This is a new conversation, I get that. Most individuals think of preconception prep as...well...practicing your love making techniques (gentlemen, I’m mostly talking to you!), but there is so much more to it than that!
We are learning more and more about the importance of getting your body ready for conception....even before the big day. If you think about it, most women don’t even know they’re pregnant until many of baby’s vital organs have already begun to form. That’s enough evidence for me to get my butt in gear and ready for baby makin’...even before “game day”.
My husband, Matt, and I started preparing a few years before the whole “baby” conversation even came up and I am so grateful to have had the "know-how" to do so (I even wrote a little blog post about it in November of 2011, that’s 4 whole years before our baby girl was born, and again in 2013 here! ).
Now, since Elle is over a year and there is a possibility that we may bring another little human into the world within the next year or two, we are beginning to buckle down and focus in on our diet, detoxification, stress, etc.
Yes, a year or two before we're even ready to start trying.
Are you catching on now friend?
You see, it’s really never too early to start preparing your body for conception. The more time you have to get the nourishing food in, remove the junk from your diet and cleanse that precious body of nasty toxins that may be lurking around your system and have the potential to cause you and baby harm, the better!
Personally, I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Sure, our amazing bodies have the ability to make lemonade out of lemons, but why make our bodies do that and why do that to our little ones?
Preconception is actually one of the most important times for nourishing your body (and hubbies, I’m talking to you too!). Research has shown that good nutrition prior to pregnancy reduces birth defects and has the ability to reduce the risk of chronic disease in our children later in life.
Yes, we can help set the stage for good health in our children, even into their adult years.
Sign me up.
To me, that is the epitome of preventative health. Seriously, I have the ability to positively affect the health of my future children!? I can actually help them to live healthier lives?
I just think that is so powerful.
So today I wanted to share a few ways you can begin to get that beautiful body ready for baby making, even if you’re years away from “game day”. In fact, this is optimal! I recommend 6 months to one year of preconception prep (nourishing diet, stress management, detoxification, etc.) prior to conception.
Yes, I understand this seems crazy to most of you, but my passion is to inspire a change in the way we think about making our children. Let’s change the way we approach conception and actually create some forethought into this incredible time.
Not only will this potentially change the course of our children’s long term health, but can help support and optimize your fertility by nourishing healthy hormones, cleaning up the toxins in your environment and creating emotional wellbeing.
1. Nourish up.
Start taking your diet seriously. Every meal you eat has the ability to nourish conception or work against it and there is no diet changes that are too small in my book. Every little bit counts and that can be encouraging for those couples who are new to healthy eating and living.
My greatest advice here is to eat real food. That’s it, it’s pretty simple. Organic meat, poultry and fish, vegetables and fruit, healthy fats like grass-fed butter and cream, coconut and olive oils, nuts and seeds and even honey and maple syrup fall into the “real food” category.
Now, if it’s got a nutrition label on it, read the ingredients and make sure every ingredient is a real food itself. For example, it’d be best to make your own spaghetti sauce at home, but if you go for a store-bought option, make sure it’s the same ingredients you’d use at home - tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt, etc. I can read those and I know how they look in nature so most likely my body knows how to use them as nourishment.
It’s super important to avoid processed foods that offer no nutritional value and have the ability to burden your body with toxic chemicals, processed sugar and GMO’s that may impact fertility. These “foods” include chips, crackers, boxed or canned items, fast food, processed sugary treats, soda...you get where I’m going with this and I’m pretty sure you understand what processed for is.
It’s also important to avoid alcohol, cigarette smoke, drugs and unnecessary medications. This goes for both men and women. I often see couples trying to conceive when the hubby is still enjoying lots of cocktails, beer or wine. Alcohol can lower testosterone levels in men and negatively affect sperm quality and quantity. That’s no bueno for making babies. Try drinking kombucha instead to get that fermented taste without all the negative effects. Plus, kombucha provides lots of beneficial bacteria, B-vitamins and enzymes.
2. Work to optimize digestion
I often tell clients, “You can be eating the cleanest, most nourishing diet in the world, but if you’re digestion isn’t working properly, then you’re essentially wasting your money.”
Dramatic? Yes, but mostly true.
Poor digestion can cause awful daily symptoms and often times means that we’re not actually absorbing and able to use all of the awesome, baby-making, hormone creating nutrients (specifically protein and fats) we’re working so hard to eat day to day.
Many of my clients suffer from digestive problems due to medication and antibiotic use, processed foods, gluten and stress, to name a few. So, if these are the potential causes, what can we do to optimize digestion?
Avoid use of harmful and unnecessary medications (the worst thing you can do for gut health is take antibiotics, but if it’s a must, probiotic therapy is crucial after your course of antibiotics), drop the processed junk food and gluten and work to decrease your stress (see details below). No brainers right!?
I recommend using apple cider vinegar daily, a good quality probiotic and in many cases digestive enzymes. You can also begin slowly introducing fermented foods (start with ½ to 1 teaspoon and work up to a few tablespoons over a week or two) into your diet like raw sauerkraut and kimchi, kombucha, whole milk yogurt, kefir and beet kvass. All of these fermented foods provide beneficial bacteria, enzymes and lots of wonderful nutrients to support gut health and even repair.
3. Put your phone down.
Though you’re not hearing about this much in the news, cell phone and wifi radiation emissions have the potential to negatively impact DNA replication, the way cells grow, brain cell function and even lower sperm count and quality. I don’t think it’s any surprise that the average male sperm count is declining rapidly as most men carry phones in their pockets or on their belts all day, every day. This type of exposure isn’t good for women either, in fact, it may be worse since men are able to turn over sperm every 90-days, but women carry the same eggs all their lives.
Belly Armor, which sells products that protect men, women and children from radiation exposure writes, “A 2008 study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found men who use cell phones for 4 hours a day had 25% lower sperm count than those that don’t use cell phones. Of the sperm they did have, 80% were not properly formed and motility (a measure of swimming ability and a crucial factor in conception) was down by a third.”
That’s pretty alarming to me. So, what can you do about this?
- Keep your phone away from your body whenever possible and invest in a Pong cell phone case which helps to divert radiation away from your body.
- Put your phone on airplane mode at night and never sleep with your phone near your head or body.
- Do not sit close to your wifi and turn it off whenever you’re not using it. My husband thought I was nuts when I started turning off our wifi at night, but it has become part of our nightly routine and I know is doing our health justice.
4. Address the stress
Stress seems to be a major issue in so many people’s lives these days and we’re finding it harder and harder to escape the busyness of our daily modern lives. This can cause major hormonal and blood sugar problems and as it pertains to fertility, can be a major burden.
Picture yourself 5,000 years ago, sitting with your tribe around a fire, minding your own business. Suddenly, a pack of wolves appears and it’s time to fight for your life or get the heck out of there if you want to survive. During this “fight or flight” response, your body is focusing on surviving and not much else- blood is being shunted away from your stomach and sex organs and into large muscle groups, your heart and lungs. This response helps us to survive a threat on our life.
Well, skip forward a few thousand years to your modern world. The traffic, financial problems, the marital quarrels, trauma in childhood or adulthood, etc. can all engage this “fight or flight” response, even if we’re not in any real danger. And while we’re in this mode, our bodies are not concerned with properly digesting our food or making babies, remember, you’re just trying to survive.
Do you see how chronic stress has the potential to lower your body’s ability to conceive? If you are dealing with stress, especially when it’s left you fatigued, without a sex drive, depressed, and feeling like you can hardly meet the demands of daily life, then most likely you’re body isn’t optimally fertile.
The good thing is that there are lots of things you can do to decrease the stressors in your life and create more mindfulness surrounding this area. Focus on getting plenty of rest, do something each day that you actually enjoy doing, laugh more, do light to moderate exercise and avoid over exercising and work to locate the “energy robbers” in your life. Getting plenty of healthy fats and protein at meals and keeping blood sugar stable is another way to decrease the overall stress in your day to day life.
5. Feel the love
Creating more love and trust between husband and wife is so important for conception. If you’ve struggled with trust or past traumas that make your relationship more challenging, work with a therapist or psychologist to address these issues and create closeness and love in your marriage.
If you’re relationship is struggling (and for some this may be especially because of the stress of infertility), work together to address the root issues by reading a marriage book or devotional together, meet with a marriage and family therapist, schedule in more fun activities to do together, put down the distraction of social media and TV and focus on getting to know one another better. Practice giving each other grace day to day as this can make a world of difference in your marriage.
I hope this guide helped you understand the importance of beginning a preconception diet and healthy living routine prior to “trying” to get pregnant and gave you some actionable items to get your body healthier and ready for “game day”.
I pray that your conception story is rich in love and excitement and is a walk in the park.
And I’ve got some exciting news for you! I’ve got a preconception prep mini-course in the works! If you and your other half are interested in getting in on the very first group, sign up below! I will keep you posted on the mini-course start date, content and how you can optimize fertility to take the stress and worry out of your conception story.