Here are the four misconceptions in preconception preparation.
Written by Guest Blogger: Macy Coleman, a board certified Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist.
It is only the mother’s health that impacts pregnancy and birth outcomes
This may be the biggest misconception of all.
Men are actually responsible for 20-30% of infertility and contribute to 50% of overall cases. In the past few years research has proven that the genes we inherit are either turned on or off and we can actually manipulate that switch with our diet, exercise, and environmental factors.
We’ve also found:
- Paternal exposure to certain chemicals have been linked to higher risk of cancer in children
- If the father had poor diet prior to conception there’s an increased risk of metabolic disease and type 2 DM for the child later on in life
- Fathers who are obese at the time of conception predispose their offspring to being overweight.
- There’s even new research from 2018 linking fathers age (therefore sperm quality and epigenetics) to pregnancy and birth outcomes. Fathers older than 45 increased their child’s risk by 14% to be born prematurely and with low birth weight. They also found that it increased the mother’s risk of developing gestational diabetes by 28%. This is groundbreaking!
Diet and supplements aren’t important until you’re actually pregnant
I find that many women start scrambling to find a good supplement regimen, diet to follow and exercise routine to start doing after they get that BFP (big fat positive).
When in reality certain nutrients are linked to positive impacts on fertility but also on pregnancy prior to falling pregnant.
Let’s talk about a few
- Diets high in unsaturated fats, whole grains, vegetables, and fish have been associated with improved fertility in both women and men
- Trans fats, and sugar have been associated with poorer fertility outcomes in women and men
- Folate is so important BEFORE getting your BFP since the neural tube closes around 4-6 weeks of pregnancy
- Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause changes in ovulation leading to defective implantation and can increase the risk of recurrent miscarriage
- Omega-3 fatty acids help tame inflammation which can increase chances of conception
- Vitamin D also plays a major role in hormone balance, fertility, follicle formation, translation of genes, and pregnancy outcomes and much more. Unfortunately, most women have suboptimal levels of vitamin D.
Only women who are struggling with infertility or subfertility should focus on preconception prep
Every single person (male or female) should work to optimize their health which can improve fertility and pregnancy outcomes, and provides proper nourishment for the fetus which also has long-term effects.
Prenatals are enough
This is wildly inaccurate for the vast majority of women. 97% of pregnant women are taking a prenatal vitamin yet 95% of women are still depleted in key nutrients to optimize pregnancy. There are a myriad of reasons for this like poor diet quality, issues with gut health leading to suboptimal absorption of nutrients, choosing the wrong prentals, genetics, stress, and the list goes on. A
Here are some other supplements and nutrients that I focus on with my clients
- Vitamin D and omega 3’s are two big nutrients that don’t typically come in appropriate amounts from prenatals so I often recommend them separately
- I almost always recommend Vitamin D as a combo supplement with vitamin K2 which directs calcium into the bones and keeps it from building up in the arteries
- Omega 3’s reduce inflammation, support progesterone production and increase uterine blood flow, associated with better ovarian reserve and higher rates of conception. DHA is particularly important for baby’s brain development in utero.
- A probiotic can make a positive and significant impact on gut health
- Choline is often overlooked, but so valuable. I’ve only seen two prenatals that impress me with the amount of choline they have in their dose of prenatals. Choline is a big molecule and it takes up a lot of space so it’s one that a lot of prenatal companies cut to limit the amount of capsules.
- Choline is required for growth of placenta, brain and nervous system development, the transport of nutrients across the placenta, and neural tube formation. It can also lower the risk of developing gallstones during pregnancy.
- I typically see roughly 50 mg in many prenatals but pregnant women likely need close to 930 mg daily
Remember, when preparing for a baby, instead of getting overwhelmed by the amount of information or recommendations out there, go back to the basics. The basics consist of stress management (#1 for fertility), optimizing sleep quality, moving your body daily, and properly nourishing your body with variety and high quality foods.
Macy is a board certified Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist. She is the owner of Well Women Nutrition, LLC a virtual private practice that helps women balance their hormones, heal their gut, solve fertility problems, and feel their absolute best through some of the most vital years of their lives.