Title: Preconceptual care
Key words: Preconception, pregnancy, sexual health, reproduction, folic acid, heavy metal toxicity
Date: April 2001
Category: 10. Reproduction
Author: Peter Bennett
Preconception is arguably the most significant part of the reproductive process, and yet the most overlooked. It is during this time that the mother and father to be can prepare both their bodies and minds for the forthcoming pregnancy. It is important that they are as healthy and well prepared as possible for the new life.
To give the best chance of producing a healthy baby preparation should begin as far in advance as possible. Ideally start to prepare 6 months before planning to conceive, but in any case at least 3 months, as it is during this period that the relevant sperm and ova commence their maturation process. During these processes both are extremely vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies and toxins. Therefore as well as improving nutritional intake it is also important to reduce any toxic load on the body.
It is vital that both the man and woman take care to improve their diet and overall health to ensure that their sperm and ova are as healthy as possible before conception occurs.
Stop smoking, and drinking alcohol, reduce or preferably eliminate caffeine intake.
Increase the amount of pure, clean water to approximately 4 pints per day.
Eat less processed and more whole, preferably organic, foods. Particularly concentrate on vegetables and fruit to build up vitamin and mineral levels. To increase essential fatty acid content try to increase consumption of oily fish to three or four portions each week.
Take more exercise. Good health does not come from merely inserting the right ingredients, you need to get your body to use those ingredients as well. Exercise is an excellent way to prepare your body for the exertions of pregnancy and labour.
If either the contraceptive pill or the coil have been used as contraceptive methods then their negative effects need to be balanced before conception. Both these methods tend to raise copper levels in the female body and lower zinc levels. In addition the pill also tends to raise vitamin A levels but lower vitamin B and vitamin C levels.
As well as trying to make sure you take in all the helpful nutrients and lifestyle changes, there are also some things to avoid, particularly during pregnancy and preconception:
As well as the essential minerals such as zinc and magnesium, there are also undesirable metals that our bodies are regularly exposed too. The four primary heavy metals are: Mercury, Lead, Aluminium and Cadmium. All of these are toxic to the body and have been linked to infertility problems, miscarriages, premature births and malformed or underweight babies. Therefore it is important to try and avoid them and get them out of the body as quickly as possible. Although dental treatment is free on the NHS during pregnancy it is not advisable to have any amalgam fillings put in or removed during this time as this will expose both mother and baby to an increased level of toxic mercury. Aluminium enters the body via pots and pans made partly or solely from it, foil, tap water and many antiperspirants. We breathe lead from car-polluted air, and absorb it from paints, tinned foods and tap water. Tobacco smoke contains cadmium and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream of both the active and passive smoker.
There are some heavy metals that are essential to the body in tiny amounts, but which are toxic at high concentrations. One of these is copper. Copper is more prolific now than it has been before as our water is delivered to us through copper pipes and we often wear copper or brass accessories. Copper compounds are mixed into swimming pools to keep them clean and hair dyes often also contain it. However, the most common reason for copper contamination is from contraception. Both the coil and the pill raise copper levels to the extent that even after use has stopped high body levels can be maintained unless proper restorative action is taken.
Fluoride has been shown to poison a comprehensive range of enzymes, and may be involved with other health concerns too. Therefore it is best to avoid fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste particularly during this stage of life.
As well as avoiding putting toxins into the body in the preconception phase it is particularly useful to get as many toxins out of the body as possible. The following measured may be helpful in removing toxins from the body:
Vitamin C and Zinc are both helpful in reducing cadmium levels, which is particularly helpful for detoxifying a smokers body.
Zinc, Calcium, Iron Vitamin E, Vitamin B1 and Vitamin B2 taken together with the Vitamin B Complex can help protect against lead toxicity.
Selenium is particularly helpful at reducing mercury levels in the body.
Beta-carotene helps in general detoxification by helping to activate necessary enzymes.
Chromium and Manganese are also protective against heavy metal toxins.
The essential fatty acids found within flaxseed (linseed) and evening primrose oils are very helpful in supporting the bodys production of healthy cells.
Yoghurt, garlic (particularly raw), onions, bananas, apples and pears help to decrease the absorption of toxins and remove them from the body in part because of the natural pectins that they contain.
Vegetables, pulses and whole-grains help support the bodys natural elimination processes and therefore assist in the removal of toxicity.
Fresh, pure water is vital to all the bodys processes and particularly vital for the removal of waste products. Therefore an intake of at least 4 pints daily is recommended.
The principle defence system of the body is the immune system. Throughout life you will find that the stronger the immune system, the healthier you will be. Naturally during pregnancy and preparation for pregnancy you want to keep as healthy as possible so that you can also pass on a healthy immune system to your offspring.
Whether you have had rubella (German measles) or not, go to your practitioner for a test to confirm your immunity. Catching rubella while pregnant would very likely harm your baby. It is always a good idea to discuss any concerns regarding any illnesses, or medication that you are on with your practitioner as well. Some medicines may alter your fertility, and x-rays are known to adversely affect reproductive health too. It is also a good idea for both partners to be tested for genito-urinary diseases to make sure that everything is working well.
Everyday we are under attack from environmental bacteria or toxins and as such you may need to take extra care while preparing to carry a new life. Certain bacteria such as some found in the soil and some found on dirty cat litter can be quite damaging to the developing foetus and so it is important to avoid contact with these sources. Simply wearing rubber gloves will help if you want to continue gardening while pregnant.
The value of Folic acid supplementation during preconception and pregnancy has been brought to our attention on numerous times in the last few years. There is good reason for this singling out as an essential supplement due to the fact that there has been a wealth of research showing its value in helping to prevent neural tube defects. So much so that the Government's Chief Medical Officer has recommended that women who are trying to become pregnant and those in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy should have an intake of 400µg Folic Acid per day. This recommendation has come about not only because the research shows this amount to have the greatest benefit but also because it is nearly impossible to be able to find this amount naturally occurring in the diet.
More than anything else at this time of life supplemental Folic acid is vital; but it is also important to make sure that both future parents have healthy bodies and a good all round nutrient intake.
Preconception is a part of the reproductive process which should not be overlooked if at all possible. A little more careful attention to heath, on the part of both mother and father to be can be invaluable and well worthwhile when considering the health and well-being of a new baby.