Most parents, when expecting a new baby, put a lot of thought in to preparing for parenthood. It’s an exciting time, from putting the nursery together to starting a college fund; we as a culture tend to emphasize preparing for baby. What is often less emphasized, but arguably equally important, is preparing for pregnancy.
Where to Start
For people looking to get pregnant and having difficulty, the first place we look is diet and lifestyle – what is the state of your overall health? How have you been living for the past several months? Have you been well nourished, balanced and living in a low stress environment that promotes optimal hormone balance and endocrine function, or, like many of us, have you been running around over-stressed and under-rested, juggling all of life’s many tasks whilst trying to make a baby in your spare time?
Whether you’re just starting to try for pregnancy, or have been having fertility challenges for a while, it’s a good time to stop and take a look at what aspects of your current lifestyle may be sabotaging your best baby-making efforts.
In this post, we’ll explore how to cultivate fertility and promote a healthy pregnancy and a thriving child, naturally.
“Tending the Garden”
People are often surprised to learn that your current egg or sperm quality is a reflection of what your health was like 3-4 months prior. This is why, in Chinese Medicine, we believe that taking time to prepare the body and “tend the garden” of fertility is a vitally important first step in a successful, healthy pregnancy.
The word uterus in Mandarin Chinese is “Zi Gong,” which literally translates to “child/seed place.” The uterus is, of course, the housing place for your future baby. As such, part of my goal when working with folks who want to create a pregnancy is to help both mother and father* to create a nourishing and sustaining environment for a fetus to thrive. This means making sure mama’s* cycles are regular, that her endocrine system and hormones are balanced, that her blood is rich and well nourished, and that her stress level is low.
The same goes for papa*. A lot goes into making healthy, strong baby-making sperm. We must look at diet, lifestyle, stress levels and hormones. Ensuring that both parties “gardens” have been properly tended to and fortified will go a long way in making the road to pregnancy a successful one.
In the book, “Making Babies: A 3 Month Proven Program for Maximum Fertility,” Jill Blakeway, LAc and Sami David, MD call the few months before you conceive a ‘pre-mester,’ because the state of your body during that time can dramatically impact fertility and your pregnancy. It takes the body about 120 days to mature the eggs that will come to ovulate. Chinese medicine doctors believe that the health and quality of an egg during that time can be greatly affected during that time. The same goes for men. It takes about 70-90 days for a man’s sperm to mature.
Beyond the health and quality of the egg and sperm, preparing a woman’s body to be able to sustain a pregnancy for 9 months can take time, especially if a woman goes into the pregnancy depleted from stress, health conditions or other imbalances. Taking a few months to “cultivate the fertile field” can make a big difference in your journey through fertility and pregnancy.
Eat well – It’s no secret that diet plays an important role in health, but it’s an aspect that is often overlooked in conventional fertility treatment. Eating a well balanced diet high in dark leafy greens and good quality protein can help to ensure that your body is making strong healthy blood, ideal for creating and sustaining a healthy pregnancy. Equally important is making sure your keep your blood sugar stable. It’s easy to forget to eat in the midst of a busy day, but keeping healthy snacks around like nuts and seeds or a piece of fruit will ensure that your blood sugar doesn’t dip too low. This is important because when blood sugar does get too low, it stimulates the production of cortisol, aka “the stress hormone,” which, as we’ve covered above, can lead to a host of challenges.
Sleep – Get to bed early, and keep regular sleep hours. The body does its “repair work” at night while we sleep. We need regular sleep patterns to maintain a balanced circadian rhythm. For women, a healthy circadian rhythm can help with balancing hormones and promoting regular cycles. For men, more balanced hormones and healthier sperm. In fact, A recent study found that women holding late-night jobs, such as shift-workers, flight attendants, and night-shift nurses, tend to have menstrual and fertility issues, and the pregnancy success rate in this group in the study was only 22%. Even slight changes in your sleep patterns can make a big difference!
Regulate Stress – Stress may be fertility’s #1 enemy, as it affects nearly every aspect of our health. Stress can disrupt endocrine function creating irregular cycles and improperly functioning body systems. Of course no one can escape stress all together, it’s part of life. But there are ways to manage stress in a healthy, balanced way that can make all the difference when trying to conceive. I’ll occasionally get couples in my office having tried everything under the sun to get pregnant, feeling utterly stressed out, overwhelmed, and tired of trying so hard. My recommendation for these couples is often, “stop trying.” At least for a couple of months. It sounds strange, I know, but sometimes just taking the pressure off is all it takes. Acupuncture is also a super-hero for helping to reduce stress and rebalance the endocrine system naturally, which is part of why it works so well for fertility.