For many reasons we don’t always have the opportunity to optimise our health ahead of pregnancy, but the chances are if you are reading this, you are keen to be in the best health you can be.
We are constantly being told what we should do to maintain our health so I thought it would be interesting to look at achieving optimal health for conception and pregnancy from both a western medicine and Chinese medicine perspective.
Obviously diet needs to be taken into consideration so that we not only take in the correct nutrients, but also maintain a healthy weight. The following general dietary pointers should be incorporated into your lifestyle;
- Choose good quality fresh foods with fruit and vegetables of the season
- Enjoy your food in a relaxed atmosphere away from your desk or the TV
- Remember it takes 20 minutes for the stomach to communicate to the brain that it is full and avoid overeating
- Eat 3 meals a day with small healthy snacks in between
- Protein such as lean meat, chicken, fish, tofu, eggs or lentils should be eaten at least once a day
- Homemade soups and stews are nutritious and good for the digestion
- Drink water at room temperature with your meals
- Avoid drinks with sugar or artificial sweeteners
- Minimise processed foods like cakes, biscuits and white breads
- Limit carbohydrates
- Limit fatty and fried foods but include good oils such as olive oil
- Remove caffeine from your diet and minimise alcohol consumption
- Cut out nicotine as research has shown that it can take longer for smokers to conceive
- Ensure you are taking pre-conception supplement that includes folic acid
Exercise is also necessary for good health and in important factor to enhance fertility as it manages weight, encourages hormonal balance and counteracts stress. The NHS currently recommends that adults should participate in 30 minutes of activity each day, so it is essential to choose activities that you enjoy. Remember that walking does count if you are someone that enjoys the outdoors rather than sport.
Ensuring that you get enough good quality sleep is not something that we often hear about. However, the quantity and quality of sleep is very important when preparing for pregnancy as it influences;
- the sex hormones
- sperm production
- ovulation and regular menstruation
- stress levels and mood
- immune factors
- weight gain and stamina
And for those men that are reading, the testicles are located outside the body because sperm develop best at a temperature several degrees cooler than normal internal body temperature. In practical terms this means that hot baths and steams rooms should be avoided along with tight fitting underwear and cycling. It has also been shown to be beneficial to take supplements containing Zinc, Selenium, Anti-oxidants and Omega 3 such as Well Man or Proxeed Plus.
How can Acupuncture Help?
Acupuncture is known for its ability to reduced stress levels and has an important place in the treatment of fertility patients. Not only can it improve feelings of wellbeing, it can help deal with all emotions linked with trying to conceive.
Acupuncture also normalises the function of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian axis, which in turn;
- Improves the function of the ovaries which assists the developing follicles and egg quality which leads to stronger embryos
- Increases the levels of progesterone needed to maintain a pregnancy until the placenta is developed
- Improves blood supply to the uterus
- relaxes the body and reduces stress levels which assists with preventing early uterine contractions
Research also indicates that the sperm health may also benefit which would also enhance the strength of the developing embryo.
For individual advice contact me to arrange an appointment.
British Acupuncture Council (2016) Available from: https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/
Danny Blyth and Greg Lampert (2015) Eating for health and wellbeing
Jane Lyttleton (2004) Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine
Nurture Fertility (2016) Available from: https://www.nurturefertility.co.uk