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Preconception Health: Nourish the Soil Before You Plant the Seed

By Beth Dorsey L.Ac, FABORM

How important is it for you to prepare your body for pregnancy before you conceive? Of course everyone has a different opinion about this subject, but as an acupuncturist and herbalist, I feel that it is essential for building healthy babies and to boost your fertility. Having a healthy, strong and nourished foundation could conceivably save you months or years of heartache when you are ready to have a baby. Not to mention that preconception care promotes the best possible condition to become pregnant, stay pregnant and nourish a baby for the entire pregnancy and beyond. Think of it as a farmer or gardener nourishing the soil by preparing, tilling, and fertilizing the soil long before they plant their crop. Preparing your body provides the same qualities to ensure that pregnancy can occur and to provide the seedling the most nourishing environment.

In Mandarin Chinese, the word for uterus is “Zi Gong”, which literally means “child/seed palace”.  The uterus is not just the bedroom for the fetus; it’s the whole house!  When you are going to start trying to get pregnant, whether with IVF or natural methods, it is helpful to put some planning and love towards preparing the palace that will be your baby’s home for 9 months.

It Takes Two to Tango!

Your body needs to mature the eggs over a period of time before they are ready for fertilization. It takes an egg about 120 days (that’s 4 months!) to develop to maturity.  Even though a woman’s eggs have been with her since she was born, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that her Kidney essence actually affects the egg’s quality as it matures.  The same holds true for men and sperm development, as it takes 70-90 days for mature sperm to develop.  Therefore, I recommend taking 4-12 months, for both men and women, to prep the palace for pregnancy and provide the highest quality of eggs and sperm.

Where to Start?

The first step is to create a positive mindset and intention for the changes you want to make. Allow space for it to be a process, because a rapid overhaul rarely sets you up for lifelong change. Focus on gradually creating a healthier lifestyle through small changes over a period of time and before you know it you have set a solid foundation for a healthy pregnancy!

Tips to Get Your Body Baby Ready…

  1. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition: Nutrition can be one of the most important, but potentially hardest changes to implement. It can be a tricky subject because nutrition is very individualized; what will work for some, may not for others. In general, focus on nourishing your body with whole, nutrient dense, high quality foods such as: organic grass-fed meat and liver, pasture raised eggs, organic whole milk yogurt and cheese, wild fish and seafood, unrefined fats and oils such as butter, ghee, virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, organic vegetables that are lightly cooked (warm!) or fermented, leafy greens and sprouted grains.
  2. Get your hormones into balance: Conception becomes tricky when your reproductive hormones are off-kilter. And what is often the culprit behind a hormonal imbalance? STRESS: women with high-stress lifestyles may produce more of the hormone prolactin, which may then impede ovulation. Internal stress such as poor eating habits and unbalanced blood sugar will also throw off the entire system. Besides using relaxation techniques to cut down on stress in your life, certain herbs from TCM may also be beneficial.
  3. Get adequate sleep: Our bodies love and thrive with routines. Make it easy for yourself and maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule. Our endocrine system (hormone system) is also a major player in the body while we are asleep, increasing secretion of important fertility hormones such as growth hormone, leptin and prolactin and regulating estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
  4. Limit your exposure to toxins: Toxins are becoming a more obvious contributor to infertility. They are in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the products we put on our skin. A test done by the EWG found over 287 toxic chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants! Eating clean foods, using non-toxic cleaning supplies and avoiding toxic chemicals in your beauty products are a must.
  5. Get in touch with your body: A way to do this is to chart your cycle. Charting your basal body temperature can help you determine when you’re ovulating, whether ovulation occurs on the optimal day and if your body is at a temperature conducive for fertility.
  6. Get regular acupuncture: Acupuncture is highly effective at getting your body ready for pregnancy. It:
    • Improves ovarian function to produce better quality eggs
    • Regulates hormones to produce a greater number of follicles
    • Increases blood flow to the uterus, and increases thickness of the uterine lining
    • Relaxes the patient and decreases stress levels
    • Improves success rate of IVF

Of course there are many steps to take to optimize your fertility. Trust your intuition and get help from a specialist, when in doubt. Remember to have fun! It’s an exciting time when you decide to expand your family and take charge of your health and fertility.