It’s a new year, and with a new year comes new goals. If one of your goals for this year is to grow your family, congratulations! Pregnancy really is amazing, and the fact that our bodies can grow an entire human starting with just two cells is nothing short of miraculous. During pregnancy our body goes through many changes, and it can be very taxing for momma-to-be. Growing babies need a lot of nutrients, and during pregnancy the baby’s needs are prioritized. This means it is important to be in good health beforehand to ensure that baby gets what they need to grow, and there is still enough left over for momma to thrive as well. Things that can help ensure this is the case may require things like changes to your eating habits and exercise routine, decreasing stress levels and making sure your home environment is ready for a little one.
When it comes to pregnancy, women usually see a doctor when either they become pregnant and they see their OB/GYN or midwife for the first time at 8-12 weeks, or if they have been having difficulty getting pregnant. For several reasons that we are going to touch on, it is important to be working with a healthcare provider several months prior to becoming pregnant to ensure a growing baby and glowing momma.
Here are a couple things your naturopathic doctor can help you with while preparing to start a family:
1. Supervised Detox
For many, doing some sort of a detox before getting pregnant is a good idea. You come into contact with many toxins every day through your water, food, cosmetics, cleaning products and air pollution. Luckily your body does a pretty good job of clearing these toxins out of your system. However, over time it is normal to get some accumulation. You can make modifications to your diet and lifestyle habits which can help your body do what it does best. Here are a few benefits of doing a detox as part of your fertility care:
- Creates a more hospital place for baby during pregnancy –
Many toxins can cross the placenta, meaning they can reach your growing baby. By clearing out some these accumulated toxins, it ensures the healthiest environment for your baby to grow and develop in.
- Decreases potential morning sickness
It has been observed by some that women with healthier liver function have less morning sickness during pregnancy. The of causes morning sickness aren’t fully understood, but one thought is it has to do with the huge change in hormones. The liver helps remove excess hormone, so improving its functioning may help process those hormones, and therefore decrease morning sickness.
- Ensures a safe and healthy postpartum weight loss
Many are motivated shortly after giving birth to start losing the baby weight. This is also the time that women may be breastfeeding. The problem with this combination is that most toxins are stored in fat cells, so when you begin to burn fat, you also mobilize toxins. These toxins are fat soluble, and are very easily removed via breast milk, which is naturally fatty to help nourish your growing baby. By doing a detox protocol before pregnancy, it can decrease the amount of toxins going into your breast milk, and ultimately to your baby.
Since detoxing initially mobilizes stored toxins, it is important to perform this under the supervision of a healthcare provider to ensure it is done safely. A detox should be done at least 3-6 months prior to trying to get pregnant. Your healthcare provider may also add on nutrients/supplements and herbal medicine that can help the detox process.
2. Assess Egg and Sperm Quality
To increases your fertility/chances of conceiving we want to have high quality egg and sperm. There are changes that we can make in our diet and lifestyle that can do just this. For men, it takes about 3 months for sperm to be made and mature. This means we want to start these healthy changes at least 3-4 months before trying to conceive. For women, an egg begins its journey to becoming a mature egg almost 6 months beforehand! The active period of egg development takes place in the 3 months prior to ovulation. This means women should start making these healthy changes 3-6 months prior to trying to conceive. Your healthcare provider can help you maximize your fertility by working with you to come up with a great treatment plan. They can also help you navigate through making these challenging changes, like changing your diet or exercise routine.
3. Address any Current Conditions
Optimizing our physical health can help support a healthy, happy pregnancy. There are some health conditions that need to be addressed before becoming pregnant, some of which can actually impact your fertility if left unmanaged. These include things like anemia, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or other nutritional deficiencies. Your healthcare provider can help assess if you have any of these conditions and provide you with the appropriate treatment options.
4. Provide Necessary Education
There is a lot information to consider when thinking of starting family. Your healthcare can help you navigate through this information and help you make educated decisions. Some of this information may include:
- Immunization status
There are some diseases that are harmful to a growing baby. These are called TORCH pathogens, and a few of them can be prevented with vaccines such as rubella. Other diseases such as the chicken pox, which aren’t necessarily harmful for baby, but can be very serious for momma need to be considered. If you haven’t had these diseases in the past, or are not vaccinated for these things, you should speak with your healthcare provider about getting these vaccines before becoming pregnant. Your healthcare provider is also able to test you to see if you have immunity to these diseases.
- Genetic counseling
Genetic testing can provide insight into conditions that you or partner may be carrying in your genetics. Some of these conditions have the potential to be passed down to your baby. These are serious conditions that can lead to developmental delays, serious physical disabilities or a short life expectancy. You will be offered genetic counseling once you are pregnant, usually sometime in the second trimester. The downfall of this option is if the tests come back positive there is more testing that then needs to be done on the growing baby, and may leave the parents having to make difficult decisions about the future of the pregnancy. The benefit of doing this before becoming pregnant is that you can then be proactive about making decisions that can limit the chances of passing a condition to your baby. These are still difficult decision for couples, but testing before pregnancy gives you more time to weigh the options, rather than waiting until you’re already pregnant.
- Timed intercourse
Now comes the fun part… getting pregnant! Your healthcare provider can help you learn to track and interpret your menstrual cycles and help teach you when is the optimal time to be having sex each month. They can also recommend tools such as basal body temperature readings, apps to help track you cycles, cervical mucous monitoring or ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) to help better understand your fertility.
5. Provide Support in the Time you Need it Most
If you are having difficulty becoming pregnant, often a fertility specialist will not see you until you have been trying to get pregnant for at least one year. For couples who are a little older, that time may be a little shorter. There is no need to sit around during that time feeling helpless and discouraged. With naturopathic medicine, there is a lot that can be done during this time to help increase your chances of getting pregnant and support you during that time.
Once you become pregnant you will be under the care of an OB/GYN or midwife throughout the duration of your pregnancy. In most cases they will not see you until you are 8-12 weeks pregnant depending on the provider. Those 8-12 weeks are a busy time for your growing baby. By 12 weeks your baby’s heart, eyes, ears, arms, legs and nervous systems are far along in their development, if not already completely developed. It is so important that during this time momma is getting adequate nutrition to support all that growth. This can be a challenge because during this time is when things like morning sickness and exhaustion can be at their peak, making eating nutritious food difficult. Other symptoms that can develop during the first trimester, before you are able to see your OB/GYN or midwife, include:
- Morning sickness
- Mood changes including anxiety or depression
If you have a healthcare provider who you have been working with for your fertility care, they can help manage these symptoms making your first trimester a little easier and ensuring your baby is getting all the nutrients they need. If you don’t have someone, hopefully this article has encouraged you to find one. We at Terrain Integrative Medicine would love to help you with your preconception needs!
Schedule your appointment now to discuss starting your fertility care!
You can also check out Marie Gonzer at Yin Bloom Women’s Care. She provides fertility acupuncture and Chinese Herbal treatments.
Dr. Largent, Marie Gonzer and Tonia Nealey have created a one of a kind 12-week fertility program designed to help physically, emotionally and spiritually with the struggles infertility can bring along with it. Check out Fertile Bloom for more info.
It is important to note that naturopathic doctors cannot provide maternity care. This means that you will need to have an OB/GYN or midwife for that. This doesn’t mean you cannot see your naturopath while pregnant though. They can help manage symptoms you experience such as the ones listen above.