Ask any woman who is trying to conceive what changes she has made in her life while she is trying to get pregnant and you’ll probably hear at least one of the following:
- I went off the pill
- I’m taking my prenatal vitamins
- I’m taking folic acid
- I’m eating healthy
You may even hear that she’s exercising more, cutting down on the alcohol, trying to lose some weight, and taking fish oil. Don’t get me wrong because these are all great things to do. These are pretty much what I did to prepare before I started trying for my first child. The thing is that there is way more that we could do to contribute to the optimal health of our unborn babies as well as improving our fertility.
Culturally there is no consideration given to preparing for pregnancy beyond going off the pill and taking a few vitamins. The thought of implementing dietary changes for 1-2 years prior to trying for a baby was a foreign concept even to me before I started trying for my first child. I remember my doctor telling me not to worry about nutrient deficiencies because anything the baby needs it would take from me. After giving birth to a tiny human it hit me that my baby was created as a result of everything I was putting into my body. I started to wonder where did he come from? I mean I know where he came from. I pushed him out, but all of the vital nutrients that were required to create our amazing son came right out of me. I had never thought of it that way before. People always say you are what you eat. You hear it, smile and nod and move on, but have you ever taken a moment to actually contemplate that statement?
What shifted for me was the way I looked at food. Food had always been a means to an end for me. A way to satisfy my hunger. I generally looked for the most effective and timely way to satisfy my hunger pains. Now I try to eat the most nutrient dense diet that my budget will allow. Food is information for your body. Food has vital nutrients – vitamins and minerals – that control how your body works.
I was truly amazed when I discovered the Weston Price Foundation and learned that traditional cultures had specific fertility foods that couples would eat once they got married even before they began trying to have children. Somehow these traditional cultures knew the impact that these foods had on fertility and the effect that these foods have on the health of their children.
There is also a strong focus on child spacing. In traditional cultures, there was an understanding that having children back to back could deplete the body of essential nutrients and it was common practice for women to wait a couple years between children to allow time for the body to rebound and replenish the nutrients that were depleted each time the woman had a baby.
Weston Price studied the diets of certain traditional cultures he discovered that the nutritional profile of their diets exceeded the vitamin and mineral content of the average present day diet by upwards of 10 times or more. Although the diets were different depending on which group he studied, there were common threads including animal fats, organ meats, raw milk, fish and seafood, fish eggs and eggs in general, fermented foods, and gelatin rich bone broths to name a few.
When I ask the question “are you playing the pregnancy lottery?” It is a direct critique of the way our culture views pregnancy and fertility. The current framework that informs our choices around pregnancy and fertility is based on the idea that it’s mostly up to chance and that there is little we can do to impact our fertility. Let me illustrate this idea for you by telling you a story. This is a story of an average woman who wants to get pregnant:
The average woman is told that she should fear her fertility because she could get pregnant at any time. She is then educated about the birth control pill often as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy. As a result, the average woman then starts taking the birth control pill in her teens before her reproductive organs have had an opportunity to fully mature. The average woman then proceeds to take the birth control pill for anywhere from 2-15 years. During this time she is able to go through life without giving much thought or consideration to her fertility. Essentially placing her fertility on the shelf until she is ready to deal with it. The average woman eventually gets to a place in her life when she decides she is now ready to have children. She stops taking the pill and immediately starts trying to conceive. She is told by her physician that there is no reason to delay trying and that her fertility should resume right away. Then she starts trying to get pregnant. She is told to take her prenatal vitamins, and hope that she gets pregnant. If she gets pregnant she is then told to hope that her baby is healthy. If she doesn’t get pregnant right away she is told to keep at it for at least 6 months to a year before seeking medical assistance and to keep hoping for the best.
She is not told that the pill leaches vitamins and minerals out of her body often leaving her depleted of B vitamins among others. She is not told that the pill has a detrimental impact on her gut bacteria which impacts her overall health. However, when she develops repeated yeast infections as a result of the depletion of her healthy gut bacteria she is offered Canesten and Monistat. According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride:
The effect of contraceptive pills on the composition of bacteria in the gut is devastating. The longer the lady is on the contraceptive pill, the deeper will be the damage on her gut flora. (source)
If you want to get pregnant in the next few years consider going off the pill sooner than later. It’s time. The time is now. It’s time to change the way we think about pregnancy and fertility and realize that in order for our bodies to churn out healthy babies we need to start getting optimal nutrition. Specifically, we need to start eating for the nutrient profile. It’s time to start looking at food as nourishment, and perhaps it’s time to figure out what foods have the highest vitamin and mineral content in the most bio-available forms that our bodies can utilize.
I like to think that 30 years from now we’ll look back on what we are doing now and think we were totally nuts! But as most things in our culture, things may have to get much worse before they get better.
Instead of playing the pregnancy lottery game where we go off the pill one minute before we’re ready to be pregnant and hope for the best, maybe it’s time to put as much care, attention, and planning for the health of our precious bubs as we do with our maternity photos and their baby rooms. This is not to say that there are any guarantees in life. We all know that any of us could face fertility or health issues despite our best efforts, but don’t let that cause you to throw in the towel before you’ve even started!
What if someone told you you could truly improve your health and fertility by eating differently? Would you do it?
Ready. Set. Go…