Preconception refers to the period of time encompassing the lead up to conception, right through to actual conception. This can be an exciting time for many but can also cause a lot of stress for some couples. That’s why getting help from a Nutritionist to focus on preconception care is vitally important in taking away some of the stress and anxiety often associated with trying to conceive. I frequently see patients who are weighed down by the intense stresses of modern life, and they often have pre-existing medical complications. This creates a complex set of inherently personal circumstances and questions that can’t be addressed by Dr.Google.
Women’s bodies naturally know what to do. We just need to support them so they can flourish, and we need to remove the obstacles to conception or full-term birth. Food choices have a significant impact on your health, the vitality of your reproductive system, and ultimately your baby. Here’s a short list some of the most valuable foods and nutrients your body needs during preconception:
- Omega 3 fatty acids- Necessary to provide energy production to the oocyte and for cell membrane fluidity. Omega 3 fats, in particular DHA, are crucial for central nervous system development which begins 21-28 days following conception. Sources include salmon, herring, whiting, organic pastured eggs, flax seed oil and walnuts.
• Protein- Every cell in the body needs protein. Building eggs and sperm requires substantial protein for infrastructure. Foods high in protein include red and white meats, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.
• Antioxidant-rich foods- Oxidative stress harms female fertility. Oocytes (immature egg cells) benefit from the inclusion of antioxidants. Foods such as tomatoes, garlic, ginger, turmeric, Brazil nuts and berries are packed full of antioxidants.
• Filtered water- Up to 60% of the adult human body is water. Every system in the body relies on water. Water is utilized to digest and absorb food and nutrients. Adequate hydration is imperative for the elimination of digestive wastes. I recommend using a water filter that will remove fluoride and chlorine from your drinking water.
• Vegetables and fruit- These will provide a variety of nutrients that are needed for the development and maturation of a healthy oocyte. Try to eat organic where possible, avoid pesticides and chemicals which can negatively affect the body’s hormones. If this buying organic isn’t possible, make sure you thoroughly wash fruit/veg before eating.
• Caffeine- Consumption of coffee has been associated with an increased conception time and spontaneous miscarriage. Coffee should be avoided during this time.
• Alcohol- While there is mixed information regarding fertility and alcohol consumption, the best practice is to avoid it completely and negate any possible risks. I recommend that you stop drinking alcohol 3 months before trying to conceive.
• Sugar- Healthy glycaemic regulation is necessary in preconception to prevent gestational diabetes. Try to limit fruit to two servings a day and avoid refined and added sugars.
These aren’t ‘super foods’, they’re foods and nutrients that can be found and consumed easily in our daily diet. It is more about becoming aware of what your body needs to support your journey to conception and to allow it to feel ‘safe’ and strong enough to allow conception to take place. It’s often also necessary to supplement with folic acid, iodine, iron, and EPA/DHA and these should be discussed with your Nutritionist. For women with pre-existing sub-fertility conditions such as PCOS a specific diet may be required. For a more personalized and in-depth treatment plan contact our Nutritionist Bronwen by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.