Planning for a Healthy Pregnancy

It’s not just for nine months…
Good pre-conceptive health is vital for a happy and healthy pregnancy and baby, and makes it easier for nature to take its course. While this article is predominantly addressing aspects of a woman’s body and health, remember that the choices our men make also impact the health and motility of his sperm, which in turn determines the health of your baby and its development. Below is a summary of our top 7 tips which, if implemented carefully, will positively impact the health of you and your baby.

You are pregnant.

Amidst the feelings of joy and anticipation a woman feels upon hearing this news, many also suddenly become acutely aware of a whole host of changes they need to, and want to, make to their lifestyle to ensure healthy growth and development of their baby.  The one thing that many couples underestimate is that period prior to conception, and how they have been looking after themselves in this time.

This pre-conceptive phase, the period of 3-4 months before conceiving, is the perfect opportunity for you to start implementing changes to your way of life, ensuring your body is in optimal health and ready for the changes that it will be bestowed during pregnancy.  During this time it is vital to start developing a support network of people who can guide you through pregnancy and enhance your knowledge bank in preparation for parenthood.  As chiropractors, we get many couples who come to see us at this stage of their family planning to improve the health and maximise their body’s function.

Nourish Your Body
Now is the time to become vigilant about what you let into your system.  A clean diet, including many organic fruits and vegetables, is vital to replenish levels of vitamins and minerals that may have become depleted thanks to years of emotional stress, poor dietary choices and medications, including the oral contraceptive pill.  In addition to this, it is a good idea to provide your body with some extra nutritional support.

Folic Acid:

      Important for healthy neural tube development (decreasing risk of spina bifida) and tissue differentiation.  Recommended to take 500mg-1000mg daily, beginning 3 months prior to conception.

B Vitamins: Often stores are depleted through use of the oral contraceptive pill (particularly B6).  Recommended to take 50mg/day (200mg of B6).

Vitamin A: Supplementing prior to pregnancy may decrease risk of miscarriage, though it is recommended to stop supplementing with Vit A once you are pregnant.  Recommended dosage up to 25000 iu a day.

Calcium: Important for foetal skeletal development and low levels can be associated with increased risk of pre-eclampsia.  Recommended 800mg per day.

Magnesium: Recommended 400mg daily as low levels can lead to high blood pressure, premature labour and low birth weight.  Also important for healthy fallopian tube function.

Essential Fatty Acids: Healthy fats are vital for good brain and nervous system development for your child, and also good hormonal health for you.  Source a high quality fish oil to keep things in balance.

[box type=”info”]Your partner would do well to supplement his diet with zinc, vitamins C and E, magnesium and selenium for healthy sperm production, development and motility.[/box]

Get Adjusted
There is not a more vital time in a woman’s life to make sure her spine and nerve system are functioning at their best.  If you haven’t already done so, now is the perfect time to make an appointment with your family wellness chiropractor.  Chiropractors work to restore proper function to the nervous system by detecting any areas of tension, a term we call subluxation, and removing them through gentle adjusting techniques.

A healthy spine allows for better function in the body, on a number of levels.  Biomechanically, an aligned spine and pelvis will allow the uterus to be suspended in its ideal, balanced position, with minimal undue stress to the uterine ligaments.  From a neurological perspective, if your nervous system is strong and healthy you will be better able to cope with the changes and stresses you will experience throughout pregnancy.  Chiropractic care is a useful tool to help place your body in good stead for the changes and developments to come.

Get on Top of Things
Prior to conception it is important to manage any existing ailments or health concerns including, but not limited to, asthma, hypertension and blood pressure problems, diabetes and weight issues.  It is also important to address any reasons for excess emotional stress in your life and work to eliminate this as much as possible.  It is a lot easier to get these things under control prior to pregnancy, as once you are pregnant your body will have many other things to be prioritising!

Now is also a good time to speak to your GP or health practitioner about any over-the-counter or prescription medications you are currently taking, as many pregnant women are unknowingly taking some type of medication that can be detrimental to the health of their un-born child.

Move Your Body
Exercise is a vital tool for good health, regardless of your stage in life.  In this preconception period it is especially important to help get your body toned and in good shape so that, during pregnancy, your body will grow and change with more ease and comfort.  Exercise during pregnancy is perfectly safe and healthy for you and your baby, however it is recommended that you don’t increase your exercise levels while you are pregnant.

This means that if you are very active and have a high level of fitness prior to conception, it is very appropriate for you to maintain those levels during pregnancy.  If your fitness is an area of your health that you are lacking, now is the time to improve your fitness levels and cardiovascular health to a point you will happily maintain once you are pregnant.  Swim, walk, cycle and do light weights.. whatever you enjoy!  It is recommended you avoid high contact sports and downhill skiing.

Besides the obvious benefits of cardiovascular, muscular and skeletal health, exercise is a great way to relax, manage stress levels and ensure your sleep quality and energy levels remain high.  Exercise also improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin, helping to control blood sugar levels- an important factor in both falling pregnant, and decreasing your risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Gid Rid of the Nasties
There is not a more appropriate time than pre-conception to cleanse your body and flush out all the toxins that you have dedicated many years to building up.  Depending what your vice is, consider cutting it out of your life completely, or at least minimising your exposure to it.

For a woman who drinks 5 or 6 cups of coffee a day, consider limiting this to 1 or 2 at most.

Smoking carries increased risks for a low birth weight baby, and can lead to clinical issues such as increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, vaginal bleeding, premature delivery as well and increased risk of SIDs and respiratory disease in your child.  Studies also find women who smoke during pregnancy are likely to have longer hospital stays and require more medication during childbirth.

For those who wonder whether any damage can be done by an occasional alcoholic drink, according to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption for the pregnant woman and can even cause foetal alcohol syndrome in small amounts.

Consider too the chemicals you are ingesting through your food and drinks.  It is a good idea to go organic to avoid the herbicides and pesticides used in non-organic farming, and to install a water filter for your drinking and cooking water.

[box type=”info”]Remember that all of the chemicals you consume or come into contact with pass through your blood stream to your baby via the placental membrane, and many toxins can linger in your blood stream for up to 3 months, which is why is important to address them now.[/box]

Practise Good Food Hygiene
Soft cheeses such as brie and camembert, cold meats, pate and meat spreads; raw seafood and fish products and even pre-prepared salads can carry with them a risk of listeria infection.  It is best to avoid these foods all together, as even a subclinical (non-symptomatic) infection can be potentially fatal to the unborn child.

Around the Home and Office
Our home and office can be areas we overlook, but it’s a good idea to think about which potentially toxic chemicals you are coming into contact with, including personal care products.  When trying to conceive, many couples take this time to move house or renovate to accommodate for a growing family, so be careful of which paints, solvents and cleaning products you use.  Make sure your home and office are well ventilated and, if working with chemicals (try to avoid!) ensure you use protective clothing and avoid fumes.

It is also wise to avoid animal and pet droppings, as parasites causing toxoplasmosis are harmful to your health and that of your child.  These parasites can linger in the blood stream for up to 3 months.

[box type=”info”]Avoid any products with EDCs (endocrine disrupting compounds) which include aluminium, lead acetate and phthalates. They disrupt the normal hormonal release responsible for ovulation and fertilisation.[/box]