By Dr. Angelina Riopel, ND
Preconception is an important, but often overlooked step, in pregnancy preparation. Naturopathic preconception planning can improve chances of conceiving and help ensure a healthy pregnancy, delivery and baby.
Ideally preconception work should begin one year, to a minimum of three months before desired conception. During this time the menstrual cycle and ovulation will be tracked, helping us understand when ovulation is occurring. Factors influencing the menstrual cycle will be addressed, along with general health and nutrition. A period of detoxification may be necessary for some.
The following is a detailed outline of areas that will be addressed during Preconception Planning:
Diet & Nutrient Deficiencies
Dietary changes should begin well before becoming pregnant. Many nutrients such as fatty acids, proteins, minerals and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin D are stored. If stores are not adequate mom will become deficient, as the fetus will take what it needs. Nutrient deficiencies should be identified and corrected with a combination of diet and nutritional supplementation.
A nutrient dense diet is encouraged with plenty of whole foods including whole grains, legumes, nut, seeds, quality protein and fruits and vegetables. Inflammatory foods and food allergens should be identified and removed from the diet.
Stress directly affects female hormones necessary for conceiving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Stress reduction and support tools are vital in supporting natural fertility. Herbal remedies, diet, acupuncture and exercise can all help to reduce the body’s stress response.
Hormone imbalances are common in women that have had difficulty conceiving. There are many factors that interfere with hormone levels including diet, stress and environmental toxins.
The thyroid gland specifically, plays an important role in fertility. If the thyroid gland is under functioning, conception and maintaining a pregnancy may be difficult.
Conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and other hormone related conditions will affect fertility. Dietary changes, herbal remedies and acupuncture are often very helpful in the management of these conditions.
Laboratory tests may help to assess female hormone levels, thyroid levels, as well as stress hormone levels.
Environmental toxins can disrupt hormones and affect fertility, some are actually known as “hormone disruptors”. Plastics, chemical laden body products and cosmetics, along with heavy metals in fish can accumulate and contribute to the body’s toxic burden. Toxin exposure and body burden should be evaluated and addressed before becoming pregnant. Reducing toxin exposure is necessary and detoxification may be necessary for some.