Many couples find a happy ending with an unplanned pregnancy but physicians and obstetricians are now urging couples to plan ahead for between six and 12 months prior to conception. Most of us take the process of procreation for granted. It seems natural and practically automatic, but the idea of consciously preparing for conception is a rather recent phenomenon following several studies and current knowledge.
By preparing to become pregnant couples give their babies the best chance possible for a healthy birth. It provides a window of opportunity to optimize the health of both partners and identify any risks which may be present. Most of these recommendations can be done either individually or including the obstetrician.
Almost every aspect of our lives and our bodies can be adversely affected by the living conditions in which we find ourselves today. Our exposure to toxins, processed foods, alcohol and tobacco all negatively affect the way in which our cells reproduce in the overall health of our bodies. We truly are what we eat and the lifestyle we lead in the months before conception can have a profound effect on the health of our babies.
Researchers are now finding that preparation prior to pregnancy can help prevent miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births and some congenital abnormalities and can even enhance the fertility in couples who are having trouble conceiving on their own. Women are also finding that pregnancies are healthier and they recover more quickly after the birth process.
While we may believe that it is the overall health and well-being of the female who provides a healthy environment in which the baby grows studies are now finding that if either parent is deficient in a number of essential nutrients the babies can suffer from her variety of malformations. In the past these malformations were believed to be genetic but researchers are now finding they can be manipulated in the laboratory environment in animal studies by inducing a deficiency. (1,2,3,4)
What this means is that we can make a significant impact in the health of our children by making some changes in our own lifestyle prior to becoming pregnant. Everyone qualifies for doing preconception planning and lifestyle changes, especially those who have had difficulty conceiving or who have had one or more miscarriages. Couples with a personal history of stillbirth, prematurity, low birth weight or who are now seeking treatment for infertility will also benefit from preconception planning.
While we don’t always think about it, protecting our fertility should actually began in the teen years when we are the most fertile. However, realistically couples who are interested in improving their ability to conceive a healthy baby should start 6-12 months prior to beginning. For instance, the creation of sperm takes about four months so changes in lifestyle (such as diet and chemical exposure) should have at least that much time to have the greatest effect. And female eggs also take about 3 months to mature.
Some of the lifestyle changes that are important to consider are removal of alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs and caffeine from the diet. All of these are toxic to cell development. Exercise is another factor that can contribute to cellular health – if it is too much, too little or an appropriate level. Weight should also be close to ideal. Pregnancy is no time to diet and women who are obese have lower fertility levels.
Have a dental check up because gum and dental disease can also adversely affect a pregnancy. By regulating any underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure, will also help to improve overall health and the health of your new child. Review any medications or supplements you might also be taking to ascertain if they will adversely affect conception or the development of your new baby.
Preparing to become pregnant will will help the couple to engage and lifestyle choices and changes that will improve overall health as well as improve the likelihood of conceiving and delivering a healthy baby.
(1) The Journal of Nutrition: Vitamin C deficiency causes hematological and skeletal abnormalities during fetal development in swine
(2) Vaccination Liberation :Vitamin K Deficiency Disease
(3) MayoClinic: Spina Bifida
(4) Boston University Medical Center: Gene Network Associated with Vitamin A Deficiency and Lung Birth Defects