Optimising your Health for Conception and Pregnancy

Did you know that the best time to start preparing for pregnancy is at least 4 months prior to conception? This is because the ovum takes 4 months to fully mature, moving from primary follicle to ovulatory follicle. So, this means that what you were doing 4 months prior to conception affects the egg that is eventually fertilised. Crazy stuff, huh!

A similar time frame exists for sperm, with a new sperm cycle taking between 3 1/2 to 4 months. However, it is also important to note that every little bit counts, regardless of whether you start optimising your health 8 months out, 4 months, 2 months out or during your pregnancy.

If you are thinking about trying for a baby or perhaps you are already pregnant, it can be an amazing time to reevaluate your health. Motivation to make healthier diet and lifestyle choices is often much higher during this time because you are no longer just thinking of your own health, but the health of a new little person that is relying solely on you for all its nutrients to grow and flourish.

Diet and Lifestyle

Research continues to reinforce the importance of positive health behaviours during preconception for both men and women, and of course in pregnancy. There are some key lifestyle and dietary factors that have been shown to positively impact fertility and pregnancy outcomes including;

  • Maintaining a healthy weight, with a particular focus on reducing excess abdominal fat.

  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol intake during preconception and avoiding alcohol during pregnancy.

  • Quit smoking.

  • Eating predominantly a ‘wholefoods’ diet. What does this mean? Think foods that are not packaged, non-processed, from the fresh food section of the supermarket. Aim for lots of colourful vegetables and fruits, whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats), grass-fed, organic meat when possible, legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas etc), full-fat dairy with no added sugar.

  • Sleep - aim for 7-9 hours per night. Sleep is the greatest friend to our mind and body.

Important Nutrients

Assessing and addressing nutrient status is also important during preconception and pregnancy. Many women of reproductive age have been shown to have poor nutritional status going into pregnancy which may increase the risk of certain maternal and neonatal complications (i.e. gastrointestinal diabetes, hypertension, neural tube defects etc). Most people are aware of the importance of certain nutrients to help support preconception and healthy pregnancy. These nutrients include folate, iron, iodine, zinc, selenium, B vitamins and more, which you will find in most preconception and pregnancy multivitamins. However, there are some nutrients which are also important and are often not found in a standard pregnancy multivitamin. Or, if they are found, the dose is often insufficient. These nutrients include:

Omega-3 (DHA) - 90% of women don’t meet the requirements for omega-3 fatty acid during pregnancy and lactation. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), support foetal brain development, enhance cognition and memory and support foetal eye structure and function.

Choline - Choline is an often-deficient essential nutrient utilised by the growing brain, as it is a precursor for acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter that regulates neuronal proliferation and neural plasticity, as well as synapse formation. Furthermore, adequate consumption of choline can help to prevent neural tube defects due to its critical involvement in methylation.

Probiotics - A healthy and diverse microbiome helps to support the health of both infant and mother. Probiotic strain LGG helps to support baby’s immune system, with clinical studies showing its use has been associated with a 50% reduction in atopic eczema in children when taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

If you are after more information on what you and your partner can be doing to optimise your health for conception and pregnancy, our knowledgeable team at Barangaroo Pharmacy are here to help. Or book a nutritional or naturopathic consultation to really get your health on track. A one-on-one consultation will help you to reach your health goals, provide relevant and tailored lifestyle, dietary and supplement advice and offer support for an exciting but so daunting time in your life.

Book a consultation here.

About the Author

Casey is a clinical naturopath and nutritionist and the founder of The Natural Path Health. She has a passion for identifying and treating the root cause of disease to achieve long-lasting health goals with her clients. "I love helping my clients regain their energy and vitality for life."