Conscious pre-conception care offers the most wonderful opportunity to signiﬁcantly inﬂuence the future health of your child. It is the ultimate preventative medicine!
Pre-conception care means providing the maturing egg (oocyte) and sperm with all of the factors required for fertility and the creation of a healthy foetus, while at the same time omitting factors that have been shown to be detrimental. An egg takes approximately 100 days to mature, while for sperm it is an 80 day process. During this time, they are vulnerable to toxin exposures and nutrient deficiencies, hence the recommended four month minimum period for pre-conception care. The instant an egg and sperm combine, an irreversible genetic code is formed for future development of that baby. How incredible to know that you can have such a powerful impact in four tiny months!
So, what does it take to create great quality sperm and eggs? It is as much about what is included as what is omitted for this period.
The maturation of the egg and the sperm is influenced by both hormonal and nutritional factors so, during preconception care, the focus is on optimising both of these components. Balancing hormones is a highly individual process that an experienced health care professional can guide you with.
Nutritionally, it is critical to supply the developing egg with the right amount of every nutrient, while also not exposing the developing egg to substances that have been shown to be harmful to both the egg itself and to hormonal balance. Alcohol and coffee need to be omitted for the four months of care and during pregnancy. Studies have shown that women drinking more than three cups of coffee per day during the first trimester have an increased risk of miscarriage. Swapping coffee for green tea, with its minimal caffeine levels, calming effect on the nervous system and high antioxidants, can be a great start in the lead up to pre-conception care.
As you can see, the basis of any pre-conception care requires both the mum and dad-to-be to make a commitment to this special time in their lives. You can also see how Real Food and good quality supplementation would make all the difference in a healthy conception. It is truly a miraculous process and by supplying your body with the nutrients it needs, it helps you to have a healthy precious bundle.
general food guide
- Your diet needs to be based on real food: food the way nature created it with as little human interference as possible.
- Do what you can to amp up the plant content of your diet.
- Eat regular meals. Do not skip meals.
- Stay hydrated with good-quality water.
- Aim for all foods to be fresh and organically grown/fed wherever possible, as they have a higher nutritional value, and are lower in toxins, hormones and pesticides.
- Do not overcook your food.
- Do not use the microwave for cooking or defrosting.
- Do your best to eat seasonally and aim to eat mostly locally-grown produce.
- I am an advocate of supplementation of nutrients during preconception care and pregnancy, which is best tailored to individual needs.
A recent study of 400 couples by Foresight in the UK, found that with a minimum of four months’ pre-conception care (and continued throughout the pregnancy) the following results occurred:
- Of women with a history of miscarriage, medically diagnosed infertility, therapeutic termination and stillbirth, between 73–83% gave birth.
- The average gestational age was 38.5 weeks (none born before 36 weeks).
- The average weight was 3.29 kg (none under 2.368kg).
- No miscarriages (average expectation would be 70).
- No perinatal deaths.
- No malformations (average expectation would be 12).
- No baby to intensive/special care.
A variety of nutrients is critical for the formation and motility of healthy sperm and this process is also influenced by hormone levels, including testosterone. The movement of the tail of a sperm is dependent on selenium levels in the male and without enough, the sperm are unable to swim toward the cervix. The neck of sperm connects the head to the tail and vitamin D, coenzyme Q10 and zinc are all critical to the neck being of sound structure. The head of the sperm is tightly packed with DNA, the genetic material that will form a new life. To keep this protected, all of the antioxidants are required. These include vitamins A, C, D, E, B12, zinc, selenium, CoQ10, folate and alpha-lipoic acid. For a sperm to be able to penetrate an egg so fertilisation can occur, optimal calcium levels are essential.
hey baby, did you know …?
- Cold babies do not grow as fast: since babies can’t shiver, they use up fat to keep them warm, which can interfere with normal growth.
- Newborns can protect themselves against choking: called a ‘protective reflex’, newborn babies’ tongues automatically push out foreign objects to keep them from choking.
- Older women have more chance of multiple births: older women have higher hormone levels, so they are more likely to produce more than one egg and have twins or triplets.
- When a baby is born, their hearing isn’t 100% because the middle ear is still full of fluid. The one sound they are able to recognise is the sound of their mother’s voice. They respond to this sound above all others.
Dr Libby Weaver (BHSc (N&D) (Hons) PhD) is Australasia’s superstar of all things health and nutrition, combining many years of experience, learning and clinical practice to her holistic approach to health. For more information about Dr Libby’s cookbook ‘The Real Food Chef’, visit www.drlibby.com