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Preconception Health: Nourish The Soil Before You Plant The Seed

on September 30 | in Motherhood | by | with 29 Comments

Preconception Health: Nourish The Soil Before You Plant The Seed

Note from Mommypotamus: Today’s guest post comes from Crystal Di Domizio, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Prenatal Wellness Coach and Birth Doula in Vancouver, BC. She is passionate about helping women and couples prepare their body, mind and soul for pregnancy. You can find her blogging about her personal journey to motherhood through nourishing foods and conscious conception at PrenatalCoach.com.  Thank you for stopping by, Crystal!

How important is it to prepare your body . . .

For pregnancy before you conceive? Well that depends on who you ask! As a holistic nutritionist and prenatal wellness coach I believe that the first opportunity you have to optimize your child’s health is in the preconception period. It also helps to boost natural fertility, which could conceivably save you months or years of heartache when you are ready to have a baby.

Unfortunately, medically unexplained infertility is on the rise and I think that our high stress lifestyles, nutritionally deficient diets and overwhelming amount of environmental toxins are to blame. By starting to make small changes over the 6-12 month period before conception you can ensure that you are creating the best possible environment for a baby to grow and thrive.

Nourishing the Soil

Let’s take a look at this concept of nourishing the soil before you plant the seed. Farmers and gardeners understand the importance of preparing, tilling and fertilizing the soil long before they plant their crop. They understand that the nutrients contained within the soil provide nourishment for the plants whole life cycle, not just germination. This analogy is a great example of why preconception health is so important. It should be considered a component of preventative medicine, beginning up to 12 months prior to women consciously trying to become pregnant. Creating a safe and nourishing home for that little seedling to grow will help ensure its survival from germination to maturation.

Did you know that it takes over 3 months to mature the egg to be ready for ovulation and over 3 months for men to produce a new batch of sperm? During this time they are extremely sensitive to nutritional deficiencies and exposure to toxins – so much so that if the quality of the egg and sperm are low enough you may not be able to conceive! Knowing this, I’d like to suggest that you “Act pregnant now, to get pregnant later” which Gabriela Rosa, a fertility expert in Australia highly recommends. The good news is that better quality sperm and eggs lead to increased fertility, reduced risk of miscarriage and healthier babies.

Already pregnant and didn’t prepare in advance? Don’t fret. Applying these preconception tips during pregnancy will also have a positive effect on the health of your baby.

Preparing for Pregnancy

If you have the time, I recommend taking a minimum of 6-12 months to prepare your body for pregnancy. Why so long? Because we don’t live in the same world that our grandparents and parents grew up in… our diets now revolve around packaged and processed convenience foods that are severely devoid of nutrients and our homes and personal care products are filled with toxic chemicals. I feel a strong pull now, more than ever to follow the guidance of our ancestors and go back to traditionally prepared real food to create a healthier generation of children.

Where should you start? The first step is to create a positive mindset and intention for the changes you want to make. Focus on gradually creating a healthier lifestyle through small changes over a period of time and before you know it you’ve set up a great foundation for a healthy pregnancy! The more time you can give yourself to integrate these changes, the better! Remember that it takes approximately 120 days for our cells (eggs, sperm, red blood cells etc.) to change from dietary and lifestyle modifications. It’s definitely worth your time to take at least 4 months to prepare your body for pregnancy.

5 tips to get you started

Stop taking hormonal birth control

At least 6-12+ months before you want to conceive. They are known to deplete your body of the very same nutrients that you need for fertility and to nourish a growing fetus during the first trimester. It can also take months for your hormones to find their natural balance and for your body to start ovulating again, which is essential for conception.

Detoxify your body 6-12+ months in advance.

I recommend that you do this with the help of a qualified health care professional to ensure that it is the right approach for you. Look for a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist or holistic nutritionist who specializes in preconception health care for support. (I do NOT recommend that you focus on weight loss or cleansing/detoxing in the 6 months leading up to conception or when you are breastfeeding because the toxins being released from your tissues can be damaging to the fetus.)

Focus on building your nutrient reserves

This is even more important for subsequent pregnancies. Both pregnancy and breastfeeding require a lot of additional nutrients and if you are not getting them through your diet your baby will take them from your body (ie. if you are not getting enough calcium it will be taken from your bones.) This can leave a mom very deficient and struggling to conceive the next time around. The key to building your nutrient reserves is QUALITY. Choose nutrient dense foods (not low calorie 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 mostly raw or fermented, leafy greens and sprouted grains.

Reduce environmental toxins

Eat foods without labels. Buy certified organic meat and produce. Switch to natural skin and hair care products. Use only natural household cleaners. Can’t afford to buy all your fruits and vegetables organic? The Environmental Working Group has found that people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 80 percent by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables (or buying them organic) and eating the least contaminated instead.  They’ve also put a really great Cosmetic Safety Database where you can find safer alternatives for all your skin care products. Don’t forget to check out the 2010 Sunscreen Safety Guide as well.

3-4 months before conception… RELAX and act as if you are already pregnant

What would you absolutely do or not do if you found out you were pregnant? Since stress is probably the number one fertility killer, looking at ways to reduce your levels of stress and incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily schedule can go a long way in helping you achieve your goal of conceiving a healthy baby!

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29 Responses to Preconception Health: Nourish The Soil Before You Plant The Seed

  1. Brittany says:

    Being that I am pregnant right now, I definitely wish that I had prepared myself better before conceiving. When finding out I was having a baby, I completely changed my diet and have become much more conscious of what I’m putting into my body. I didn’t have any trouble conceiving–quite the opposite, really!– but I would have preferred that my body was better prepared for this and that I was already disciplined in cutting out the bad stuff rather than trying to discipline myself now, and sometimes failing. Thanks for your tips!

    • Hi Brittany, not to worry, a lot of these tips can be applied during pregnancy (ie. eating nutrient dense foods and reducing your exposure to toxins.) They ALL work towards optimizing your baby’s health. This post was specifically geared towards those that haven’t started trying to get pregnant yet because I’d love to be able to reach women and couples with this information 1-2 years before conception! I don’t want this info to stress pregnant mamas who didn’t prepare in advance though :)

  2. Heather says:

    Great tips, Crystal! I can’t believe how much you covered in just five steps.

    • Heather says:

      One question: Do you have any info linking gluten intolerances to infertility?

      • Hi Heather, I don’t have my resources on this topic handy right now and want to respond to your question today. Yes, there is definitely a link between infertility and Celiac Disease (gluten intolerance). Sometimes the only sign/symptom of CD is infertility so it’s definitely something I recommend testing for if a couple is experiencing any type of infertility just to rule it out as a possible cause. Here’s an article that I wrote to help people determine whether they should get tested. It might be of interest to you: http://lgfc.ca/is-gluten-sabotaging-your-health/ Unfortunately, CD is still grossly under-diagnosed (solely because they are not routinely testing for it). On average, it takes 10 years to get a diagnosis from the first onset of typical symptoms :(

    • Thanks Heather! This is a topic I am VERY passionate about :) Will respond to your question this evening when I have time to look up some resources for you!

  3. Thanks Heather! I’m working all day so I’ll check in and respond to any questions/comments tonight :)

  4. Joanna says:

    Great, sound advice, especially about quality of food nutrients & reducing stress.
    Writing in a journal can be a lovely way to manage stress. Writing for ten, or so, minutes, before you get up in the morning, just to get your thoughts down onto paper. That way the ‘worries’ of the day are out and you can get on and focus on your day.

    It is worth remembering that pregnancy seems to be a time where everyone, including strangers, have an opinion on what to do during pregnancy but you are the beautiful woman who is carrying the baby, so use your intuition/wisdom & do YOUR best- that will change from day to day, hour to hour but what a great commitment to just do your best.

    Be gentle on yourselves!

  5. Thanks for these practical tips! I don’t think women give enough if any thought to pre-conception health. Most seem to wait until they get pregnanct to start making those changes. You are doing a good work and kuddos to you for taking the effort you are!

  6. Kristine says:

    Crystal, thank you for this excellent post! I have started making some of these changes little by little for my own health. I’m glad to have this information to reference when the time comes for starting a family.

  7. Ashley O'Loughlin says:

    I agree totally I only wish I had known these before I conceived my kids!

  8. Megan says:

    Great tips! I did a detox about 6 months before conceiving my 2nd one but am still somewhat worried about transferring toxins to the baby. Now I just wait and pray and try to eat the best I can (similar to what you mentioned above). I had very little idea before the birth of my first child what good prenatal nutrition looked like. But oh, have I learned so much in the 2 years she’s been here and now we eat dramatically differently, taking cod liver oil daily and changing the types of meats and dairies we consume.

  9. W. F. says:

    I like so much this post really your post is very helpful for all women’s really appreciate with your concept. They understand that the nutrients contained within the soil provide nourishment for the plants whole life cycle, not just germination. This analogy is a great example of why preconception health is so important. It should be considered a component of preventative medicine, beginning up to 12 months prior to women consciously trying to become pregnant. Creating a safe and nourishing home for that little seedling to grow will help ensure its survival from germination to maturation. Thanks for nice information I always keep it.

  10. Ana says:

    Great read. My husband and I have been making a lot of changes over the last year but I feel like there are an endless amount of ways to optimize preconception health. I didn’t realize the 3 month life span… do you think it would be best to wait 3 months after having paint and polyurethane fumes in our house? I just feel like we’ve been putting it off endlessly, don’t want to be obsessing needlessly but want the best for our children at the same time….?

  11. [...] topic comes from a blog called The Mommypotamus, which caught my attention with an article called Preconception Health: Nourish the Soil Before You Plant the Seed. I read that and I was like “Oh, yeah, I would do that for my garden…I should do that [...]

  12. Eva Niven says:

    I’m just wondering about your thoughts on prenatal vitamins??

  13. love this post!! I”m in preconception phase and really enjoyed reading this. A good quality probiotic is super beneficial too – will help with proper gut flora that we will be passing along to your baby, and will help those nutrients that you are eating actually get assimilated into your body. Also sublingual B12 (I like Dr Mercola’s spray) will help with energy levels and fertility. Also check out The Iodine Project – I am on supplemental iodine (a special type and a specific program) and feel great!

    Good luck ladies!! : )

  14. Kasi says:

    All so true and I wish it were info more widely disseminated outside ‘crunchy’ channels. Even if all regular docs told the less crunchy was try for a healthy -not thin- weight at least twelve months out; establish a fitness routine; eat more fruits veggies and food cooked from scratch; and act pregnant at least four months before trying… It would be so helpful. Especially the latter, in terms of saunas, hot tubs, alcohol use, etc! So many more babies would be healthy.

  15. Nicole Pyle says:

    Tiffani, where do you get your iodine supplement? I’m in pre-conception phase as well, and I believe I have an underactive thyroid, and I’d like to increase my iodine intake.

    • I see Anne Fischer Silva at A New Leaf Nutrition. She is wonderful! I went through a few blood, stool and saliva tests to determine what was going on with me….and I was very deficient in iodine even though I eat a lot of seafood and seaweed and cod liver oil. She’s helping me heal my gut and put me on some supplements including iodine. I would recommend talking with her or another professional who knows about iodine before just starting to take it. If you can’t absorb it then you aren’t doing any good, and if you take too much you can cause problems too.

  16. Mindy says:

    Hi Crystal! Thanks for this fabulous post! I couldn’t agree more!
    One question, you said stress is a big inhibitor to getting pregnant, but what about once you are pregnant?? Do you believe stress is bad for a baby…and could potentially even result in a miscarriage?? I ask because I recently lost a baby at 8 weeks and I suspect stress played a factor but my OB looked at me like I had 3 eyes when I suggested that…but everything was looking great on an early ultrasound…then I was packing to move, getting ready for a family vacation, chasing after 2 very busy little boys, and everything else that goes with being a wife and momma! I had a little emotional/exhaustion break down one night and then later found out that occurred almost exactly the same time our baby died………seems like a really big coincidence…?!? I don’t care what my dr says…next time around I will be taking it easy and saying no to anything that is not essential!

    • Heather says:

      Mindy, I am so, so sorry for your loss. It’s so hard to know why things happen. On the one hand I can say from experience that stress can affect a pregnancy – an extremely traumatic event that happened in the early weeks of carrying my second child almost caused me to go into early labor with him. Thankfully with some advice from my midwife (warm bath, herbs to calm me down, bed rest) the loss was prevented, but it left a lasting impression on me about the connection between our well-being and our babies. On the other hand, the activities you described sound like normal things for a mama to do. Maybe someone with more experience can speak to this, but if it were me I’d suspect that the emotional upset was more likely an innate, hightened sensitivity to a hormonal shift right after the loss rather than the cause. I am not sure if I should be saying anything at all as I am not an expert in any way, but I could just not leave this comment un-replied to. Though I have looked into the cause of miscarriage before and can definitely link it to certain factors, there are also cases where all circumstances seem perfect and yet the outcome is not what we’d expect. Mama is healthy, baby is healthy, and then something happens and we never understand why. Peace on your heart and your womb, mama. I hope this helps you process through things just a little.

  17. Tricia Lyons says:

    Great info! Thank you for the follow up!

  18. zara says:

    Unfortunately, I won’t be able to come off the pill in advance, as I’ve got polycystic ovaries and I only get one period after I stop taking it. So really, it’s my only chance to get pregnant…staying on the pill till the last minute.

  19. El says:

    What prenatal do you recommend? Pref gluten soy and corn free.

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