The information included in this post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation, or if you have any questions regarding conception, pregnancy, or your prenatal treatment plan. This post is part of our ongoing “Five Questions With” series, in which we interview a pregnancy health and wellness expert on their particular area of focus. Is there an individual or topic you’d like to see featured in “Five Questions With”? Send us an e-mail.
Focusing on Mindful Preconception
We have heard from a number of mamas-to-be who are using the HMHB program to prepare to become pregnant. We asked Rochelle Serna, a natural fertility preparation specialist and baby health expert, to share some strategies you can use while preparing your body and mind for pregnancy.
Through her private practice, Rochelle helps helps mothers across the globe to prepare their bodies for pregnancy. Her comprehensive approach to fertility and pregnancy health make her a fantastic resource for our focus on mindful preconception this week.
We recognize that every woman has a unique fertility journey. The strategies included in this post are suggestions; please consider how they best fit into your personal context and lifestyle. You may already be following some of these suggestions or you may be learning about them for the first time. Take the information at your own pace. Please don’t try to implement all of these steps at once or feel like you must do all of these things to have a healthy baby. Take the information that is useful to you, and leave the rest. Be kind to yourself along your journey.
Interested in learning more about this topic? Stephanie Greunke, registered dietitian and co-creator of Healthy Mama, Happy Baby, taught a webinar on preconception health. Our HMHB webinar recordings are available to our HMHB members. For more information, click here.
Five Questions With: Rochelle Serna
Why is mindful preconception important? There are many wonderful reasons, but I’ll share my favorite:
- You have the ability to “clean up” your genes. The exact moment of conception (when the sperm & egg first meet) is when your baby receives the genetic code that will determine how he or she develops. By living a healthy lifestyle you can “strengthen” your genes. How? In the simplest terms, living in wellness helps to turn on the expression of positive genes and turn off the expression of genes linked with disease. That’s pretty powerful stuff!
- Baby relies heavily on your nutrient stores and hormones for the first few months, when your food aversions are usually the strongest. Storing up ahead of time can save you from becoming deficient . Being mindful before pregnancy may also help to balance hormones, which are fairly taxed during the first twelve weeks, when both you and baby are dependent on them (the placenta takes over hormone production for baby around 12 weeks). Having balanced hormones has also been shown to help sustain a healthy pregnancy.
- Fertility is boosted. There’s a wonderful organization in the UK, Foresight, that helps restore fertility to couples who have been medically deemed “infertile” by simply improving the health of their diet and lifestyle. Over the past 20 years they’ve had a 78% success rate. A healthy lifestyle truly makes a difference in fertility.
What are the 5 most important fertility foods? There are quite a few “magical” fertility foods like royal jelly & maca, but my favorite fertility foods are those that contain the highest amount of baby-building nutrients in the smallest package. Here’s my list:
- Grass Fed Liver
- Pastured Egg Yolks
- Wild Seafood
- Organic Leafy Greens (raw & cooked)
- Fermented Vegetables & Milks
Learn more about pregnancy nutrition and incorporating nutrient-dense foods into your diet through our Healthy Mama, Happy Baby program.
- Environmental stressors. Eliminate things in your home like artificial air fresheners and off-gassing from non-stick cookware.
- Exercise. Some mamas like to lift, others are leisurely walkers, and many are somewhere in-between. Find the exercise that works best for you. The most important factors to consider are that you are getting fresh air in your lungs, and encouraging lymph movement and blood flow.
- Sunshine. Light is life-giving. Get out into the sun, with no sunscreen, for 10 to 15 minutes a day. Not only will you boost your vitamin D, but research is continually proving that light from the sun is necessary for almost all proper body functioning. Be aware of your skin it’s limits—the key is not to let yourself burn.
- Get in touch with the earth. Take a barefoot walk in the sand, jump into a crashing wave, or watch the clouds while lying in the grass. When we give our body direct contact with the earth it grounds, resets, & re-energizes us.
- Your mind. Finally, the most often overlooked aspect of preconception health is mental awareness; preparing your mind. Motherhood changes everything. If I could go back I would have worked on my mind before anything else. I would have learned the art of meditation, I would have practiced self-forgiveness (because that mama guilt is strong), and I would have learned to put a higher value on self-care.
Should women who are planning to become pregnant supplement? It’s important to understand that everyone is unique and may need a different variety of nutrients. Some mamas go light on the supplements and chow down on real foods, and others need a bit more external support to their real food diet. A high-quality supplement regimen is like an insurance policy for the health of you and your baby. It’s not to be fully relied upon for health—but it’s great at filling in the holes. I always recommend a whole-food vitamin with folate or methylated folate rather than folic acid. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you’re thinking about supplementing for fertility:
- What kind of diet do you currently eat? Which primary nutrients are you continuously getting? Which may be lacking?
- Is this baby number two or more? How much time do you plan to have between pregnancies? While real food is an incredible resource, pregnancy is a HUGE drain on your nutrient stores. Having multiple babies close together may call for extra supplemental support.
- Are you nursing? Just like pregnancy, nursing puts a large nutrient demand on our bodies.
Can you give us 5 tips that women who are considering becoming pregnant can put into practice right away? I’ll give you nine. The easiest way to begin boosting preconception health is to avoid “stressors.” Surrounded by these stressors, the body is constantly at work trying to eliminate and neutralize them. Ridding your environment, food and body care of unnecessary additives frees up the body to function more properly. Here are five of my favorite, affordable toxin-avoiding tricks:
- Use a shower filter
- Turn off your wireless internet at night/when not in use
- Take off your shoes at the door
- Drink filtered water
- Always choose organic
And four more actionable tips to help the process along even more:
While it may not always be possible, the earlier you can start implementing these steps, the better. By preparing your body before pregnancy you can improve your chances of conceiving, reduce your risk for pregnancy complications, and have a smoother transition into motherhood. For more information and support about preparing your body for conception, join the Healthy Mama, Happy Baby Facebook group.
Header photo: Helena Yankovska
Rochelle Serna is a natural fertility preparation specialist & baby health expert. She has a degree in Child & Family Development and holds a certification in both nutrition therapy & transformational nutrition. She works with mothers across the globe to prepare their bodies to carry their sweet babies. She also offers articles, resources, & programs to assist mamas through early motherhood, through her website rochelleserna.com.