Building a Healthy Foundation Before Conception
Building a healthy foundation before conception
“I am planning to have a family in the future. Is it too early to start preparing now?”
It’s never too early to build a healthy foundation for future conception. When a woman finds out she is pregnant, they are often 4 weeks along, and they have missed the most critical time for embryo development. This makes it important to know what nutrients are needed for pregnancy, even when you are not pregnant.
Here are some areas of health that need to be addressed for a healthy conception and pregnancy.
Optimal nutrient status
Health Canada recommends that every woman who could become pregnant, and those who are pregnant, should take a multi vitamin (prenatal vitamin) containing 0.4 mg (400 micrograms) of folate daily .
Pregnant women should also ensure their prenatal contains 16-20 mg of elemental iron 1.
Other nutrients in a good quality prenatal are Vitamin A, B, C, E, selenium, and zinc.
Fish is a good source of omega 3 (EPA and DHA), needed for the healthy development of a baby’s brain and neurological system. It is important to eat fish low in methyl mercury like salmon, trout, herring, haddock, Pollock, sole, flounder, anchovy, char, hake, mullet, smelt, Atlantic mackerel and lake white fish . Wild is preferred over farmed. Fish is also high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. A high quality fish oil can help to ensure proper levels of EPA and DHA
Look for a high quality prenatal vitamin that can be customized for your needs. Your ND can advise you on one to fit all your needs.
Thyroid hormone and iodine levels should be optimized as they can affect fertility, and the healthy growth of a baby. It is more common to find young women with iodine insufficiency, which is of concern because iodine is important for brain development . Your ND can offer tests to determine if you have adequate nutrient status.
Stress is a major factor in this day and age. We can’t get rid of DIS-stress, but we can manage how we perceive it. Your ND has the tools to teach you how to lower stress and decrease any negative effects it may have on your body. She will use acupuncture, hypnotherapy, herbal medicine, and education to keep your cortisol (stress hormone) level steady.
Heal the gut
Digestive concerns are a common occurrence when you eat on the run, have taken antibiotics, or eat the wrong foods. The digestive system houses 70% of your immune cells, so this is an area that all NDs focus on for overall health status.
I’ve been on the pill for many years, will my body know how to ovulate?
If you have been on the pill for many years, you should ideally take 3-6 months to regulate your menstrual cycle before trying to conceive on your own. This is a good time to do a detoxification protocol and clean out the liver, which will help hormones run smoother.
If you have irregular, painful, or heavy periods, it is great to take 3-6 months to balance it before trying to conceive.
Food and diet are the best ways to improve your nutrient status. But if you have done this, and still need help, supplements can help you to achieve further balance.
Should I detox?
A gentle detoxification starts with dietary changes, and eliminating further introduction of toxins into the body. Then we gently encourage the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, bladder, and intestine to eliminate waste products further.
During a detox, you may feel weak, tired, or have a headache. Not long afterwards, you will notice an improvement in digestion, pain and/or inflammation, and have more energy than before.
What if I’m taking medication?
If you are taking medication, always consult with your primary health care provider whether it is safe to take while pregnant. They may switch you to another brand or wean you off if necessary. An ND can have a natural solution should you need one.
 http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/prenatal/index-eng.php, accessed on Oct 10, 2015.
 http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/pubs/nutrition/omega3-eng.php, accessed on Oct 10, 2015.
 Pfeiffer CM, et al. The CDC’s Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition in the U.S. Population is a valuable tool for researchers and policy makers. J Nutr. 2013 Jun;143(6):938S-47S.
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Photo credit: Merrion Square, sculpture of a pregnant woman, by Danny Osborne, William Murphy, 7 July 2007, 17:09:21