Preconception PreparationMay 02, 2023 07:25AM ● By Jocelyn Gordon
The ability to achieve pregnancy and bring a baby to full term should be the most natural thing in the world; however, for many, the journey is not so easy. The rates of unexplained fertility are at an all-time high, the median sperm rates are said to be 0 by 2045, and endocrine and autoimmune imbalances require many women with polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis and fibroids to extend extra effort (and money) to get pregnant.
Contributing to fertility challenges are environmental toxins, chronic stress and unaddressed intergenerational trauma, which create a predisposition to chronic disease—physical and mental.
Now more than ever, to reclaim the natural birthright of fertility and to ensure healthy generations from your child to their offspring, it is important to orient the body to health well before sperm and ovum meet.
What is Preconception Preparation?
Preconception preparation is the process of preparing for the rigors and joys of conception, pregnancy, birth and parenting. A primary focus includes preparing physically by making lifestyle changes, reducing toxic exposures, managing stress and optimizing fertility. The goal of physical preconception preparation is to improve the quality of the sperm and ovum, and the health of the mother and the baby before conception, as well as to reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and labor. This may require detoxing to minimize toxic influences from chemicals in consumer products, improving the diet to ensure egg and sperm quality, integrating health interventions to address long-standing chronic issues, optimizing fertility by resetting daily habits, and developing body literacy to identify optimal times for conception.
Emerging science highlights the preconception window of three months to one year before conception as a powerful time for interventions that nurture a healthy pregnancy; vital childhood; and longevity for you, your baby and offspring.
In addition to physical investments and health interventions, an expanded experience of preconception preparation includes emotional and spiritual healing, financial planning, relational well-being and cultivating a web of support.
The purpose of this article is to explore the four pillars of physically preparing for conception and a healthy baby.
The Four Physical Pillars of Preconception Preparation
- Lifestyle Changes
- Reducing Toxic Load
- Managing Stress
- Addressing Unhealthy Generational Patterns
Lifestyle changes are an important part of preconception preparation for both men and women. Making changes such as eating a balanced diet, getting regular physical activity, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can all improve fertility and health.
Inflammation has been linked to cancer, autoimmune disorders and chronic pain. Excessive inflammation is also being identified as a culprit contributing to infertility and delayed fertility. Diets rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins have shown to increase fertility in both men and women by reducing oxidative stress and improving hormone balance. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E may help reduce inflammation and protect against damage to the reproductive organs. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to reduce inflammation, improve egg quality and regulate hormones. A study published in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology found that B vitamins, such as folate and vitamin B6, could reduce oxidative stress and improve sperm motility in men and hormone balance in women.
Eating a rainbow—having plates and servings with pigment-rich and thus nutrient-rich food—is a great way to start creating a fertility-boosting diet. Be sure to speak with your healthcare providers about your gut health and absorption to identify supplements assisting with your nutrient uptake.
Do you know your body mass index (BMI)? Exercise helps to reduce stress, regulate hormones and improve blood flow in the pelvis. That said, it is important to understand BMI before conception, as being underweight or overweight can cause hormonal imbalances and affect ovulation or sperm health. A study conducted by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that underweight women may take up to a year or longer to conceive, and specifically found that women with a BMI of less than 19 were twice as likely to take longer than a year to conceive compared to women with a BMI between 20 and 25.
Okay, you know the dangers of smoking and excessive drinking on our personal health; however, did you know that both have been shown to increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight, leading to increased risk of obesity, developmental delays and chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes later in life? Excessive drinking during pregnancy can also have an epigenetic impact on the baby, as the toxins in alcohol can alter the expression of genes. Excessive drinking is defined as consuming more than 14 drinks per week for men and more than seven drinks per week for women.
Nicotine addiction can be hard to beat and social alcohol consumption is normalized in our society. Be sure to seek help for weaning off these substances and habits.
Reducing Toxic Load
In 2020, a study published in Environmental Science & Technology found that breast milk samples taken from mothers in the United States contained concentrations of flame retardants, bisphenol A (BPA), dioxins and other harmful chemicals. The same toxins and more have been found in tap water across the U.S.
The environment we live in is filled with toxins, including chemicals, heavy metals and pollutants, that can accumulate in our bodies and lead to a variety of health problems. Research has found that exposure to toxins, such as heavy metals and pesticides, can reduce fertility in both men and women. Reducing exposure to these toxins is an important part of preconception preparation. It is important to note that a detox should be done a minimum of three months or more before trying to conceive. This is to ensure that mobilized toxins (moved outside the cells) are minimal when actively trying to conceive.
Today, you can begin reducing your toxic load by removing nonstick pans from your home, eliminating BPAs, sourcing organic and clean meats and produce, avoiding foods that contain pesticides, and drinking filtered water.
Sleepless nights, tech overwhelm, excessive demands on one’s time and resources, financial challenges, job insecurity, relationship drama, and unprocessed trauma all contribute to stress and fertility challenges. Physiologically, stress can affect the body in a variety of ways. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, can affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which can interfere with ovulation and disrupt the menstrual cycle. In men, stress can reduce the production of testosterone, which can lead to lower sperm count and quality. Stress can also reduce libido and cause sexual dysfunction. Additionally, stress can lead to fatigue, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues that can further interfere with fertility.
Managing stress is an important part of preconception preparation. A healthy diet, exercise, time soaking up the sun, and reducing toxic load can all help remediate stress. Creating boundaries around tech and cultivating a sleep routine can help balance hormones by promoting healthy circadian rhythms. That said, it is important to recognize emotional and environmental/circumstantial stress triggers and develop strategies to address them. Talking to a therapist or counselor may be beneficial in helping to identify triggers, manage stress levels, and address challenging relationship patterns.
Addressing Unhealthy Generational Patterns
Generational trauma is the transmission of emotional and psychological pain from one generation to the next. It is caused by traumatic events that have been experienced by a parent or ancestor, and can be passed down through generations. This trauma can manifest in physical, psychological and emotional symptoms. It can also lead to a cycle of substance abuse, poverty, violence and poor health outcomes.
Reflect on your life and the health patterns that show up in your family. Consider the traumatic experiences from your childhood and notice how they affect the way you think and act as an adult. Are these experiences you would like for your child?
It is important to recognize and address generational trauma so you can experience more joy in life and cultivate joy, health and abundance for your future generations. Attending to chronic pain and disease, and feelings of depression, anxiety and worthlessness now may help future generations avoid the negative effects of generational trauma, such as chronic health issues, mental health disorders and infertility.
Become a pattern breaker by receiving the help you need to understand, process and heal from your own experiences, as well as the experiences of your forebears.
By investing in the four pillars of physical preparation before conception, you can create a new narrative for you and your future generations: one of joy, health and abundance. With time, dedication and the right support, you can reclaim the natural birthright of fertility and create a healthier, brighter future for yourself and your loved ones.
About the Author
Jocelyn works one on one to address fertility blocks and support clients through the intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) processes. She has helped many women over 35 to become pregnant. Make Space for Baby is Jocelyn’s six-month group holistic preconception preparation program for women and their partners ready to look at all aspects of their life on their way to becoming parents.
If you are interested in one-on-one coaching, email Jocelyn at [email protected]. To apply for the next Make Space for Baby cohort, visit JocelynGordon.com/make-space-for-baby.