Making Healthy Babies: Your 10-Step Action Plan

Author // Jennifer Barham-Floreani, DC

Article Index
Making Healthy Babies: Your 10-Step Action Plan
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Assisted Conception
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Want to get pregnant? Here are 10 tips for increasing your chances of conceiving a healthy baby...naturally!

1) Know Your Cycle When is your “fertility window”? The Sympto-Thermal Method has proved to be a very effective way to determine when you’re most fertile. It combines both the Billings method (cervical mucous checking) and Basal Body Temperature method.

Cervical mucous checking: One of the most reliable indicators of ovulation is the change in vaginal discharge. Five to six days prior to ovulation, mucous will change from being paste-like and opaque to an oestrogenic mucous, which is thin, wet, watery, clear and profuse. Two days before ovulation, mucous will again change to a raw egg-white consistency, stretching in long strands. These few days offer the highest conception probability.

Basal Body Temperature: This method involves taking your body temperature each morning at the same time, using a digital thermometer. Measuring changes in tempera- ture helps indicate when ovulation occurs.

Action: Research these methods for a full explanation of necessary steps

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2) Replenish Your Body Certain lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, stress and the use of medication (including antibiotics and the contraceptive pill), can deplete critical nutrients and minerals necessary for reproductive success. Research indicates that the contraceptive pill alters the uptake and utilisation of the vitamin B group, as well as vitamins A, C, E, K, folic acid, biotin, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc and copper.

Studies have also revealed that vitamin E deficiency in animals can lead to infertil- ity, that zinc supplementation can improve intrauterine growth, and that women who reported using iron supplements were 40 percent less likely to have ovulation-related infertility than non-users.

Action: Before attempting to conceive, give your body a few months to replenish natural nutrient reserves.

Give Up Those Vices There are 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, including 43 carcinogens and 300 polyaromatic hydrocarbons that can destroy follicles in the ovary, reduce fertility and trigger early menopause.

A recent study showed that smokers have 1.6 greater risk of being infertile compared to nonsmokers, and that women who smoke take longer to become pregnant, even with Artificial Reproductive Technology (medical procedures used to enhance fertility), and are more likely to miscarry. It’s important to note that chemical toxicity of any kind can have an adverse effect on conception and development. Alcohol and caffeine are also toxic.

Poor vitamin B levels, high intake of coffee, smoking and lack of vitamin supplemen- tation during pregnancy contribute to elevated plasma Hcy (homocysteine, an amino acid). Women with high plasma Hcy (and low serum B12 levels) are at greater risk of recurrent pregnancy loss, placental abruption, stillbirths, very low birth weight, preterm deliveries, preeclampsia, clubfoot and neural tube defects in their offspring.

Action: Minimise toxins in your diet; remember that all chemicals pass through the semi-permeable placental membrane to the foetus, and that there is no such thing as a placental “barrier.”

Hidden Nutrient Deficiencies Micronutrient deficiencies are known contributors to poor pregnancy outcomes. Certain foods can block the absorption of important vitamins and minerals. It is therefore wise to study if reliance on certain foods may have created micronutrient deficiencies. Seek dietary advice on how to balance food choices and incorporate more organic fruits and vegetables, which are always a rich source of iron and zinc and other important vitamins and minerals.

Action: Eat high-quality, organically grown foods—these are the best source of vitamins and minerals.

Regulate Your Blood Sugar Dietary factors that affect the body’s insulin (blood sugar) sensitivity have been associated with an increased risk of infertility. Greater levels of insulin in the bloodstream appear to depress the body’s production and regulation of hormones, which can have adverse effects on fertility.

Action: While monitoring intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates is important, seek advice from a healthcare provider on the benefits of foods that regulate blood sugar levels, such as whole grains and proteins, and how low-fat dairy products have been shown to influence insulin.

Go for the Good Fats Some fats are good for us and some are not. Fats are important for optimal body function, and together with protein they constitute the structural framework of our body. There are basically four types of fats, of which we need three. Our bodies thrive on “good” fats—the mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are important for healthy reproduction, as they help control blood sugar levels, cool the body’s inflammation, and enhance healthy ovulation. Our bodies also use high-quality saturated fats in moderation. The fourth fat, trans fat, is the “resident evil.”

Action: Prioritise good fats in your diet. Include a high-quality, preferably organic, mercury-free DHA and EPA supplement (omega-3 polyunsaturated marine or fish oil), and utilise other great sources, such as oily cold-water fish, flaxseed oil, walnut, olive and soya bean oil, walnuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds, wheat germ, leafy green veg- etables, olives and avocados. Consider pastured meats, eggs and organic dairy from grass-fed cows as additional sources of good fats. Be vigilant in avoiding trans fats; these are often listed on products as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening. Foods that contain trans fatty acids are often included in kids’ favourites, such as hot chips or French fries, crackers, cookies, biscuits, crisps, cakes, cereals and margarines.

Go Organic Non-organic fruits and vegetables are exposed to a significant number of insecticides and fungicides. The simple act of biting into a piece of fruit that has been treated with endosulfan, an organochloride pesticide, gives an unintended dose of hormone disruptors, otherwise known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs mimic oestrogen and other hormones and potentially disrupt the chain of hormone release necessary for ovulation, fertilisation and implantation of the embryo.

Action: Buy organic produce—not only are these foods nu- tritional dynamite, but they help us avoid produce that might otherwise be genetically modified. There is significant cautionary evidence relating GMO food consumption and infertility. Be sure to check other food purchases for GMO ingredients, which are mostly found in processed foods—particularly those containing soy, corn and canola.

8) Avoid Contaminated Fish Products There has been increas- ing awareness about the ill effects of toxins found in fish, including mercury, antibiotics, vaccines and pesticides. Tinned fish is also a source of Bisphenol A, sulphur dioxide and EDTA. Mercury is 1,000 times more toxic than lead, and is second only to uranium as the most toxic metal. It is a known neurotoxin, linked to numerous forms of brain damage. When eating fish, eat wild. The growing “fish farming” industry is contributing unhealthy, chemical-laden sources of fish into our diets. For this reason, fresh, wild fish (after considering the mercury content) is best.

Action: For a full list of safe fish, please visit welladjusted

Keep Moving Exercise improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin and evens out blood sugar levels. Controlling insulin is an essential step in improving fertility. Exercise also helps us maintain our ideal weight and keeps our bodies strong.

Action: Put on your running shoes, grab a bicycle or join a gym. All exercise is good for the body, and the more variety, the better. Calculate your ideal weight and get all of the physical and emo- tional support you may need to achieve this weight.

Get Your House in Order Whether from a tap, tank or natural source, water contains hundreds of contaminants, including natural organics, salts, harmful bacteria and viruses. Chlorination of tap water and its harmful byproducts must be filtered out.

Variations in menstrual and ovarian function have been ob- served following consumption of tap water disinfection byprod- ucts (also known as DBPs). A study on American women showed those who regularly drank tap water with at least 75 micrograms per litre of these byproducts had an increased rate of early-term miscarriages (15.7 percent, as compared to a 9.5 percent risk for women with low exposure). Fluoride, which is also added to tap water, has been linked to hormone disruption, lower fertility rates and low sperm counts. Water contains hundreds of contaminants, including organic compounds derived from living organ- isms, salts, harmful bacteria, viruses and pharmaceutical drugs.

In addition, conduct an inventory of your home and the prod- ucts you use, particularly personal care and cleaning products. Eliminate anything with EDCs (endocrine-disrupting compounds), such as aluminum, lead acetate and phthalates.

Action: Purchase a high-quality water filter and use glass bot- tles to store your water. Avoid drinking from bottles that contain Bisphenol A—a nasty chemical found in plastics. Replace prod- ucts with 100 percent biodegradable products and read labels carefully before you buy. Dispose of any cookware that contains Teflon and Gore-Tex.

BONUS TIP! Get Your Spine in Order

Finally, get your spine checked. This is critical to any pregnancy. The body’s nervous system is the master control for healthy functioning. When our nervous system works well, we are better able to adapt to our environment and its stressors, which in turn influence our capacity to reproduce.

Physical traumas such as car accidents, sporting injuries and falls—and even long-term, “invisible” trauma caused by poor posture—can all impact the function of the nervous system by causing stress to the spine.

Chiropractors are experts in spine and nerve function. They can help your body function at its full capacity and resist destruc- tive forces more successfully.

The nervous system will effectively integrate the chemical, physical and emotional information between the brain and reproductive systems, improving the chance of conception Chiropractic offers an effective way of improving body function and may play a significant role in improving your ability to conceive naturally

Chiropractic for Fertility

One of the basic premises of chiropractic care is that vertebral subluxations affect nerve transmission. Think of your brain as a computer which coordinates, via your nervous system, the functions of your organs and cells. Nerve messages can be interrupted by spinal subluxations which occur when there are misalignments of one or more vertebrae. Among other effects, vertebral subluxations can compromise optimal reproductive system function and our capacity to conceive. But the field of chiropractic care is yielding some promising results.

In one review published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics (2008), the case studies of eleven infertile women, aged 22 to 42, were examined. Ten of the women were actively trying to become pregnant and had been unsuccessful. Their pregnancy histories included one natural childbirth, two miscarriages, two failed IVF treatments and three failed artificial inseminations. Within 1 to 20 months of receiving chiropractic care, all eleven women had become pregnant. They all had adjustments made to vertebral subluxations in their spines using a variety of chiropractic techniques. Nine of the eleven received no other medical care during this time. This is one example in the growing body of research that suggests chiropractic care improves reproductive system function.

Regardless of the type of chiropractic technique used, when subluxations are addressed, nerve function is improved and reproductive and endocrine function is enhanced.

There is no exclusive infertility cure-all for couples. These proactive recommendations are designed to allow the body to balance itself and recreate its own “order.” Health practitioners cannot take credit for the magnificent design of the human body, which has an innate intelligence working to heal itself.

If couples take the time to listen to their own bodies, they will receive invaluable advice, for the body is always sending messages. This does not mean we need be alone in the healing process. Chiropractors, Chinese medicine practitioners and naturopaths will often work together to support reproductive integrity.

Given the right support and enough time, the body has repeatedly shown that it is capable of transforming “dis-ease” and dysfunction into wellness…and for many couples, infertility into fertility.

Assisted Conception—Weighing Your Options

Becoming pregnant is not always as easy as our mothers said it would be. Millions of couples around the globe have difficulty con- ceiving, while many others have challenges sustaining a pregnancy. Infertility alone has now become a major health issue, affecting one in every five couples in the U.S., one in every six in Australia and one in every seven in the U.K. Infertility can be defined as the “inability for a couple to conceive after one year of regular unprotected intercourse.” It implies the potential to conceive, as distinct from sterility or recurrent early pregnancy loss—although all three scenarios result in the same distressing outcome for a couple wishing to have children.

One question to ask is: Why do we now have so many fertility-challenged couples? Purported explanations are endless, and there appears to be much overlap in rationale for the causes of sterility and infertility. There are a host of physical reasons why a couple might not be able to conceive. Common conditions include ovulatory dysfunction (15 percent), sperm disorders (35 percent), pelvic dysfunction such as endometriosis, adhesions or tubal disease (35 percent), abnormal cervical mucous (5 percent), and unidentified factors (10 percent).

Other factors known to influence fertil- ity for either parent include macro- and micronutrient status, allergies to certain foods, insulin resistance, thyroid dysfunc- tion, adrenal exhaustion, improper exercise, and exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals. While some of these theories are more substantiated than others, it is becom- ing increasingly obvious that deleterious lifestyle factors have a cumulative effect on reproductive capacity.

The next question to ask is: How do we improve our chances of becoming parents? This article outlines some recommendations for enhancing conception, but it’s also important to examine why some couples are hesitant to rush into utilising Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART). These in- clude drug therapies or medical procedures used to enhance fertility before trying in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures. When a woman tries to conceive later in life, there is an increased chance that the conception will require assistance. Allopathic treatments for infertility include drug therapy, surgery and IVF, all of which can take a toll on a woman’s overall health. While ARTs are exceedingly popular, more and more couples are curi- ous to know whether there are any short- or long-term health effects for mother or baby. Unfortunately, the safety and efficacy of ARTs are rarely discussed.

A woman taking fertility drugs may experience bloating, abdominal pain, mood swings and headaches. Fertility drugs such as Clomid (or Serophene in the U.S.) have been known to create several harmful side effects, such as cervical mucous changes (which can interfere with sperm mobility), blurred vision, and lung and vascular com- plications such as blood clots. The Physician’s Desk Reference states that Serophene causes ovarian enlargement (which is a particular problem for women who have endometriosis or ovarian cysts) and ovarian hyperstimula- tion syndrome, where sudden fluid buildup may occur in the chest and abdomen, requir- ing immediate hospitalisation and causing complications if pregnant.

Fertility medications work by blocking the production of oestrogen so that the brain is fooled into believing the body is not ovu- lating and is compelled to produce larger amounts of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This causes the ovaries to “super- ovulate” by producing multiple eggs at one time. Some drugs, such as Pergonal and Metrodin, are highly potent, producing as many as 30 eggs at one time. Fertility drugs may also cause depression and ectopic pregnancies (where implantation of the foetus does not occur in the uterus itself, resulting in miscarriage or removal of the ovary). Surgeries for fertility challenges can address the issues of fallopian tube abnormalities or blockages, but endometriosis, uterine fibroids, intrauterine adhesions, scar tissue and septa uteri involve risks relating to bleeding, infection, scar tissue and anesthesia complications.

Most of us are aware that taking any medication or undergoing any surgery or procedure involves risks, many of which are unknown at the time. IVF treatment is not immune to these risks, and a couple’s jour- ney with this treatment is often arduous and costly—both in a financial and an emotional sense. Research indicates that 80 percent of IVF-assisted pregnancies in women 40 to 45 years end in miscarriage, and that the chance of a 40-year-old becoming pregnant through IVF is a mere 15 percent.

There is growing evidence that children born as the result of IVF have a greater risk of health problems. One study found that a group of 4,559 children born between 1996 and 1999 as a result of IVF had more health problems, worse perinatal outcomes and more hospitalisation compared to the con- trol group. The mothers reportedly also had an increased risk of caesarean births and required more hospital care. For those cou- ples who are successful with the treatment, IVF is no doubt an invaluable asset. However, given the risks and expense, these technolo- gies are often used prematurely when there are safer, less invasive, holistic therapies which may offer equally successful outcomes.

Pathways Issue 30 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #30.

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