The Importance Of Pre-Conception Care (For BOTH Men & Women)
Did you know BOTH males and females should consider pre-conception care AT LEAST 3 months prior to trying for a baby? I know a lot of people who are either trying to conceive, considering trying in the very near future and unfortunately some who have been struggling to conceive for some time. Infertility rates are increasing, and because of this I really wanted to emphasize the importance of pre-conception care!
Fertility is a very specialised field, and not one that I personally specialise in. I am very passionate about health and want everyone to be in the best health possible which will not only make trying for a baby easier but also the health of your unborn child. So, I got together with my good friend and very knowledgeable Naturopath Steph Pearson who specialises in Fertility and Women’s health. She has also gone through her own journey so she understands first hand the struggles and resistance this may bring to conception care.
In our opinion for optimal conception, it’s 40% males, 40% females and 20% external factors (such as stress and poor lifestyle choices and unhealthy habits).
Firstly, your man!!!
Did you know men’s sperm changes every 120 days? This is why boosting male fertility and increasing your chances of having a baby should be considered 3 months prior to conception, to ensure you they have the right nutrients in their diet for optimal sperm health and also to expel toxins from their body which can affect DNA health.
Nutrition Factors to Consider
Opt for a diet rich in natural, whole and unprocessed foods which is balanced with carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and is high in antioxidants (the more antioxidants the better)!!
Carbohydrates – These are essential for hormonal health, and growth and development of the baby, they also provide the body with the energy it needs. Please be careful with low carb diets if wanting to get pregnant (a topic to discuss another time). When choosing carbs opt for complex carbs such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, sweet potato, and potatoes.
Protein – is essential for normal growth and development of the foetus. In terms of preconception, protein must be consumed daily to ensure you meet your amino acid requirements (the building blocks of protein). Good sources include organic/free-range meat, fish, eggs, legumes (well-prepared), tofu and tempeh (if vegetarian/vegan).
Fats – reproductive profiles are built from healthy fats. A balanced hormonal profile leads to a healthy conception. Fats are vital for cellular structure, brain health, and development, so don’t skimp on healthy fats! Good sources include avocado, nuts, seeds, eggs, olive oil, full-fat dairy, oily fish (salmon, mackerel).
Iodine – NZ soils are deficient in this very important mineral. Iodine plays a role in thyroid health, and your thyroid is involved in hormonal production. In terms of pregnancy, it’s crucial for brain and cell development. The best food sources are kelp, seaweed (nori sheets are great daily snack), fish and seafood, so consume these daily.
Folate – is required for healthy DNA synthesis and important for healthy sperm and egg production, quality, and growth. So eat your leafy green veggies daily (at least 2 handfuls), other good sources include eggs, broccoli, berries, sesame and sunflower seeds.
Choline – just as important as folate with more and more research confirming this. It’s important for spinal cord and brain function. Good food sources include egg yolks, meats, fish and whole grains.
Vitamin D – is can be difficult to obtain optimal vitamin D levels with most New Zealanders being deficient in this key hormone-like vitamin. Vitamin D plays a role in the baby’s nerve and growth development and muscle cells (just as important for mood, cognitive function, and immunity for mum’s health). Think mushrooms, eggs, oily fish and of course don’t forget to get out in that beautiful sunshine!
Zinc – supports male hormone production. Zinc is also required for healthy numbers of sperm and supports their development so they can swim well. Best sources include oysters, as well as eggs, nuts, seeds especially pumpkin and walnuts, and cooked seafood.
Antioxidants – such as vitamin C, CoQ10, selenium, improves all sperm parameters including sperm number and motility as well as optimal energy production.
Lifestyle Factors to consider
Stress! Stress seriously is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to preconception care. We can’t empathize this enough! Looking at ways you can minimize this is vital, especially if you’ve been struggling to conceive for a while, you may want to re-evaluate your lifestyle.
For female’s – stress can lower your progesterone, a key hormone for healthy cycles and ovulation, and going forward you need sufficient levels of progesterone to hold a pregnancy. When you are stressed your body produces cortisol. Cortisol and progesterone are constantly working against each other until one wins the game, so being stressed and trying and to get pregnant at the same time can make things more challenging.
For men – stress can affect the quality of sperm and can have implications of male fertility. The main cause of male infertility is sperm abnormality including low sperm production and immobile sperm.
Ways to de-stress = The BEST way to de-stress is to do something you love every single day! Incorporating relaxation practices such as walking, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, take a bath, read a book, watch a movie or anything else that puts a smile on our face! We all know what makes us happy we just have to make these a priority and stop feeling guilty about them.
Sleep – as we all know, sleep quality and quantity is very important for repair and renewal of all body systems. So make sure you get your 7-8 hours of good quality sleep each night!
Exercise less (more for most of us) – focus on movement, and ensure you’re moving your body regularly. If you’re stressed, be mindful of the exercise activity you’re choosing, as it may be causing your body more harm than good.
From our perspective supplements are essential for optimal pre-conception care, however, supplements are always based on an individual’s need. They need to be of good quality, and the right form, i.e folinic acid/folic acid/5MHFRT. We advise caution around common pre-conception supplements such as Elevit and personally wouldn’t recommend this in the clinic (for issues to go into another day). It is best to consult with a qualified health care practitioner if you’re considering supplementation.
Whether you’re considering trying for a baby, having fertility issues or want to know more about the right supplements to take to ensure the best health for you and your baby I highly recommend getting in touch with Steph Pearson today. You can contact her on [email protected] or 0225026817.
Happy and healthy baby making!! 😊
Nat & Steph xx
Hi I’m Natalie, a Registered Clinical Nutritionist, health influencer, blog writer & recipe creator. My own health complications prompted me to make positive diet & lifestyle changes, revitalize my health leading to a career change from the corporate world to nutritional medicine. I believe in a wholefoods approach to good health, focusing on simple strategies for modern, busy people.