Pre-Conceptual Care

Pregnancy is a very special time in a woman’s life.  She wants to have a baby with optimum health, intelligence and immunity to disease.  Ultimately, to have that baby reach its full potential in life.  As we tend to pass on our genetic strengths and weaknesses to our children (allergies for example), we really need to get our bodies in tip top condition before conception to give the baby the best possible start.

Cleansing The Body

It is important for BOTH parents to eliminate all old toxins and drug deposits that can be stored in the tissues for many years. Getting rid of your aluminium cookware and stopping smoking and drinking alcohol at least three months before you conceive will help your body to start eliminating aluminium and cadmium. The chemical residue produced by cigarette smoking is extremely harmful and poses many risks whichever parent is involved.  Smoking can damage and mutate sperm and babies have lower birth weights and increased risk of cot deaths than the children of non-smokers and teetotallers.  The children of smokers also have a higher rate of respiratory illnesses.  A hair mineral analysis will show mineral imbalances and levels of toxic metals, which should be corrected before conception.  It is in this preconception phase that vitamin and mineral supplementation (for both men and women) should start.

Detoxification

There are various ways to detoxify, but a fruit fast is a good way to start.  It is an ideal way to cleanse your whole body.  You can fast for one day each week, or three days in a row, eating only one type of fruit per day (fasting on water alone is too severe for those who have not fasted before and it would be best to consult an experienced practitioner if you intend to do this for more than a day or two).  Apples purify the blood and grapes are a good detoxifier so you might like to try those to start.  Vitamin C is the only supplement recommended when fasting as it helps speed up the cleansing process.

If you are already pregnant or have diabetes do not fast at all.  Ease your way back to a normal diet gradually by reintroducing vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds at a rate of one type of food each day.  You should take as long to come off a fast, as you have been fasting.  Many women decide to have a complete colon cleansing programme before they conceive, but it is not recommended during a pregnancy.

The Right Diet

After you have fasted it is important to remain on a diet that is highly nutritious and also still cleansing.  Such a diet will include vegetables and fruit (organic if possible) and whole grains, millet and whole brown rice.  Fresh, whole nuts are also good (especially almonds) and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame.  You need to crush the sesame seeds a little in order to be able to absorb them.  If you are not allergic to dairy products then also include some live yogurt in your daily programme and avoid too much meat, but increase the amount of fish eaten.

  • Buy fresh rather than frozen
  • Steam vegetables rather than boiling
  • Grill or roast rather than deep frying
  • Eat as much raw vegetables, salad and fruit as possible.  The mineral and vitamin content is much higher and all the natural enzymes in the food are still active
  • Seeds are much more nutritious when they are sprouted – they are still growing right until the moment you eat them and thus contain higher levels of all nutrients.  Alfalfa, mung, lentils and chickpeas are ideal to sprout.
  • Buy organic food wherever possible.  Organic meat will not contain antibiotics or other drug and pesticide residues.  This is especially important if you eat liver.

Maintain this type of diet the whole time you are trying to conceive.  It is particularly important in the month before you become pregnant, as this is when the female ovum is maturing.  Many women don’t know that they are pregnant for the first six weeks, which is a vital time for the development of the foetus.

No More of These

If you have been using the Pill then it is best to use another method of contraception at least six months before you plan to conceive.  It takes your body several months to rebalance the side effects and remove the drug deposits from your body.  The Pill can also cause many vitamin and mineral imbalances and deficiencies.  For example, copper levels are raised but the levels of zinc are lowered.  If this is not checked then it can lead to a further drop in the level of zinc and this can have a negative effect during pregnancy and can also lead to a possible post-natal depression after the birth.

It is best to avoid any drugs if you can.  Even over the counter remedies such as aspirin, antacids, and cough mixtures are believed to have caused birth defects.  During both the preconception period and the pregnancy it is best to cut out tea, coffee and other stimulants such as sugar which upsets the normal sugar metabolism and puts a great deal of stress on the body.  This can cause mineral deficiencies and very high levels of sugar are also thought to be the cause of some birth defects.  Also try to stay away from any contagious and infectious diseases.  Although you may not be affected, your baby might be.  It is not conducive  to a calm pregnancy if you are overstressed.  Try to stay calm as stress will over work your adrenal glands.  Make a point of practicing good relaxation exercises with calm music.

A lot has been written about the hazards of mercury filling for pregnant women.  Don’t have any amalgam (silver) fillings during your pregnancy, they are approximately 50% mercury which is a very poisonous mineral.  Mercury is capable of passing through the placenta to the baby and has been linked to miscarriages and birth defects.  Such fillings are already banned for pregnant women in many parts of the world, so if you need a filling ask your dentist to put in a white one.

Getting Ready

Carrying the extra weight of a baby will highlight any weak areas in your back and posture so it is a good idea to get these sorted out before you become pregnant.  Alexander technique is very good, and starting to do some regular exercise will help, yoga, swimming and walking are all recommended.

Supplementation

There is no question that eating healthily is very important and supplements do not replace good vital foods. What they can do is help replace nutrients not adequately present or properly absorbed.  Living in to-day’s world with pollution, radiation and many other stresses constantly surrounding us, it is unlikely that good diet alone will give you all your requirements for pregnancy and lactation.

You will also need supplements. Many people will say that they did not do this and their children turned out OK.  We are not just aiming at OK children.  Each person differs but I would usually recommend a good prenatal multivitamin and mineral with additional Vitamin C 1000mg, zinc 10mg, Vitamin E 400 ius.  These are all the essential ingredients needed for a healthy mother and healthy baby.  Having a healthy baby is not always a matter of chance, the better prepared you and your partner are before conception the better chance your child has of the very best start in life.

Nuturing Your Unborn Child

Everything you now eat and drink is constructing your baby’s body and mind through the placenta, right up to the time of delivery.  Brain cells are growing continuously even after birth and cell division is so rapid that if a single one is damaged early on in pregnancy it could mean devastation of thousands of cells.  A foetus is very susceptible to toxic substances and this includes food.  Inadequate nutrition can result in abnormal development of the foetus,  Eat only natural foods and do not eat anything you are uncertain about.  Your intuition is telling you that you and your baby does not want it.

Don’t Malnourish Your Baby

Avoid refined food wherever possible, including prepackaged, tinned and prepared foods.  This is particularly important in pregnancy when you need to be particularly choosy about what you eat.  If the food is damaged or not completely fresh then pick something else.  If you know that you have any specific allergies then it is better to avoid that substance during pregnancy and lactation, otherwise you will probably pass on the allergy to your baby.  Prolonged breast feeding helps to prevent allergies.  Only give in to your cravings if they include wholesome foods.  If you have a sweet craving then try chewing apricots or dried bananas instead.  Don’t fill up on junk foods, you may become malnourished in essential nutrients such as iron and zinc.  If you are getting the right amount of nutrients you will tend not to have any cravings at all.  If you follow a vegetarian diet it need not be a problem provided that you take care to eat very carefully and get adequate amounts of protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins.

Protein
A baby’s size relates directly to development.  A small baby is more likely to be born to a mother who smokes, drinks and does not gain enough weight.  Of all the nutritional requirements needed to make a healthy baby, its protein and calories that are most crucial.  A low protein diet can stunt cell production and growth in brain development.  This does not necessarily mean eating lots of red meat as you can get excellent forms of protein from vegetarian sources.  Eggs contain amino acids (protein) in a pattern very close to that required by humans.  They are a good form of protein with little wastage, since 95% of it is usable by the body.  Vegetarians must combine their meals carefully in order to gain the full benefit of different amino acids contained in each food.

Carbohydrates
Avoid all simple carbohydrates, including sugars, white flour, refined bread and pasta.  Much better sources are complex carbohydrates, i.e. whole grains, brown rice, millet, wholemeal  breads and pastas, oatmeal, buckwheat, potatoes, fresh vegetables and bananas.

Minerals
Pregnant mothers need iron, silicon and sodium in abundance, not inorganic table salt but organic sodium from foods rich in minerals.  Good sources are strawberries, celery, carrots, pears, pineapples and spinach.  Silicon is found in whole grains, oats, barley, sprouted seeds, particularly alfalfa and seaweed.

Iron
Organic iron from food is the best and most easily assimilated by your body.  To help you absorb the maximum amount from your food take Vitamin C with your meals.  Coffee, tea and caffeine foods like chocolate all inhibit iron absorption.  Many women are iron deficient before pregnancy so they start off with no stores available.  During the second stages of pregnancy the foetus uses much more iron which it takes from the mother .  Iron deficiency causes you to absorb up to three times more lead and toxic minerals, all of which can affect the foetus.  Seaweeds and chlorella are one of the best sources of iron and pumpkin seeds, millet, sunflower seeds, molasses, black bean and chickpeas are all higher in iron per 100 grams than liver and other meats.

Calcium
Although pregnant women are often told to ‘drink lots of milk, it’s the best form of calcium, this advice is not actually true.  When milk is heated above 150 degrees Fahrenheit, one third of its calcium is destroyed, together with all the natural enzymes.  This makes pasteurised milk a more limited source of calcium than is commonly believed.  Milk is also very mucous forming in the gut, preventing absorption of other nutrients.  Dairy products increase the absorption of lead by the body and many people are allergic to milk and all dairy foods, especially cow’s milk.  As we reach puberty we generally become less tolerant to dairy products as we gradually stop producing the enzyme rennet (rennin) which coagulates the milk for digestion.  Lactase an enzyme which digests the milk sugar lactose, also declines from childhood onwards in 60% of people.  Yogurt is a fermented form of milk already broken down into a more digestible form.  Most people find sheep’s and goat’s yogurt much less allergenic than cow’s milk or yogurt, and if possible always buy organically produced whenever you can.  The highest sources of calcium are seaweeds, low fat live yogurt, almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds.

Zinc
Zinc is another important mineral during pregnancy, and it cannot be stored in great quantities in the body.  Many people when tested are found to be deficient.  It is important to keep up optimum levels during pregnancy as it plays a crucial role in the cell division process and growth.  It also protects against low birth weight, defects and spontaneous abortion.

Deficiency in zinc slows down the body’s ability to utilize protein for growth.  Supplementation of high levels of iron and folic acid prevent a certain amount of zinc absorption which makes the problem worse.  The best sources are oysters, wheatgerm, pumpkin seeds and beef.  Other good sources are almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, chickpeas, and dark turkey meat.

Iodine
Iodine is necessary for correct functioning of the thyroid.  Deficiency is associated with fatigue, bad circulation and loss of libido.  It can lead to congenital diseases in children.  Good sources are kelp, watercress and onions.

Selenium
This is a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent tissue damage.  It is also a good detoxifier of mercury and cadmium.  Low selenium levels have been linked to Down’s Syndrome in babies.  You should have ensured that your selenium levels were normal before conception.  Good sources are brazil nuts, shrimps, lobsters, oysters, liver, cod, whole brown rice and whole wheat.

Chromium
Chromium is needed for the regulation of glucose in the body which can become erratic during pregnancy..it is not easily absorbed and very easily excreted if the diet is very high in sugar.  Good sources are brewer’s yeast, dried prunes, black pepper, whole grains, molasses, wheatgerm and mushrooms.

Potassium
Nerve and muscle function depend on potassium.  Too much salt can cause a deficiency in potassium.  This can cause defects in the kidneys of the foetus.  The best sources are halbut, trout, molasses, avocado, whole milk, rye flour, raisins and millet.

Magnesium
The most important mineral for the contraction of muscles and calcium absorption.  Good sources are pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower and sesame seeds, hazel and cashew nuts and green vegetables.

Vitamins Important To Pregnancy

Vitamin A
It comes in two forms, retinol from animal products and carotene form from vegetables.  It is essential for healthy skin tissues, eyes, hair and teeth.  Deficiencies can result in eye defects and have also been linked to cleft palate.  Retinol can be toxic in doses over 10,000 iu’s during pregnancy.  Liver is the highest source of Vitamin A at approximately 50,000 iu’s per 100 grams. This is why pregnant women have been advised not to have too much liver, remember the liver is the detoxifier of the body so any drugs, pesticides, etc. will reside there.  Good carotene sources are carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, parsley, onions, spinach, peppers and pumpkins.

B Vitamins
They are all vital to maintain balance of temperament, deficiencies cause irritability, poor memory and loss of appetite.  Deficiency of vitamin B2 riboflavin has been shown to result in the malformation of limbs.  Seaweed, and chlorella have substantial amounts and other good sources are brewers yeast, wheatgerm, whole grains, almonds, milk, eggs and fish.

Folic Acid
The need for folic acid doubles during pregnancy to approximately 0.8 mg (800 mcg) daily.  Low levels have been related to neural tube defects such as spina bifida.  Lambs liver has the most folic acid, with wheatgerm and wheatflakes providing approximately half as much per 100 grams.  Other good sources are soya, avocado, wholewheat and asparagus.

Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids
They repair tissues and protect the body against toxic minerals, poisons and infections and help the absorption of iron.  Babies short of vitamin C are prone to infection and irritability.  Blackcurrants (fruit, not sweetened juice) are high in vitamin C and other good sources are papaya, guava, cantaloupe melon, grapes, kiwi fruits and oranges.  The amount of vitamin C present will depend very much on the freshness of the food and if it was picked ripe.  If picked unripe and irradiated the vitamin C content is very much depleted.

Vitamin D
Aids calcium absorption and therefore bone development.  Good sources are sunlight, fish, herring, mackerel, salmon, whole rice and eggs.

Vitamin E
The need for this is vastily increased during pregnancy, it prevents scarring, improves the wound healing of abrasions during birth and may also prevent habitual miscarriages.  Deficiency can lead to organ damage in babies.  The best sources are oils, safflower and corn oil have the most, then wheat germ oil and soya bean oils.  CAUTION.  If you have abnormal blood pressure or any heart problems then you should only supplement with 100 IU of vitamin E at a time.

Aromatherapy
Massage using certain very specific essential oils will aid relaxation, raise energy levels and balance the body.  It is essential to select and use essential oils under the supervision of a qualified aromatherapist as some oils have qualities which are not advisable during pregnancy, labour, birth and lactation.  Morning sickness, for instance may respond to one of four different remedies and a homoeopath will be able to advise you further.

Exercise
Your physical fitness is going to be very important over the next nine months.  Gentle exercise such as yoga, swimming and walking are all very good.  Pay special attention to strengthening your pelvic floor muscles by trying to stop urinating mid flow – you should be able to completely stop two or three times and if not just keep trying.  Toning these muscles helps prevent uterine and bladder prolapse later in life.

In order to stretch the perineum and make it easier to give birth and avoid an episiotomy try squatting down on your heels a few minutes each day.  You can also rub some vitamin E cream into the perineum to soften it and make it more elastic.  It is excellent for preventing stretch marks too.

Extracts from the article written by Jeanette Lahr – Nutritional adviser.

Case History
Following on from the above Article on Pre-conceptual Care here is an interesting case history of a patient who I treated only last year.

Jane had been trying to conceive a baby for three years.  She was 28 years of age in good health but had always had rather scanty irregular periods for many years. She was considering fertility treatment but only as a very last resort.

She commenced reflexology sessions with me on a weekly basis for four months. There was very little sensitivity in her feet other than the pituitary and ovary link which I felt must be the problem. Very little reaction occurred during the first month of treatment but when her second period arrived it was much heavier than usual.

I advised her to follow some of the advice offered in the Article on Pre-conceptual Care, a copy of which I gave to her.  She did make some quite positive changes to her diet and added several supplements.

Her third period arrived just 28 days later which was most unusual and again as quite heavy and lasted for five days, previously her periods only lasted about two or three days.

Her fourth period arrived again just 28 days later. Happily her fifth period did not arrive and it was confirmed that she was pregnant. The baby is due in June and Jane has been attending for a reflexology session every three weeks and is in good health and feels fine.

Here again was a very successful result to just a few changes and some reflexology sessions.