My preconception journey started about 1 year before we actually fell pregnant. It was in the weeks after my 30th birthday, and while I had always known I wanted to have children, something came over me and my mind became baby crazy. Everywhere I looked, I saw babies, and baby things, and that was all I could focus on. My ovaries were screaming, “Give me a baby!”. I held on to this desire of mine in secret for about a week or so, and then I finally turned to my partner Oscar one morning and said. “I want a baby”.
This caught Oscar by a big surprise as I think he probably though he had a few years, but there in stands the start of preconception for us!
Twelve to six months out from trying to conceive: Emotional needs, Financial Planning, and getting spiritually in alignment.
Because of his initial shock, I would say it took me around 3 months or so for Oscar to come around to the idea of having a baby. Deciding to have a baby is a HUGE life decision, in fact the biggest of them all. There is no selling the baby if you don’t like it, swapping for a different one, etc so it is very important that both parents-to-be are happy and comfortable with the decision. In this time, I was not nagging or pressuring Oscar, we would just have a little conversation around it from time to time over the few months until I knew he was comfortable with the idea. This is a big part of preconception, as I believe if one person is not fully on board with the idea of having a baby, this can greatly affect your chances of conceiving. Making a baby is a complete body, mind and spirit experience and if someone’s heart is not all in, they may decrease their chances of conceiving. This is part of mind-body medicine, and I have seen this at work not just with couples trying to conceive but in other health conditions many times, when someone really isn’t ready for a baby, or they don’t really want to get well.
After we had made the decision that yes a baby was a part of our near future, we started discussing the financial implications of this. Being a business owner and sole practitioner, without me working, there is no income, no maternity leave coming etc. coming from my side. The concern as well was that me stepping out of my business and practice for a while could spell career and business suicide. So, our next step in planning, was how we could make the financial side work while I took some time out. I feel that finances are also a big part of making a baby that gets missed out. While not all that sexy and cute to talk about, making sure you can financially sustain the family and baby, will take a huge stress of you. Stress negatively impacts male and female fertility (read more here), and finances really needs to be discussed. This can also save potential arguments later down the track once baby is born, and one half isn’t working which can bring up resentment from either side.
It is very important that you can give you and your baby time to bond after birth, along with preparing your body to give birth and then repair and also feed afterwards, so you don’t want to be stressing about finances and having to rush back into work.
For me planning the financial and how I would run my business, was also a huge emotional ride, as I am so connected with my business, patients etc and it took many conversations (and tears), not only with Oscar but also with mentors to devise a plan that I felt comfortable with and would sustain us financially and keep my business afloat, along with supporting my patients and making sure they would be looked after.
During this time, I also really started delving deeper into meditation, journaling, and self exploration. I want to be the best mother I can be, and part of this was looking into some darker parts of my personality, and limiting thoughts and emotions that I needed to explore. Becoming a mother is a self-less job, and there were parts of my that were holding onto selfishness, and other things I needed to work through. I am certainly not “done” in that area, but I really feel putting in the work then and meditation, journaling and energy work I continue to do now, is preparing me for motherhood.
All of these things, looking at your relationship, emotions, work finances are so important in preconception. Making the decision to have a baby should be for the right reasons and not because you need to fix your relationship or heal a wounded or empty part of yourself. If these are your primary motivations (and you may need to look a little deeper as they could be subconscious), then I really suggest seeking support before conceiving. This could be in the form of psychology, counselling or a kinesiologist or energy worker. It could also look like meditation and journaling those emotions out.
Six months from trying to conceive- Getting the physical body right
By now Oscar and I had decided a time we would like to start trying, so about 6 months from that time, I sent us both off for a whole lots of blood tests. Being in the area I work in, I already had a very good idea of what was going on in my health and factors that might impact my fertility. I have had a subclinical hypothyroid for a number of years, which has a huge impact on ovulation and also the growth of a baby in pregnancy. So I was most interested in checking up on this as it had been about 6 months or so since my last test. I also have the MTHFR compound heterozygous gene, which means I can have up to a 70% decrease in function of the MTHFR enzyme that is involved in folate metabolism, and DNA production. For me folic acid is an absolute no-go as can disrupt my methylation, so I was also really needing to look at my B-vitamins and methylation status. Along with specific thyroid assessment, methylation assessment and iodine status, I also sent myself for general health bloods, vitamin D, day 21 hormones (ie oestrogen and progesterone), and pre pregnancy screens.
Oscar is generally in good health, so I sent him for general health bloods, vitamin D, thyroid and testosterone.
As suspected my iodine was a little low, and thyroid was still functioning sub optimally, so I added in extra thyroid support. Vitamin D was also a little low, so I started topping this up supplementally. Methylation was fine, but it was also at this time I started taking activated B vitamins for preconception. And yes I started these 6 months from trying to conceive.
It is important to remember it takes 120 days for an egg cell to mature. The egg cell is what houses the DNA that will become your child, so you want to make sure it is being produced correctly. And in those first few weeks of pregnancy are when DNA is replicating at lightening speed before most women even know they are pregnant.
That is why I am a big advocate for a minimum 4-month preconception time, to work on making sure you have adequate and the right form of folate, along with other methylating nutrients B12, choline, and other B vitamins.
Oscar’s health was generally pretty good, but I also placed him on a B complex as folate is just as important for men’s fertility as it is for women’s, along with additional zinc, selenium and magnesium for helping make some super sperm! (see my post here, Preconception nutrients for men).
Three months from trying to conceive- Getting the crap out, getting the good stuff in.
Here is where I really ramped up the diet side of things. I generally eat really well, but I cut down on sneaky sugar that was coming into my diet along with most gluten foods. I also really upped my vegetable intake up, to around 6-8 serves per day.
I also did not have a sip of alcohol from this time. Alcohol has a huge negative effect on fertility, and has been shown that even 3 standard drinks a week in women increases time to conceive. Binge drinking is the worst for affecting egg and sperm quality.
Luckily Oscar is also not a big drinker, and we both don’t smoke. He was probably averaging about 1-2 beers a week in the time up until conception. We also don’t use any chemicals in our cleaning products at home or my personal care products and we try and eat mostly organic, so this wasn’t something for use to worry about. This is important to look into however if not something you are already doing. Many chemicals such as phthalates, BPA, pesticides in cleaning products and non-organic foods effect fertility and also the growth of the baby in pregnancy.
I also quit coffee about a month before we started trying and the main reason for this was its negative affects on my stress levels. I was starting to feel coffee was making me feel very anxious in the morning and was not helpful at all to my productivity.
I can get stressed very easily and this has a huge effect on fertility so I needed to look at getting it under control. Meditation and breathing exercises also really help me and stress.
Caffeine consumption over 200mg day (equivalent to a double shot coffee), has also been shown to affect chances of conception and increase risk of miscarriage. It is my recommendation to only have 1 single shot coffee per day, and if you have been trying to conceive for over 1 year, then none.
Because I am so focused on my health, I didn’t do any cycle tracking, temperature taking etc as I knew exactly when I was ovulating. I haven’t taken the pill since I was about twenty and I have had regular cycles for at least the last 6 years, so this was not an issue. If you have a history of irregular cycles, or have been on the pill in the last year I would suggest tracking your ovulation through cervical mucous changes and possibly charting your basal body temperature so you know exactly when you are ovulating. Please do not rely on what your app is telling you and I see many couples not conceive simply because they aren’t trying at the optimal time of the month.
Generally you are most fertile in the 2-3 days before you ovulate as an egg cell only lasts 12-24 hours once released, whereas sperm cells last 3-5 days in the fallopian tubes, so you want a sperm cell ready and waiting for that egg. Most women ovulate between day 11-16 of their menstrual cycle.
From there it was really just a case of letting go and having fun with it so to speak…. For me knowing I had done everything emotionally, and physically in the lead up to conception was a huge weight off my shoulders as I know I had done everything I could for my baby to have the best possible start to life.
Summary of steps to take
Make sure both parents to be are on board
Get your finances right
Look at your emotions, what you are holding on, what you need to let go. Are you trying to fill a gap, fix your relationship with a baby?
Look at the physical health- what nutrients are you deficient in, hormonal issues, gut issues.
What do you need to get out of your diet and lifestyle- alcohol, smoking, sugar, toxic cleaning and personal care products, pesticides, stress?
What do you need to include in our diet- lots of vegetables, good quality proteins, fat and complex carbohydrates
Track your ovulation, know when is the best time to conceive.
Of course every couple’s fertility journey is different, and other areas of your health may need to looked at deeper, but I hope that gives some insight into some key areas you should be looking at, if you are thinking of trying for a baby.
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