A SHORT GUIDE TO PRE-CONCEPTION CARE USING AYURVEDA & NATUROPATHY
Both Ayurveda & Naturopathy place great importance on pre-conception care. They view it as essential, whether or not you have fertility issues, as it impacts the long term health of both the baby and the mother.
Generally it is always best to consult with a qualified health practitioner but this article will give some tips on how to improve your health before trying to conceive.
The food you eat, your lifestyle and emotional state can all impact your fertility and the health of your child. Before conceiving it’s important to make sure your body is healthy, your diet & lifestyle are wholesome and your emotional state is good.
Many people think that it is only when they become pregnant that they should address lifestyle & dietary factors. Unfortunately, that may be too late and studies have shown that you can improve pregnancy outcomes by optimising your health before you conceive. Although you may feel healthy enough to start a family, there may be room for improvement… Preconception care may help to reduce risk of miscarriage, birth deformity, many problems associated with pregnancy and improve the long term health of the mother & child.
Prospective fathers please note… Sperm can take up to 116 days to generate. During this time they are susceptible to damage from illness, toxins (pollutants & drugs such as alcohol & cigarettes) and nutritional deficiencies. Sperm are smaller than eggs and are held outside the body, increasing their susceptibility.
Prospective mothers please note… The egg is vulnerable during maturation and for approximately 100 days leading up to ovulation.
Therefore, having at least 4 months of healthy living before conception will improve the quality of your eggs and sperm, which will optimise the health of your pregnancy, birth and child.
Evaluate your preconception health by answering these questions as honestly as you can:
- Why do you want to conceive? Although an obvious question many people don’t give this enough thought! Your desire to start a family should come from a pure place. You are inviting a soul to share your life & be guided by you. Make sure you truly want to have a child and have the space in your life for them. List all the reasons why you want to have a baby and be absolutely honest.
- Is your lifestyle healthy? i.e. inclusive of healthy eating, meditation, yoga, regular exercise, etc & devoid of: alcohol, cigarettes, recreational & unnecessary pharmaceutical drugs; processed & junk foods, etc
- Do you have a strong digestive system? Healthy digestion is the foundation of good health and of course reproductive health. In Ayurveda, fertility is seen as the sum total of all optimally digested foods and experiences. The logic is based on the principles of Ayurvedic anatomy and physiology. Optimum fertility involves the quality of the digestive fire, the quality of the tissues and the free flowing nature of the channels. When these are all functioning properly then the reproductive tissues can be nourished and fertility can take its course. (Sebastian Pole)
- Is your diet full of nutritious whole foods? Your diet forms the building blocks for the formation of a healthy embryo. Make sure it contains lots of nutrient dense, high quality foods (organic fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, oils, whole grains & good protein sources (legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, organic white meats, small oily fish, some organic dairy, etc))
- Is your elimination regular and healthy (stool/urine/sweat)? Check your stool/urine/sweat output daily and make sure that they are optimal.
- Do you feel full of energy & vitality? Ideally your energy levels should be stable throughout the day without surges & dips. You should not be dependant on caffeinated drinks or sugar to give you energy.
- Do you exercise regularly & in moderation? 30 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended daily. Too much or very intense exercise is considered detrimental to fertility. You should also include some Yoga to improve flexibility and the mind-body connection
- Do you drink an adequate quantity of fluids? Fluid balance is essential for a healthy body. Ensure you are drinking good quality drinks (water/herbal teas/organic fresh juices/broths, etc) in the right quantity for your body type, season and energy output. Remember that keeping your fluids balanced also includes the quantity of sweat and urine you eliminate. What goes in should come out. Electrolytes are also an important element to consider in keeping your fluids balanced.
- Is your weight optimal? Your weight should not be too heavy or too light as both may be problematic for healthy conception and pregnancy.
- Is your sleep restful & refreshing? A good nights rest can have so many benefits, this is particularly true for the female menstrual cycle. Try & foster a good sleep routine.
- Are you emotionally balanced (free from anger / grief / hatred / jealousy/ regret, etc)? Pregnancy & parenthood can compound these emotions and impact negatively on both you, your relationship and your baby. Try to enter each pregnancy emotionally balanced and content.
- Is your relationship in a good place? Starting a family is very exciting but it can definitely put a strain on any relationship. It is team work of the highest order. A new baby can make a loving/healthy relationship blossom but in an already strained relationship things can spiral downward. Before you conceive try to work through or resolve any issues you have, so that your child can enter a positive, supportive & healthy space.
- Is your menstrual cycle regular? A regular cycle is considered very important for fertility. It is generally about 28days but can be shorter or longer.
- During menstruation do you experience any of the following – very heavy or light flow, pain, clots, bloating, mood swings, very low energy, headaches, etc ? If so, try to improve your cycle before conceiving. Consult a qualified health practitioner for professional guidance.
- Do you have good quality cervical mucous just before ovulation? It should resemble raw egg white and is easily stretched between the fingers. If your cervical mucous is absent, if it breaks easily or is discoloured consult a professional health care practitioner for some guidance.
Here are some general tips to help with preconception care:
- When you start your preconception care, consider doing a detox to kickstartyour health.
- Chart your cycle – know exactly whats happening & when, also keep note of any pain, discomfort, discharge or anything unusual. Pay attention to when you ovulate and note the quality of your cervical mucous. Remember if you are experiencing any issues here there are many natural solutions to improve reproductive health.
- Eat REAL food: always use fresh, organic, whole ingredients & aim for homemade whenever possible.
- Use purified water – The water that you ingest should be the very best quality
- Consume lots of good oils: hemp seed, fish oil, cold pressed olive, walnut, avocado, ghee, coconut, etc – use as much as you want – pour over food once it has been cooked or use on salads, breads, etc (You can also use, hummus or avocado as a spread). Make sure you have good oils daily. Avoid trans fats and animal fats.
- Limit dairy: If using dairy make sure it’s organic. Natural yoghurt, heated milk (with warming spices) and real butter are all fine in moderation. If you’re having cheese, opt for fresh cheeses rather than hard yellow cheeses and add lots of black pepper or other warming spices to help it digest properly.
- Have lots & lots of vegetables – make sure they’re organic. During the winter its best to cook them but during the spring/summer you can include more raw salads, etc You know you’re on the right track when you look at your meal and its full of colour.
- Include fruits daily– have fruit daily but limit bananas & oranges.
- If you’re having meat only have organic but try to limit red meats
- Avoid refined sugar – alternatives: dark muscavado, treacle, molasses, maple syrup.
- Avoid refined grains – only use whole and minimise wheat
- Reduce coffee and eliminate at least 1 month prior to conception
- Limit tea to 1-2 cups daily
- Salt: only unrefined sea salt or himalayan rock salt (never table salt)
- Include digestive spices & herbs daily (e.g. turmeric, ginger, cumin, fennel, coriander, parsley, celery seed, etc)
- Avoid all junk foods & deep fried foods
- Do not microwave foods
- Use stainless steel or cast iron cookware (never aluminium)
- Always check labels if buying processed food
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle
- Avoid environmental toxins (chemicals, heavy metals, radiation)
- Avoid alcohol & cigarettes, etc
- Use only natural cosmetics
- Avoid chemical hair dyes
- Take regular exercise – 30-40 minutes x 3 weekly of aerobic exercise & yoga daily
- Stress reduction – yoga, meditation, gentle exercise, mindfulness. Limit stressful situations if possible (reading/viewing material, certain social situations, etc)
- Daily meditation
- Take a good quality pregnancy multi at least 4 months prior to conception
- There are many herbal supports to improve your reproductive health but it is best to consult with a qualified herbalist before taking herbs so you get the right mix for you. (some beneficial herbs: Nettle, Ashwagandha, Shatavari, Red clover, Raspberry leaf & Oatstraw)
A good rule of thumb for preconception care is to act as if you’re already pregnant! Look at everything with pregnant goggles…. and ask yourself would this be good for my baby??
Please note: This is just a brief guide to preconception care, if you have a specific health problem (amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis, fibroids, candida, PCOS, low sperm count, etc) please consult with a qualified health practitioner .
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Doug & Yvette set up Satmya in 2007. They believe Ayurveda & Naturopathy are integral to a sustainable lifestyle and teach their clients how to take control of their own health using nutrition, lifestyle and natural remedies to support & improve their health.
They live on an 8 acre nature sanctuary, Dronagiri, in East Clare with their three children. Doug & Yvette offer consultations, Ayurvedic treatments, a free Dispensary service and vocational training courses.