One thing many fertility clients keep asking me is what is the most important thing that they can do before actively trying to conceive a child and my answer is always the same: take time to do some pre-conception preparation.
This is simply taking some time before actively trying to conceive to get your health into top shape. It can help your journey in a number of ways:
Getting both partners physical health and reproductive health into its optimal state both so that there are less issues with conception and to ensure that any child is the healthiest it can possibly be.
Get both partners mentally and emotionally prepared for the huge changes a child can bring into their existing family dynamic (even if they have children already).
A chance to deal with underlying health issues and improve symptoms before conception so that the risk of having conditions that can be triggered by pregnancy such as autoimmune disease, thyroid issues and diabetes (or insulin resistance) is lowered.
Ensure that both parents are producing the healthiest genetic material (eggs and sperm) for the healthiest
A chance to discuss all their options they are willing to consider before having to make decisions under pressure.
Here are some things that I suggest to my fertility couples in their preconception stage:
1. Going through a food based cleanse or detox (depending on their current state of health). It is surprising how doing such a gentle regime under supervision, can help deal with root cause hormonal issues such as endometriosis, PCOS and period problems (which will often affect fertility) before trying to conceive which can improve your chances of conception. I run group cleanses and individual programmes, so do contact me if you are interested.
2. Charting your cycle using the Symto-Thermal Method (STM) of Natural Family Planning (NFP) or Fertility Awareness (FAM) so that you can understand when your optimal time for conception is and, it will also indicate potential underlying issues.
3. Exercise which is known to reduce epigenetic factors for the quality of both eggs and sperm so that the foetus has the best chance of survival in the womb and better health in later life. It can also improve hormonal issues such as insulin sensitivity (for example if you have PCOS) and improve endorphin levels helping to boost your mood.
4. Under go testing to see if there are any potential issues. It amazes some couples that underlying infections such as chlamydia can be silent for years until it is picked up in advanced fertility testing often showing up as pelvic inflammatory disease and blocked fallopian tubes. There are a number of tests that both partners can do in advance from sperm testing to hormone testing. Finding and treating these issues can prevent heartache later on if you have one of these that causes infertility or miscarriage so it is highly recommended you get checked out first.
If you are charting your cycle, you will also see if you have any underlying hormonal imbalances which could be preventing you from trying to conceive, of if it shows your cycle is working and in a good shape, you can start looking into male and combined fertility issues.
5. Get a Fertility Massage. I know this seems biased as it is my favourite modality (therapy) but having your abdomen, pelvic and lower spine massaged can help remove congestion and deal with soft tissue issues and I have had a number of "infertile" clients conceive after a few sessions.
6. Discuss what options as a couple you are open to. No one wants to discuss the possibility of struggling to conceive, but knowing ahead of time what you are open to doing without the emotional pressure is very empowering. You don't necessarily have to make decisions but opening up a dialogue can but useful. For example, do you know how long you should try before going to see a doctor for testing?
Are fertility tests available in your country? Some countries funded by private health insurance do not offer fertility testing or treatment, but they do offer treatment for gynaecological or urological issues, so you can get these done instead, but you need to do your research. Are you willing to undergo Artificial Reproductive Techniques such as Ovarian Stimulation, IUI, ICSI or IVF? Would you be interested in using a donor egg or sperm?
How do you both feel about surrogacy or adoption? If you have to undergo private treatment, how will you fund it and what is your financial limit (or how many cycles are you willing to undergo)? Your answer to these questions may well change but unless you open up the dialogue and start thinking about these things, it is difficult to know how you really feel about each subject. And remember, there is no right or wrong answer here, just what is right for you as a couple.
7. Build up your relationship. It is easy to become complacent in relationships with our loved ones but once you start trying to conceive, it puts a whole new set of pressures on a relationship that weren't there before. Especially, if you need to undergo fertility treatment.
It is often worth attending counselling together first whether through a formal service or through a religious or spiritual counsellor to help you reconnect and give you extra tools for dealing with some of the potential pressures of fertility and parenthood (even if it isn't your first child).
Many couples will ask how long a preconception period should last. The truth is it varies from couple to couple. For some, it could be that their fertile health is in great shape and so is their physical health so a couple of months of cycle charting and being super clean with their lifestyle habits are needed.
For others, there may be a lot of ground work to do before they are in a good place to start actively trying to conceive (TTC) but by taking the time, they will have cleared up any underlying conditions that could cause fertility issues. I have had a few clients who were told they had very poor fertility status conceive by accident after implementing a few lifestyle changes.
These are just a few options that can help you with your preconception journey. If you want a tailored pre-conception plan for yourself, do book in for a Skype clinic session.