability arising out of the improper use of the information provided.  Nurtura Health actively discourages any self-diagnosis or self-medication.  Please consult your health practitioner regarding these important health issues.  All rights reserved.