If you have undergone IVF treatments, you will know just how important creating a quality embryo is to achieving a pregnancy. If you are trying to conceive naturally, this still stands. It is estimated that over 90% of genetically normal embryos will result in a live birth. Whereas at least half of all miscarriages are due to chromosomally abnormal embryos. Therefore, achieving that quality embryo is the first step in every successful parenting journey.
Does it mean you’ll have good looking, smart children who have inherited all your best bits, and none of the ‘bad’? Not at all. Both the egg and the sperm contain 23 individual chromosomes. These combine at the moment of conception to create the 23 pairs of chromosomes required to make a human. At the very moment conception occurs, your child’s genetic stamp. The strongest predictor of their future health, learning abilities and susceptibilities ‒ is created. These outcomes are dictated by those individual 23 chromosomes in the sperm and the egg.
When this is understood, the reasons for preconception care are more obvious. Both the sperm and egg take around three months to develop/mature. In this time they are both vulnerable to damage, creating interruptions to normal, healthy development and even chromosomal abnormalities. The embryo and developing baby are significantly influenced by their environment. Their genetic development is profoundly altered by outside influences. So we focus on reducing risk factors, optimizing the environment in which they develop and hopefully creating the most positive outcome possible: a sweet, healthy baby.
|Preconception planning directs us away from unquestioning or despairing acceptance of genetic destiny or environmental randomness. Investing in yourself during this time of your life goes a very long way. There is surely no other time in which such major changes occur and where our action is potentially most powerful.
Our lifestyles, diet, toxic load and life stages play a significant role in influencing the expression of our genetic code as new cells are made. It seems it is not such a lottery after all. Healthy choices can strongly impact your chances of conceiving a healthy baby – and even your baby’s chances of healthy fertility! There are many well-known and medically-researched factors that impact directly on your fertility and outcomes. These include smoking, drinking alcohol, being overweight or underweight, advancing age, certain environmental and home chemical endocrine disruptor exposure and other factors you will read a lot about in this book.
There are also many factors that, while not directly affecting your fertility, can have an indirect effect. Things like chronic health problems and complaints may add up to an unhealthy load that compromises the whole organism. This puts fertility right at the bottom of your bodily priorities. Even in so called healthy individuals. Chronic health problems could be digestive problems, periodontal health, asthma, sleep issues, stress, nutritional factors, even emotional considerations. Certainly, starting your pregnancy from a basis of optimal health will help to ensure minimal pregnancy discomforts and disease. As well, this positively impacting on the health of your developing baby at every crucial stage.
Preconception health really does set the foundation for creating healthy eggs and sperm to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy and baby. So what does it involve? Ideally for at least three to four months before you begin trying to conceive, you will both pay close attention to your diet and lifestyle, your environment, and chronic health issues that need to be addressed. Extensive testing for nutrient levels, gland and organ function, infections, heavy metals and other contributing factors are all undertaken.
You can explore your family history, and your personal medical and health history is extensively mined for clues as to anything that may compromise your fertility. Everything from impotence to nutrient deficiency, hormone imbalance to urinary tract infections can all be important contributors to fertility. Many of which are highly treatable or responsive to natural medicine support. This process is comprehensive, enlightening and empowering. Most importantly it takes you on a journey of continuous improvement. At the very least leaves you feeling healthy, energized and vital, and may help you achieve a healthy baby.
The truth is, male fertility is declining at such a rapid rate. That it is not just an issue for up to 50% of couples experiencing infertility, it has become a real public health issue. Sperm concentrations in Western men have declined 50% over the past 40 years according to a recent research review. Particularly associated with advancing age, lifestyle, diet choices, and environmental factors, the consequences on the future of the human population is concerning to say the least.
The information we share here is so important for men to embrace. Environmental, nutritional, physical exercise and psychological support, combined with the use of appropriate supplementation. Attention and focus here can really improve semen parameters and prevent infertility, improving the chance for a couple to conceive spontaneously or optimize their chances of conception.
|Where possible, attending to preconception health for at least three months prior to sperm collection is just as important for men donating sperm too.
In our experience, men are not always on board with exploring this territory let alone committing to all the changes. They may be too confronted or embarrassed. Men may just be unwilling to wade through this kind of information about health and fertility like women often are. We also know that some men see how their sperm is a reflection of their overall health.
They are really ready to make change and prevent more potentially serious health consequences in the future. As well as improve their sperm health, fertility and health outcomes for their baby too. When men get on board with this, we do see time and time again how important it is for the women they are making babies with. When men make a concerted effort to help improve their own fertility and the healthy conception and pregnancy outcomes, women feel so supported. Women then are much more able to adhere to the recommendations themselves. As an added bonus, of course it is good for the relationship too!
For more information or to get help on your fertility or pregnancy journey, book in with a Fertile Ground Naturopath