Your preconception plan: Growing a family
How to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby
Are you thinking about having a baby? If so, this series is for YOU. Here is how to optimize your health to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Starting 1 year out:
1. Discontinue all hormonal birth control
In an ideal world, It is best to give your body a complete year off from hormonal birth control before trying to conceive. This allows ample time for your body to establish a natural healthy hormonal rhythm. Additionally, synthetic hormones deplete the body of necessary nutrients for your baby’s health.
2. Start tracking your cycle
One of the BIGGEST issues I find with couples struggling with infertility is poor timing. Not everyone ovulates on Day 14. It is important to know when YOU ovulate. Some signs include a rise in body temp 24 hours after ovulation, cervical mucus that is clear and egg-white consistency, softening of the cervix, increased sex drive, and unilateral pain in the lower abdomen. Remember that sperm lasts up to 72 hours in the vaginal canal, while a good egg lasts only about 12-24 hours, so the key is to have sex BEFORE ovulation.
3. Prioritize your health!
Listen up, mama. This is so crucial. This is not only for the health of your baby but for YOU! Once you are pregnant, it is nearly impossible to TREAT your health, as almost every treatment and pharmaceutical is contraindicated (e.g.: not recommended). If you are breastfeeding afterward, tack on a couple of more months (or years)! The health of your future child starts with the health of YOU, so start now… get as healthy as possible, and THEN… let’s make a baby!
**For those who already have another child, it is BEST that your kiddo is at least 9 months of age (ideally >18 months) before conception. This is because pregnancy depletes the mother’s body of nutrients that are crucial to form the next baby. Research shows that women who have kids fewer than 8 months apart are more at risk for premature infants, low-birth-weight infants, and poor pregnancy outcomes. Research has also shown that children born after a shorter interpregnancy interval have under-developed facial structures due to nutrient deficiencies! So take a break and build up your nutrient reserves.
Starting 6 months out:
1. Do some preliminary testing
Whether or not you have had any troubles conceiving in the past, I recommend getting the following testing to ensure your health looks optimal for pregnancy: For women, you will need hormones tested on Day 3 and Day 21. On Day 3- FSH, LH, DHEA-S, Testosterone, Estradiol. On Day 21- Progesterone. On either of those days, I recommend also getting a full thyroid panel (TSH, T4, T4, fT3, fT4, TPOAb, TgAB), CBC, CMP, Ferritin, Vitamin D, B12, Folate, Homocysteine, fasting glucose and HbA1c. I will go into the optimal ranges of many of those tests in a future post! For men, I recommend doing a sperm analysis!
2. Ensure you are eating organic
For some, this may seem like “no big deal.” For others, this statement may seem like a giant undertaking. I cannot emphasize the importance of food enough. Conventional food is full of man-made chemicals that have been shown to cause reproductive harm. The most well-known and widely used herbicide, glyphosate, is a known endocrine disrupter linked to infertility. Please keep in mind that most restaurants do NOT use organic foods unless they specify otherwise. This means that eating out should be kept at a minimum. Put that money towards baby things!
3. Detox WITH your partner
“You’re saying you want me to get my husband to detox?” YES! It takes TWO to make a baby, and toxins can affect sperm health as much as they can affect egg health. I use a test called GPL-tox, which screens for 172 different environmental pollutants, many of which are REPRODUCTIVE TOXINS shown to cause infertility and harm to baby’s development. I will expand on this in future posts, as I strongly believe toxins are the “root cause” behind the rise in rates of infertility. How long do you detox? I recommend a minimum of 6 weeks. What does that include? Too much for this post. Stay tuned.
Starting 3 months out:
1. Eliminate or Drastically Reduce Alcohol Intake
NEWS FLASH: Alcohol is a toxin! Alcohol consumption has been shown to cause fertility issues in both MEN and WOMEN. Alcohol intake has been associated with ovulation disorders, lowered sperm motility and concentration, hormonal imbalances, and lowered immunity — ALL of which impair your chances of getting pregnant naturally. This isn’t simply about getting pregnant either, alcohol can affect the health of the future baby by contributing to your toxin burden and depleting your body of nutrients!
2. Stay Clear of Chemicals in Your Food and Products
This should be a “no-brainer” if you detoxed 6 months out. We just eliminated many toxins derived from chemicals in your food. We want to keep Mom AND Dad as clean as possible! Sperm take about 3 months to fully mature, so you want to ensure you give them an optimal environment for this ENTIRE period. The majority of our toxin burden comes from the following sources: non-organic food, PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS (hair-spray, pomade, cologne, perfume, deodorant, makeup, hair dye, aftershave, etc), cleaning products, laundry detergent, Styrofoam, plastics, and gasoline fumes.
3. Optimize Nutrient Status
Your egg and sperm require many nutrients for optimal functioning! It’s time to load your diet up with all those superfoods. I recommend trying to consume EVERY color of the rainbow within each week (within each day if possible), loading up on top quality organ meats, bone broth, and low-mercury fish. For those looking to supplement, I recommend my female patients take a good quality prenatal vitamin, and male patients consider taking L-carnitine, CoQ10, and Zinc. There are obviously more nutrients that are PATIENT-SPECIFIC based on testing. If there are any concerns regarding your ability to conceive, please consult with a professional.
Time To Make A Baby!
The time has come to START TRYING!
My TOP FIVE TIPS are as follows:
- Reduce whatever external STRESS you can! Working 60 hour weeks while preparing for a big test and trying to fit in workouts every morning at 5 am after a 4 hour night of sleep is NOT the recipe for a baby.
- HAVE FUN!! Sex should be fun EVEN if it is done with a purpose.
- SLEEP! Your goal this month is to sleep 8 hours each night with a bedtime of 9-10pm.
- Have sex every other day starting 3 days prior to when you think you should ovulate.
- Avoid using lubricant if possible. Many lubricants create an unsafe environment for sperm.
If you have questions or concerns about preconception, pregnancy, prenatal and perinatal care, or your young children, contact us to set up a consultation.
Written by Dr. Ari Calhoun, ND, North County Natural Medicine