If there's one time in life when I would say “Now!” is the time to work toward your best possible health, it's before you start trying to get pregnant. And I don’t mean simply taking a multivitamin and cutting out alcohol. I mean really working to identify and correct any underlying health imbalances.
Whether you have an active health condition or not, the body can be prepared for pregnancy to support the best possible outcomes for the pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the years to come. Here are five ways optimizing your health prior to pregnancy can be beneficial:
1. The egg and sperm are the cells that all other cells are derived from.
We want those to be as healthy as possible. It’s pretty amazing and miraculous to consider that all the cells that comprise your child are derived from just two. That puts a lot of pressure on those two cells to be as healthy as possible. Our nutrition and inflammation status influence our genetic expression. We know through the field of epigenetics that how the genetic material is tagged and expressed is passed onto our children, making them susceptible to such conditions as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. By spending time making your eggs or sperm as healthy as possible prior to conceiving, you can influence your child’s risk for chronic disease down the road.
2. Health conditions of the mom increase likelihood of complications during pregnancy.
Everyone wants an easy and comfortable pregnancy, labor and delivery. There are many possible places for there to be hiccups throughout this whole chain of events, and imbalances in one’s health will increase the potential for those hiccups. Factors such as nutritional deficiencies, blood sugar imbalances, immune system dysregulation, hormonal imbalances, and digestive dysfunction all contribute to the health of a pregnancy, and in turn, the complications that can come during the labor and delivery process. Proactively correcting these imbalances minimizes the adverse events that can occur.
3. Medications to manage health conditions have unknown long-term effects on the health of children.
While it can at times be necessary for pregnant mothers to receive medications during pregnancy and some may be safer than others, the truth is we don’t know with certainty that most medications are not going to adversely affect an unborn child. Many medications are rated "C," which means, "Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks." Drugs should be given only if the potential benefits justify the potential risk to the fetus. By optimizing health prior to conceiving, there are fewer imbalances that would increase the likelihood of needing a medication. This also means looking to get to a place where medication isn’t needed to manage a health condition that one has prior to pregnancy.
4. Baby is exposed to toxic chemicals prior to being born.
We know from work by the Environmental Working Group that there have been on average more than 200 synthetic chemicals found in cord blood samples tested. This means that these chemicals are coming from the mother and crossing the placenta. Pre-conception work additionally means addressing the toxic burden of a mother to help minimize the exposure to an unborn baby. This means looking to address where you're exposed to toxins in your everyday life, while actively working to support detoxification and elimination.
5. Health “weaknesses” will be tested during pregnancy and postpartum.
We all have aspects of our health that can be considered weak links. When excessive stress is placed upon the body, those weak spots will be strained, and we’re more likely to see a flair occur in those areas. While having a baby is an amazing and exciting part of life, it's also a huge stressor, both physically and mentally. That's why conditions like postpartum fatigue, depression, and anxiety are so common. The systems are taxed beyond their capacity, and these postpartum conditions represent a depleted state.
By addressing challenges before conceiving, you're less susceptible to the effects of these stressors. Finding an alternative health care practitioner who is able to help you identify and correct nutritional deficiencies, balance hormones, optimize blood sugar, minimize toxicity, and regulate your immune system can mean your physiology is functioning at its best to support a healthy and thriving pregnancy and baby.