We chatted to Chantel Kismet from Blooming Births to get the lowdown on how to prepare your body if you're trying for a baby. From cleaning up your diet to getting more sleep, here's your ultimate checklist for preconception health...
Preconception health does not get as much limelight as it should, and we don’t talk about it enough. Whether or not you are planning to start a family soon or going down the path of an assisted conception, it is important to cultivate a healthy mind and body.
I love this excerpt from Ina May Gaskin, an amazing midwife and the author of Ina May’s guide to childbirth; “Gardeners know that you must nourish the soil if you want healthy plants. You must water the plants adequately, especially when seeds are germinating and sprouting, and they should be planted in nutrient-rich soil. Why should nutrition matter less in the creation of young humans than it does in young plants? I’m sure that it doesn’t.”
She is absolutely right! Think of your mind and body as the soil in which you will grow your seeds into healthy plants. Your thoughts, emotions, diet and lifestyle will impact the terrain within you that creates life. The quality of the egg and sperm plays a vital role in creating a healthy baby. Research has shown that a mother’s nutrition and emotional state at conception and pregnancy can significantly alter a child’s genetic makeup. That’s a pretty big deal! It takes two to tango when it comes to conception, and each couple should make a collective effort to prepare their body for conception. Here’s where to start when it comes to preconception health…
PRECONCEPTION HEALTH: TOP TIPS TO HELP PREPARE YOUR BODY FOR CONCEPTION
1. Dial down the stress
We live in a society where it’s always “go go go!” and life can often leave us frazzled. Whether it’s work, finances, the current uncertainty of Covid-19 or just anything that raises the stress levels in your life – it is important to identify what they are and find a way to manage it. When you are constantly in a high strung state, you fire up the sympathetic nervous system and flood the body with stress hormones (also known as cortisol). Cortisol can affect sperm and egg quality, disrupt ovulation, affect your gut health and decrease chances of conception.
Try to focus on what you can change in your life that’s within your control to reduce stress levels. Meditation, breathwork, exercising and other healing modalities (such as sound therapy, emotional freedom techniques, acupuncture) can help bring you into a calmer state. Insight Timer is my go-to for all things meditation! If you are finding it hard to manage your emotions and thoughts, please reach out to a professional therapist for help.
2. Get more sleep!
The lack of proper rest can affect hormone production in both men and women. It also signals the body to produce more stress hormones which can cause estrogen, progesterone and testosterone to be thrown off balance. This can interfere with the menstrual cycle resulting in irregular periods, which impacts the chances of getting pregnant. Sleep is so important to your overall health and wellbeing, as well as preconception health. It can affect your emotional health and your sex drive. Get into a relaxed state – put on some calm music, take a hot bath, diffuse some lavender essential oils and get under your covers!
3. Clean up your diet
Eating a plate of colour and incorporating healthy foods into your diet can boost fertility, decrease the chances of birth defects, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia during pregnancy. Throw out your refined sugars, processed foods and add whole foods! Ladies, eating for your cycle and incorporating seed cycling into your diet is a great way to balance your hormones. I also love the book “Awakening Fertility: The essential art of preparing for pregnancy” by Heng Ou. You will find nourishing recipes and mindful practices to prepare your body (and mind!).
If you are planning to take supplements, invest in good quality ones! Consuming folate during conception and pregnancy can prevent birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. Please note the differences between folate and folic acid!
4. Your microbiome matters
Micro-what? We all have bacteria that live on and inside our body, known as “microbiome”. It influences a large aspect of our metabolism and overall health. The microbiome in our gut health can impact fertility, vaginal health and production of estrogen. If you feel bloated, constipated (or loose stools), suffer from indigestion or heartburn, or are experiencing food sensitivities, it might be worth investigating. Take good quality prebiotics and probiotics!
5. Stop the use of contraceptives
If you have been on the pill for a while, now is a good time to stop taking them. Coming off any contraceptive can bring about changes to the body. Some people may notice a change in their cycle (becoming more irregular) or heavy periods. It is always good to give your body time to regulate and balance out!
6. Other holistic approaches to support preconception health
Incorporating other methods can help regulate and balance the body, increasing the chances of conceiving. See a TCM specialist, naturopath or herbalist if you are looking for a more holistic method. Womb massages can help circulate blood flow around the womb area, and Yoni steaming can cleanse the vagina and uterus (amongst other benefits!). Blooming Births offers a women wellness package combining womb massage, vaginal steaming and other holistic approaches to help bring balance to the female body.
Take the conscious effort to nourish your mind, heart and body (both mum and dad-to-be!) before you even start trying!
Lead image: Blooming Births