Before jumping into our preconception journey, I wanted to say that I am beyond grateful for our journey so far, I acknowledge that this isn’t the case for everyone. Fertility affects everyone differently, while it can bring joy it can also bring sadness, frustration and pain.
As a Naturopath, I adore the knowledge we have on supporting both men and women on this pregnancy journey. Preconception support is something I am VERY passionate about. Learning about your cycle is something I am VERY passionate about. I have had countless couples come into the clinic trying to conceive, have troubles to only learn that they are getting the timing wrong. In a 30 days cycle, the fertile window is only around 5 days. Sperm lasts 5 days in the body but an egg, that’s of 24 hours.
Preconception care isn’t just about making babies – it’s about improving both your health and wellbeing, supporting nutrient levels and hormone health. All things that make us feel better when improved. Ideally, I ask clients to aim for 6 – 12 months of preconception care before trying for a baby. It takes an average of 3 months for sperm and eggs to develop, so it’s nice to support them from start to finish.
Our preconception journey started over a year before we even started trying to conceive. I have both PCOS and Endometriosis so I knew I wanted to support my body as much as possible before a pregnancy, and because it takes sperm and eggs to make a baby Rob’s preconception journey started 6- 8 months before we tried to conceive. The conception part was fast, I put it down to listening to my body and putting in the work before even trying.
Rob’s part in the preconception journey was a little bit less involved than mine, but no less important – in fact, sperm health is VITAL for conception! Dietary wise we didn’t need to change much here, we generally eat a wholefood lifestyle and we don’t eat fast food. We did increase specific nutrients from wholefoods; these included zinc, selenium, antioxidants and alkalising foods. Rob did remove ALL alcohol during this stage, we aren’t big drinkers so it wasn’t a big change for us. We also reduced caffeine intake and continued with exercise.
Rob also started a few supplements; a practitioner only male preconception multi, vitamin d, CoQ10, and zinc. I prescribed these supplements based on his pathology results and his health history. He was on them for 6 months before we tried to conceive, as it takes 3 months for sperm to develop we wanted to give the swimmers a boost before trying.
My part in this journey was a little bit more in-depth – simply because female hormones are spectacular and there is so much that we can watch and learn from. My side of things started when I was diagnosed with PCOS and Endometriosis several years ago. From that moment I altered my diet, took specific vitamins and minerals and started tracking my cycle. At this stage my main goal was to improve monthly pain associated with the endo, and bring my cycle back into balance from the PCOS. It took time, but I got there.
I tracked my cycle with a handy and cheap chemist thermometer and a basal body temperature chart. I learned more about my cycle, when I ovulated and when a bleed was coming. I recommend this for ALL women, we can all benefit from learning more about our cycle. After a while (and a few weeks of skipped readings) I moved to a wearable device which synced with my phone each morning – tada like magic my cycle was tracked, ovulation picked and fertile window sorted. I tracked for a year before we started trying. I used Ifertracker which I really enjoyed and recommend for clients. We have a $10 discount code ‘aharahealth’ if you are thinking you too would like one.
Before adding pregnancy supplements I did what I tell all my clients to do – got pathology done. I did a general check-up with my GP, got my pre-pregnancy pathology done as well as the key big ones; iron studies, thyroid, vitamin d, b12 and full blood count. From there I knew what I needed to adjust dietary wise, what supplements to take, how long to take them for and at what dose.
My Supplements: I started on zinc, a practitioner only preconception multi, vitamin d, coQ10 and iron. I also needed an iron infusion as my stubborn iron stores with the endo refused to budge after years of work. I took some of these for 12 months, others for less.
Dietary changes: again there wasn’t much I needed to change here, I am gluten free because of my endo but I added more veggies, ensured a large portion of my food was energetically warm and boosted antioxidant-rich foods. I also increased foods rich in iodine and zinc, a nice summer day and munching on a bowl of homemade miso soup with extra seaweed – ovaries love iodine!
We both felt ready and so, it was go time. Even though I was tracking my cycle I was adamant not to make this a clinical, but rather to have fun, remove the stress and pressure and just see what happens.
MONTH ONE: tracking my cycle I could see my fertile window was coming, I had a brilliant temp spike to show ovulation and then BANG! I had an ovarian cyst rupture on my right ovary. After passing out from pain on the bathroom floor, experiencing pain and discomfort like nothing else I had experienced in my life, I didn’t have high hopes for this month. I went to the GP, had ultrasounds done and let my gyno/ob what had happened. Everything came back as we hoped and no surgery was needed.
MONTH TWO: I had some fear around another cyst rupturing but everything was looking good. BBT tracking, mucous changes, spike at ovulation…. and then we wait. Wait the 14 days to see if we were successful. I kept tracking my temperature to watch for a temp drop (this signifies a bleed is on its way) … it never came! We bought pregnancy tests and a 5am one cold morning I did the test, hiding the viewing screen until I was back in bed with Rob – and positive!
During that two week wait I was especially careful with what I ate; lots of warming foods, I also kept my feet warm (a TCM tip) and rested.
The next steps were a pathology test to confirm the pregnancy.
Rob and I decided early on that we would tell our friends and family (and even some clients who could tell I was a little ‘off’ in trimester one). I personally think there is so much pressure on women during pregnancy (and beyond) and if I was feeling crappy, tired or needed support I wanted those around me to know. I also wanted their support if we were going to experience a loss, because that would be so unimaginably hard at any time, we wouldn’t want to go through that alone.
Please note that while our pregnancy journey looks like this, I understand that everyone’s journey is different. Preconception support can be used by everyone ready to conceive or going through IVF. At the very least preconception care is all about learning about your cycle, your health and improving wellbeing for all health outcomes.
If you would like support with your preconception and fertility journey your more than welcome to email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org and enquire about booking in your one-on-one (or one-on-two ! partners very very welcomed) at our Newport clinic.