After spending an amazing weekend at the Integrative Women’s Health Summit and listening to some incredible speakers including Dr Erin Stokes and Dr Aviva Romm, I was reminded of the importance of pre-conception care and how this can help produce healthy babies and also help prevent miscarriage. As Dr Aviva Romm said the “Mother is the Gatekeeper” and this is so true. However, you could also say the father is the key to the gate as you need both the egg and sperm to be good quality to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Why do the experts say at least 3 months of pre-conception care?
As specified by fertility expert Dr Marilyn Glenville the reason 3 months is so often stated is that it takes that long for follicles on your ovaries to develop before one is mature enough to release an egg for ovulation. You cannot change the number of eggs but you can change their quality, which will increase your chances of conceiving. Also, for men it takes 3 months for a new batch of sperm cells to mature. Men produce sperm all their lives so it is possible to improve the quality and quantity through lifestyle and nutritional changes.
You will increase your chances of getting pregnant if both you and your partner are in good health. A bad diet, being overweight, smoking, drinking and a unhealthy lifestyle can affect the quality of sperm and stop you getting pregnant.
Smoking should be stopped as it damages sperm and smokers are only half as fertile as non-smokers. Alcohol as mentioned in a previous blog should be lowered as 40% of infertility is linked to just a moderate intake of alcohol. You should both try to make your lifestyle as healthy as possible before you try to conceive.
The figures about women, weight and fertility:-
· A woman who is overweight or obese has less chance of getting pregnant overall, she is also more likely than a woman of healthy weight to take more than a year to get pregnant.
· The risk of pre-eclampsia doubles in overweight women and triples in obese women. Overweight women have twice the risk of gestational diabetes and obese women eight times the risk, compared with women of healthy weight.
· A woman who is obese is more than twice as likely to have a miscarriage than a women of healthy weight.
· Being underweight can also reduce a women’s fertility. It can cause hormone imbalances that affect ovulation and therefore a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. Compared to healthy women, underweight women are more than twice as likely to take more than a year to get pregnant. Having a BMI under 18.5 is considered ‘underweight’
General advice for women
A healthy varied diet is crucial for the health of both mother and child. A woman’s diet prior to conception can also affect a baby’s health. Women trying for a baby are advised to eat a healthy, varied and balanced diet. In practice this means adopting a dietary pattern that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, moderate amounts of meat, fish and/or other protein sources (such as eggs and pulses), and moderate amounts of dairy products. Foods and drinks high in fat and sugar should only be consumed in limited amounts.
To ensure optimal development of the foetus, some changes to diet and lifestyle may be required even before conception. During preconception, women are advised to take a folic acid supplement (400 µg), which should be continued with until the 12th week of pregnancy. This will reduce the risk of the baby being born with a neural tube defect.
General advice for men
It is also important for men to eat a healthy, varied diet. Specific nutrients which are found in a healthy, varied diet are known to be important for male fertility. For example, selenium is needed to make healthy sperm, zinc is needed to ensure healthy testosterone levels and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish help produce prostaglandins, which are important for making sperm.
You can now see why it is significant to be a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet and ensure that you make sensible lifestyle choices in order to increase your chances of getting pregnant. For more information contact B/Nutrition for a personalised plan to help you increase your chances of conceiving.