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Becoming pregnant can be surprisingly easy – or terrifyingly difficult. As more and more women are postponing pregnancy to their late 30s, the journey to becoming a parent can be fraught with problems. Many couples are now turning to a natural preconception plan involving organic food and nutritional supplements to boost their chances of conceiving – with very promising results. Could this just be a coincidence or is there something to the idea that we can enhance our fertility where even medical science has tried and failed? Naturopath Rochelle Trail investigates.

“Preconception health care is a way for both prospective parents to improve their fertility and the health of their offspring,” says Francesca Naish, a leading natural fertility practitioner at the Jocelyn Centre for Natural Fertility Management in Sydney. Through preconception care, you can maximise nutrition for the formation of a healthy embryo, assist the removal of toxins that could be detrimental
to this process and create optimum reproductive health in both parents.

The preconception program at the Jocelyn Centre is based on the Foresight Program in the UK. The aim of the program is not only to enhance the chance of conception, but also
to reduce the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, malformation and stillbirth. Their program – which involves hair mineral analysis, optimal nutrition and nutritional supplementation – has a high success rate, with a survey finding that more than eight in 10 couples are successful in conceiving while attending the clinic. Many of these couples had previously been diagnosed as infertile or as requiring assisted reproductive techniques.

So what is it about the method that makes such a difference? Preconception care is more widely practised than you may think. Veterinarians, stockbreeders and farmers all implement preconception health care to improve reproductive outcomes. The combined evidence of several eminent researchers shows that many conditions causing infertility, miscarriage and poor foetal health can be preventable and treatable with preconception care, combined with continued health care throughout the pregnancy.

"Sperm can take up to 116 days to generate and are even more vulnerable than eggs."

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The four-month mark

Did you know that you should start planning and looking after your body’s specific pre-pregnancy needs at least four months before becoming pregnant? This goes for men and women alike. This is the time it takes to achieve optimal health of the sperm and eggs before conception. Sperm can take up to 116 days to generate and are even more vulnerable than eggs. During this time, they are susceptible to damage from illness, pollutants, drugs (including cigarettes and alcohol) and nutritional deficiencies. Similarly, the egg is vulnerable during maturation for approximately 100 days leading up
to ovulation. Therefore, having at least four months of healthy living before conception is a great way to optimise the health of the mum during pregnancy and birth, as well as laying the foundation for a healthy baby.

Your nutritional profile

The food you eat and supplements you take before and during pregnancy act as a supply of nutrition for the rapidly growing baby. If there are severe nutritional deficiencies, sometimes the pregnancy cannot continue. In other cases, the deficiency is not so severe but may still be detrimental to the health of the unborn child. This is the case with spina bifida, where levels of folic acid are insufficient. According to Francesca Naish, other less obvious problems, including asthma, allergies, behaviour problems and infections such as middle ear, gastrointestinal and respiratory infections, are far less likely to occur in children when conception occurs after the restoration of adequate nutrient status.

When assisted reproductive techniques
like IVF are involved, preconception health care is even more important. Research by the Foresight Association in the UK clearly demonstrates the significant improvement in IVF success rates, which more than doubled after thorough preparation for both parents. Preconception health care has also repeatedly been shown to reduce risk factors associated with IVF conceptions.

TOP TIP! A sense of taking control of one’s own fertility can be an important step.

Feeling empowered

At the Jocelyn Centre, one of the challenges is to turn “impatients” into patients. This is especially true when age is a factor. A sense of taking control of one’s own fertility can be an important step for many prospective parents. A holistic approach that supports the couple emotionally and physically may help them feel more empowered – and that alone may even aid some couples in being successful. Sometimes the simple step of realising that you’re doing everything right in preparing your body for conception can be enough to make you relax – and you know what they say about how things seem to happen when you take your mind off them…

Whether your journey to conception is easy or fraught with more difficulty than ever imagined, preconception health care will help to improve your – and your baby’s – health. After all, the process is all about boosting your nutritional profile so that your body is as ready as it can be to create a new life. And with the progression in nutrigenomics – the study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression – the benefits may not only be limited to the new lives created but for generations to come.

Rochelle’s top 5 tips to boost fertility

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1. Minimise toxicity
We live in a toxic environment so take action where possible. Avoid excess exposure to chemicals in everything from shampoos and deodorants to household cleaning products by choosing more natural brands. Minimise radiation including plane flights and exposure to laptops and mobile phones. If you have unavoidable exposure to toxic substances on a daily basis, then try to schedule in time away from them.

2. Eat organically
There is no point in working hard at detoxing your body only to refill it with pesticides, fungicides and antibiotics through the food you eat. If organic seems out of your reach, select free range and shop at your local farmers’ market for fresh produce.

3. Exercise
Exercise is great for mental and physical wellbeing, which will be helpful in your conception journey. Combined with a healthy diet, it will also help you manage your weight.

4. Relax
Stress releases hormones that are likely to reduce your general wellbeing – and the chance of conception. This is a really good time to practise techniques that will bode well for motherhood. Look into meditation and yoga, and set aside time for at least a weekly you-time in the bathtub with your favourite book.

5. Take supplements
Folic acid is only one of numerous vitamins and minerals that may assist you with your health and that of your baby. There’s an array of supplements to consider including multivitamins, mixed folic, B6 and B12, omega, vitamin C, calcium and magnesium, selenium, zinc, vitamin D and more. The important thing is to seek professional advice from a qualified natural health fertility practitioner.

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