Pre-conception care

Enhance your fertility naturally

  • Cease Oral Contraceptive Pill as soon as possible, it is poison to natural fertility
  • Address menstrual irregularities sooner rather than later
  • Space your children, allowing adequate time for post natal recovery and recuperation
  • Reduce stress, practice relaxation, yoga, meditation, have a holiday
  • Avoid cold, raw foods and fluids, processed and junk food
  • Regular exercise that is appropriate to your fitness level
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid or restrict alcohol intake
  • Keep your reproductive organs warm, wear a singlet or a tummy warmer to protect your midriff

Pre-Conception Care
Preconception care can make a positive difference to your health and the health of your child. More and more evidence points to the fact that the way we were nourished and grew in our mother’s womb can have an important impact on your health as an adult. It is now popular to seek information and health care prior to trying to conceive a baby.

The aim of preconception care is to prepare your body for pregnancy, birth and beyond. Preconception care improves your chances of falling pregnant more easily, having a healthy pregnancy and health baby and aiding recovery after the birth.

Your preconception care plan may involve:

  • Charting your cycles to determine optimal conception times
  • Reducing and avoiding toxins in your environment and your body
  • Optimise egg and sperm quality and production with a nutritious diet
  • Stress, anxiety reduction with improved sleep quality
  • Herbal or nutritional support to improve hormonal balance and regulate menstruation
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture to enhance fertility and treat underlying gynaecological issues

From a Chinese Medicine Perspective
The aim of Chinese Medicine pre-conception care is to promote optimal gynaecological health in preparation for pregnancy. It is designed to get a woman’s body in the best possible position to fall pregnant, stay pregnant and nourish a baby for the entire pregnancy and beyond.

Falling pregnant is only one aspect of good reproductive health. The next challenge is for women to be able to carry a baby to full term and then breast feed, care for, love, grow and nurture a child from infancy into adulthood.

Pre-conception care should be considered as part of preventative medicine, beginning up to 12 months prior to women consciously attempting to fall pregnant.

To understand the importance of pre-conception health one might consider the analogy of a garden. Imagine that the lining of the uterus represents the fertile soil that provides the material foundation for seeds to germinate and grow into mature plants. Prudent gardeners know the importance of preparing, tilling and fertilising the soil long before they plant their crop. They understand that the nutrients contained within the soil provide the sustenance for the plants whole life cycle, not just germination.

So it is with growing babies.

Chinese Medicine realises the importance of cultivating a rich, nutritious endometrial lining as preparation for providing the nourishing substrate from which new life springs forth. While Chinese women have a cultural understanding of the merits of pre-conception care, our experience it is that it is a difficult concept to ‘sell’ to Western women.

Typically women considering Chinese Medicine to enhance their fertility have been trying to fall pregnant for some time without success and are impatient to get the ball rolling. They tend to be reticent to commit to cultivating optimal reproductive health in advance.

Along with acupuncture and herbal medicine, pre-conception care usually involves a combination of diet, lifestyle and exercise modification. Pre-conception care assumes that a woman is fertile. Its intended outcome is to enhance wellbeing and most women will report an improved sense of wellness and connection with their body as a result of treatment, even though they may not have felt unwell or disconnected beforehand.

Women might also become aware of symptoms that before Chinese medicine treatment they believed to be part of their ‘normal’ female cycle and were either unconcerned or unaware that effective treatment was available.

Symptoms might include period pain, pre-menstrual tension or menstrual migraine. Many women are pleasantly surprised by how quickly these symptoms improve with the appropriate therapeutic attention.

What role does preconception care have for men?
Preconception care is just as important for men as for women. They contribute half the genetic material that makes up the baby. It takes sperm three months to develop so that they are able to fertilise an egg. So it makes sense to practice preconception care for men for at least three months usually six months prior to trying to conceive a baby. Guidelines for men are very similar to those provided for women. If men followed these it would go a long to improving the health of his sperm, the chances of a healthy conception and baby (Ogle, 1998).

Nutritional supplements when a couple are planning on having a baby
The one universally recommended supplement is folic acid. Folic acid is a B group vitamin that is needed for the healthy growth and development of the baby in the first weeks of life. By taking a folic acid supplement, research has found that birth defects such as spina bifida are reduced. The recommendation is to take at least 500 micrograms of folic acid per day for at least one prior to pregnancy and for the first three months of pregnancy (Australia New Zealand Food Authority, 1998).

Other nutritional supplements may be of benefit. It is wise to consult a health care practitioner specialising in preconception care for advise. Supplements that may be recommended include a balanced multivitamin/mineral supplement, iron (if stores are low), zinc (if a deficiency exists) and calcium if your diet is lacking. Obviously eating a well balanced diet is ideal and drinking plenty of water (10 to 12 glasses per day) is ideal.

Are there any tests or procedures recommended before falling pregnant?
A good place to start is by visiting a health care practitioner specialising in preconception health care. They can take a detailed history, provide a physical check and offer advise where necessary. Blood tests may be recommended. The blood tests may include a full blood count and ferritin levels (women often have low iron stores prior to pregnancy) and a test to see whether you are immune to rubella. Further blood tests depend on need. A test to check urine for infection, protein and glucose may be advised. A PAP smear may be recommended if it is due. A blood pressure check is done to ensure that it is within the normal range. A dental check up is also a good idea.

What simple steps couples can take to improve health before having a baby?
Some simple steps you can undertake include:

  • Eat a well balanced diet
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take nutritional supplements wisely
  • Quit or cut down smoking cigarettes
  • Avoid caffeine – in large amounts caffeine has been shown to decrease the chances of falling pregnant. Once pregnant it is recommended that caffeine should be limited eg. Maximum of two cups of coffee or 3 cups of tea per day. Remember coke and chocolate also contains caffeine.
  • Avoid alcohol – Alcohol even in moderation has been found to reduce the chances of falling pregnant. Once pregnant there has been no safe level of alcohol identified – so ideally avoid alcohol all together.
  • Avoid medication unless recommended by a doctor (make sure that they are aware that you are trying to have a baby). This includes medication you can purchase over the counter.
  • Avoid contact with chemicals – You can use alternative green cleaning products, do not treat the house for pests, avoid passive smoking and use safety precautions at work if in contact with hazards eg. Chemicals, lead etc.
  • If you have a cat, get someone else to empty the kitty litter due to the risk of infection with toxoplasmosis
  • Avoid over heating – particularly saunas and spas. If exercising make sure you wear cool, comfortable clothing and drink plenty of water.
  • If you do not exercise, try to start a reasonable and regular exercise routine – this has great benefits for pregnancy as well as your general health
  • Avoid stress and practice relaxation
  • Visit a health care practitioner specialising in preconception care.
  • (Naish and Roberts, 1998; Ogle, 1999)

Things you can do to improve sperm quality
Whilst being treated, simple lifestyle changes can be implemented.

  • Avoid using tobacco, marijuana, anabolic steroids, and “recreational” drugs.
  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol.
  • Avoid exposure to harmful chemicals and heavy metals.
  • Protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Avoid prolonged use of drugs with adverse effect on fertility.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise moderately, but not excessively.
  • Avoid testicular injury in sporting events.
  • If you bicycle, try using a softer saddle.
  • Wear looser fitting shorts and pants, Try not to carry a mobile phone in your pocket or on your belt, avoid using a laptop computer on your lap

Reference List

  • Australia New Zealand Food Authority. (1998). [Folate: Make it part of your day].
  • Naish, F., & Roberts, J. (1998). The natural way to better babies. Australia:
  • Ogle, A. (1998). Before your pregnancy: Prepare your body for a health
  • Ogle, A. (1999). [12 tips to follow before conceiving a baby]. ParenthoodWeb

© October 2009 Karen Pohlner & jane palmer