Why is preparing for my pregnancy so important for me and my Baby?
What Exactly Is Preconception Care?
If you were going to get married you would spend months preparing for your special day, attending to everything in detail to ensure that everything goes just right on the day. Think of preconception care as something you do to prepare for that even more important day, of giving birth to your beautiful baby. In my opinion preparing for your pregnancy is one of the most beautiful gifts you both give your unborn child.
For most of us when we start to think about having a baby, we assume that it will just happen, and we don’t give much thought to how that will happen, despite the obvious of course. The more I learn and understand the process I am in awe of the miracle that takes place with conception, growing another human being, and giving birth. Most of us understand the need for being more health conscious when pregnant and generally speaking most expectant mums will watch what they eat, stop smoking and drinking alcohol, which is great but it’s the months before conception that have the biggest impact on the health of your unborn baby.
So preconception care is basically making sure you are both as healthy as you can possibly be before conception. Most preconception care programs investigate for dietary and nutrient deficiencies, and lifestyle factors that can impact on your pregnancy and fertility, and will also identify any probable problems with your cycle and/or sperm.
How Long Does Preconception Care Take?
Ideally preconception care takes a minimum of 4 months. There are important reasons for this. You are born with all your eggs at conception, however it is whilst those eggs are maturing 3-4 months prior to you ovulating that significantly influence the health of the foetus and eventually your unborn child. There are many studies that support the evidence that factors such as nutritional deficiencies, illness, environmental toxins, high stress, and poor diet and lifestyle choices can influence the health of the egg up to a minimum of 100 days prior to ovulation.
It is also important to remember that preparing for pregnancy is something that couples need to work on together. Your partner’s role is equally as important, so encouraging him to be involved is not only important but it is something that you are both doing together as a team.
Sperm takes on average 72-76 days or roughly 2 ½ months to develop, mature, be stored and finally ejaculated. Because of this a man’s health 2-3 months prior to conception can significantly influence pregnancy outcomes. By preparing similar to you during the preconception period will ensure the best information is passed on through his sperm.
What Is Involved In A Preconception Care Program?
Every couple is unique and individual, so addressing each couples needs, and specific problems is important. This means that each couple will have their own unique program. However as a general rule the following will always be covered.
Assessment of your diet and lifestyle such as exercise, smoking, and alcohol intake.
Assessment of possible environmental, recreation and medication derived toxins
Nutrient assessment such as iron, B12, folate, iodine, Vit D, and others where indicated.
Appropriate supplementation as required to support conception and pregnancy.
Stress levels and sleep quality.
Assessment of your menstrual cycle and identification of any possible problems, like PCOS, endometriosis.
By addressing all of the above preconception care has many benefits to both of you as perspective parents, to your pregnancy and the birth of your baby as well as the long time health of your child. The following list is only some of those benefits.
Increased chance of healthy conception, pregnancy, birth and baby.
An empowering experience of understanding and managing your own fertility.
Improved general health and energy.
Decreased chance of miscarriage, and preterm birth.
Decreased chance of occurrence of common pregnancy complaints and complications such as morning sickness, constipation, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia.
Increased chance of a healthy happy baby.
Improved chance of problem free breastfeeding and close bonding.
Identification of possible fertility issues and improvement in pregnancy outcomes.
So What Can I Do Now?
An Easy way to think about it is to treat your body a though you were already pregnant for 3-4 months before you actually fall pregnant.
You both can be conscious of –
The food and drink that you have having.
The environment that you are exposed to.
Stop smoking, and consuming alcohol. Also caffeine. These all impact on fertility.
Make sure you are both in a healthy weight range.
Drink plenty of clean water, get regular exercise.
Manage your stress levels
Know your cycle, and your fertile time.
On a final note, preconception care can only be of benefit if sufficient time is given to be effective in restoring nutritional status, removing toxins and improving your reproductive health, as mentioned earlier, in most cases it is usually a 4 month time frame.