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Fertility and Pregnancy
One day while discussing the topic of pregnancy a patient of mine said, “The ripeness of the fruit depends on the richness of the soil”. When I asked her what she meant she explained that in her culture pregnancy is described in terms of planting a seed in rich soil, nourishing the growth of a tree and harvesting the fruit.
This analogy is a great way to describe the naturopathic approach to fertility and pregnancy. It demonstrates the need for preparation, care and attention during all stages of pregnancy to ensure that mom, dad and baby are the healthiest they can be. Naturopathic medicine can support you at any point along the way to help you produce rich and bountiful fruit!
Pre-Conception Care: The richness of the soil
The richness of the soil refers to a women’s health status prior to conceiving. Ideally a woman should strive to be the healthiest she can be in preparation to fully support and nourish a growing baby. Key factors that are assessed and treated by naturopathic doctors when it comes to pre-conception care include: hormone imbalances leading to menstrual cycle irregularities and miscarriage, women’s health conditions like endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, and lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and caffeine intake. They also discuss mental and emotional readiness and concerns surrounding pregnancy and having children and treat high stress levels which elevate cortisol affecting hormone levels.
Male Fertility: Planting the seed
It takes two to tango! Male pre-conception care is just as important as female pre-conception care because the sperm is what carries 50% of the DNA needed to create your baby. One important fact to take note of is the cycle of sperm development takes approximately 64 days to complete. That means the quality of sperm released today, will be influenced by a man’s lifestyle choices up to two months prior.
Key factors influencing sperm count and motility (sperm’s ability to swim) that are assessed and treated by naturopathic doctors include: lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and caffeine intake, as well as, nutrition and nutrient status such as ensuring adequate amounts of vitamins A, C, E, B12, folic acid and minerals selenium and zinc essential to the production of high quality sperm. Naturopaths also discuss detoxification of heavy metals and other chemicals affecting sperm production and high stress levels which elevate cortisol and can decrease testosterone levels and negatively affect sperm production and libido.
Pregnancy: Nurturing the growth of the tree
The nine months of pregnancy are similar to the process of a little seedling growing into a big, strong tree. Just as a seedling needs nourishment, love and support to grow, so does a pregnant woman and her developing child. Plants also need to be adaptable to their constantly changing environment. Each woman’s pregnancy is a unique and individual experience and naturopathic doctors can support a woman’s changing needs throughout the journey of pregnancy.
Delivery and Post-Partum Care: Harvesting and enjoying the fruit
Congratulations! The tree is fully grown and ready to bear fruit which now brings a host of change and challenges. Naturopathic doctors are available assist with delivery and post-partum care for mother and baby. The Association of Perinatal Naturopathic Doctors (http://apnd.org) is a great resource when looking for a naturopathic doctor who is also trained as a doula (birthing assistant) to be present at the delivery of your baby.
Tips for Optimizing Fertility
1. Assume You are Pregnant
There is truth in the power of positive thinking and setting the intention for welcoming a child into your life. It will also help you follow the next few tips!
Take a prenatal vitamin and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement regularly. Speak to your family doctor or naturopathic doctor about the safety of your medications and natural supplements during pregnancy and change them accordingly.
Eliminate alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods from your diet. Identify and eliminate environmental exposure to toxins and consider doing a supervised detoxification program with the help of your naturopathic doctor.
4. Smoking & Health Conditions
Quit smoking and recreational drugs. See your family doctor or naturopathic doctor for assistance. Visit your family doctor or naturopathic doctor to address existing health conditions.
5. Communicate and Manage Stress
Communicate with your partner about your feelings regarding having children. To manage stress, make time for self-care by doing something you enjoy like exercise, yoga, meditation, listening to music, etc.
6. Track your menstrual cycle
The basal body temperature chart can provide important information to determine when you are fertile and identify menstrual cycle issues. More information visit: http://www.babycenter.ca
Ellen Simone, BPHE, HD, ND, naturopathic doctor in Ottawa, Canada. Simone focuses on family wellness and has special interests in women and children’s health. Simone is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and the Ontario College of Homeopathic Medicine.