You hear and read this cliche all the time, “having a baby is one of the most important things you will ever do in your life”. And it is very true. Unfortunately what is often neglected or not considered is the amount of control the aspiring mother and father have over their baby’s health and physical condition from conception through to adulthood.
Whether a baby is planned or a surprise, there are so many things new parents can do to reduce risks of disease and various health conditions ensuring their little bundle of joy has the best start in life. New studies in the field of epigenetics are showing that the quality of the DNA in both sperm and the egg contribute to whether or not your child will have issues with osteoporosis, obesity, type II diabetes and more in later life. They have also shown that micronutrients can reduce the risk of atopic conditions such as eczema, asthma and hay fever.
Ideally, we want to prepare both mother and father prior to conception in order to maximise the quality of both the egg and the sperm, this preparation is known as preconception care. For many this is a brief visit to the Doctor to receive a script for folic acid and iodine and a list of things to do to maximise fertility. While this is a good place to start unfortunately Doctors are not generally trained in the exact ins and outs of preconception care so seeking advice from a professional in the know will help you create an extraordinary baby.
It was long thought that the state of the father's health did not matter when it came to making a baby however there is now considerable research showing that this simply is not true. At the point of conception, a father's state of health is equally as important as the mothers, and the quality and integrity of his sperm and its DNA are vital for a healthy baby. Some research shows that up to 40% of miscarriages are actually due to poor sperm quality and integrity so as you can see male health is extremely important when it comes to reproducing.
Sperm takes approximately 80 days to be produced and mature, ready for fertilising an egg. Because of this any couples considering trying to conceive need to spend at least four months minimum preparing nutritionally in order for the man to produce high-quality sperm. If semen analysis has been done and there are any issues it can take considerably longer than four months to get those little men up for the challenging journey!
A semen analysis usually looks at the volume, concentration, appearance, motility and morphology. So basically checking how many sperm are present, are they swimming the right way, do they appear structurally normal and is the DNA intact or fragmented. If any of these things are not quite right there are means using nutrition, herbal medicine and lifestyle changes that can dramatically improve the sperm quality. These can include not smoking, reducing alcohol intake, increasing exercise and taking supplements particularly zinc, selenium, CoQ10, omega 3 essential fatty acids and the herb Tribulus terrestris. For correct dosages and complete nutritional advice, I recommend seeking help from a Naturopath or an integrated Medical Doctor.
When it comes to women, we only get one set of eggs which are formed before we are born at around 15 to 16 weeks of gestation. It is strange to think that the egg that will form your baby was present while you were still growing in your own mother's womb! Looking after your eggs is not something we learn when we are young and many a teenage girl or woman in her 20s or 30s neglect their health whether through diet, smoking, drinking alcohol and so on, I’m sure we are all guilty of some of these things!
Therefore it is important to start looking after them as soon as possible as these little eggs may be your future babies. Poor lifestyle choices prior to preconception care will not mean your eggs have been written off or permanently damaged. They still need to go through a maturation process before they are released and this is a good chance to increase the viability of the egg and prepare it to be fertilised. So again, as with the father, it is good to spend a few months prior maximising egg quality and replenishing nutrients that have been depleted by the oral contraceptive pill, IUD or depo provera injection.
The road to achieving a family can be short for some and long for others. If you are considering trying for a baby anytime soon I encourage you to commit some time to your future offspring by boosting the health of that sperm and those eggs. It may be very unappealing to put your conception plans on hold for a few months when you really want that little baby to snuggle, but their health depends on you!
Watch out for more posts on this topic, and if you have any specific questions please flick me an email through the contact button as I can guarantee you won't be the only one.
Keep up the great work mama's, papa's, and parents to be!