Pregnancy. In what has become an era of quick fixes and instant gratification, it’s a natural state of being that has suffered as a result of this “have it all now” mentality—due in large part, say some experts, to the anxiety that can come from not getting what we want, as quickly as we want it.
With one in six Australian couples experiencing infertility according to the Fertility Association of Australia, getting pregnant is no longer guaranteed after a few steamy nights under the sheets. Yet, with a deeper understanding of why infertility occurs, healing can, in many cases, begin and parents-to-be can replace stress of “trying” with daily habits that can bring them closer to conception.
“Stress adversely impacts fertility,” says Melbourne-based Chinese Medicine practitioner Dr Karen Pohlner, co-author of Unlocking the Mysteries of Chinese Medicine (Bamboo Spirit Publishing). “Couples often find that conception occurs during and immediately following holiday and honeymoon periods (when stress is absent).”
While modern medicine has put babes in arms through treatments such as IVF, it’s ancient philosophies and understandings based in Chinese Medicine that dig deeper, looking at the couple from a holistic viewpoint, offering tailored treatments to foster the health and wellbeing of the entire family. These treatments can regulate hormones and boost fertility, as well as a mother’s ability to cope with the mental, physical and emotional demands that can come post partum.
Prepare to Prepare
Many holistic health practitioners advise more than simply hitting pause on the contraceptive pill, if falling pregnant and growing a healthy baby is the goal. In Chinese Medicine, says Dr Pohlner, couples should begin preparing for parenthood at least 12 months prior to falling pregnant. This is seen as crucial to ensure the birth of healthy offspring who will remain vital and vibrant in the world.
“The primary purpose of the prenatal phase is to help women get into the best possible condition to conceive a healthy baby without depleting their own energy reserves,” Dr Pohlner says.
“The aim at this stage is to regulate the menstrual period. Ideally, the period should have a regular 28-day cycle that comes and goes harmoniously with the waxing and waning of the moon, day one occurring on the full moon—however—most women don’t follow this cycle, and this isn’t cause for alarm. For those who do follow this cycle, however, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner can see that the internal reproductive health is in balance.”
Despite the common occurrence of irregular menstrual cycles, Dr Pohlner says women will still fall pregnant.
“The overwhelming motive force in nature is to reproduce to ensure continuity of the species,” she adds.
Healthy eating, including adequate hydration, and regular exercise are other important factors to adopt well before planning a pregnancy. This is also the time to kick habits such as smoking and drinking, giving the mother chance to repair her body before it becomes home to the growing embryo. The developing embryo requires a synergistic blend of vitamins and minerals, which should be assimilated via wholefoods and bioavailable supplements.
According the Weston A. Price Foundation, good maternal nutrition prior to and during pregnancy can “protect the offspring from diabetes, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and memory loss later in life”.
12 Months Prior to Pregnancy: A Step-by-Step Guide
While there’s no perfect way to prepare for pregnancy, there are some healthy steps mothers-to-be in particular can take to get body baby ready.
• Make an appointment with an holistic health expert, such as a Chinese Medicine practitioner, to determine your state of health, specific to pregnancy;
• Book in for a blood tests, including a live blood analysis. This can quickly help mums-to-be determine what nutrients are missing from their diets, while also gaining advice on what natural supplements may be beneficial in the pregnancy preparation stage;
• Take steps to stop habits such as smoking and regular alcohol consumption;
• Increase intake of organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and non-GMO grains. Raw food smoothies are a great way to pack a lot of nutrition into one meal.
• Good fats are essential to foetal growth, especially brain development. Omegas 3, 6 and 9 can be found in such foods as cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil, avocados, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts and sesame seeds.
• Stop drinking tap water and water from plastic bottles, which leach chemicals. Natural spring water is the best way to hydrate. The standard recommended eight glasses per day is a good goal to reach.
• Consider talking to a qualified health professional about undertaking a detoxification program that’s tailored to you. Assisting elimination of toxins prior to pregnancy can ease burden on the body during the nine months of gestation, freeing it up to grow a healthy baby;
• Eliminate all stress. Practices such as meditation, tai chi and chi gong are great stress relievers, while also giving the student health-boosting benefits. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and visualisation are also highly beneficial to help remove stressors from past traumas and everyday living.
Originally printed in Australian Natural Health magazine. To sign up for your very own subscription, click here.