When you plan a family, you want to enhance your health for optimal fertility, an uncomplicated, full-term pregnancy and labor, a rapid recovery, successful breastfeeding – and of course, an alert, vibrant, bright-eyed baby. You want that child to grow up to be intelligent, whole and unimpaired. However, in this era of increased infertility, toxicity, and childhood illness, you need practical advice on what you can do before you conceive to achieve those ideal goals and decrease the risk of health challenges.
Brigid Crowe and Bonnie Nedrow, naturopathic doctors atHiddenSpringsWellnessCenter, are so passionate about this topic that they offer a Preconception Optimization program designed for individuals and couples who want to invest in the health of their future children before he/she is even conceived.
Q. Why do you think there are more problems with fertility and the health of babies today than there used to be?
Dr. Bonnie: Since the early 1950s thousands of man-made chemicals have been developed with over 87,000 different compounds being used today. Unfortunately we know very little about how many of these substances impact our health, but what we do know is frightening. Many commonly used chemicals harm our reproductive systems, decrease fertility, and cause damage to developing babies.
Q. I know it is important to eat well, take prenatal vitamins, and avoid toxins in pregnancy, but why should I worry about what I am exposed to before conceiving a child?
Dr. Brigid: For guys, it’s all about the sperm. Sperm develop in about 90 days so whatever is in a man’s body during the three months before conception will either potentially help or harm his future child. For a woman it’s about creating an optimal internal environment before baby is on board. The most sensitive stage of development for a baby is in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy. Waiting until you know you are pregnant to increase nutrition and decrease toxins is generally too late. Preparing for pregnancy (and parenting!) is much like training for an athletic event. Once the race begins, you are committed. Anything you can do to begin the race in peak condition will increase your chances of a pleasant experience and a successful finish.
Q. If a couple is in perfect health would they still benefit from the preconception optimization program?
Dr. Bonnie: Absolutely, because nutrient deficiency and mild exposure to toxicants does not generally cause health problems in young people but can be significant for the health of a pregnancy and the very vulnerable child to be. As naturopaths, we embrace the precautionary principle, especially when considering the health of babies and children. That principle states “when there is scientific evidence that human activities may harm human life or health, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm”. Even when we are really careful about eating organic food and avoiding chemical exposures, we know that our air, water, and food still carry chemicals. In fact, many shampoos, lotions, and other personal care products that look organic are full of toxic ingredients which are absorbed through our skin. Since we know that chemicals can harm our health, when you decrease exposure and reduce your body burden, you are taking a precautionary step when planning your family by protecting your baby from those chemicals.
Q. What about couples suffering from infertility or recurrent miscarriage?
Dr. Brigid: For those of you with reproductive health concerns, we want to offer hope and support. Infertility and recurrent miscarriage can be devastating emotionally and financially. When couples seek care at a standard fertility clinic, they are generally offered extensive hormonal testing and high tech solutions. By refocusing on your own health with this preconception optimization program, you may find these measures unneeded. Even if you do need high tech reproductive assistance, your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy child will increase when your own vitality has been enhanced.
Q. Are there any side effects to your preconception program?
Dr. Bonnie: Of course! The biggest side effect is increased health and vitality for the parents to be. On the flip side it will require some commitment and focus. We believe devoting time and resources for your health and creating an optimal internal environment for conception before you get pregnant may be the best investment you will ever make.
Dr. Brigid Crowe and Dr. Bonnie Nedrow offer naturopathic primary care for the whole family including: newborn care, well child visits, and annual health exams for both women and men. They also offer classes and private naturopathic care for individuals and couples seeking preconception and fertility support. For more information visit HiddenSpringsWellness.com or call Hidden Springs at 541-488-8858