Aug 14, 2022Preconception

Why Prenatals are crucial before trying to conceive

by Lisa Dreher
Why Prenatals are crucial before trying to conceive

Many people assume that prenatal supplements should only be taken once a woman gets pregnant, so it may surprise you to learn that one of the most critical times to take a prenatal is actually before you get pregnant! And not just the woman, this goes equally for both partners!

Research shows that women of childbearing age are low in important nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy including iron, iodine, calcium, zinc, B6, vitamins D, E, and folate. In fact, demand for these vitamins and minerals increases during pregnancy!

 

Even with a healthy balanced diet, the depletion of nutrients from our soil due to modern agriculture, our stressful lifestyles, medications and more can lead to low nutrient levels in our bodies that can ultimately impact fertility.

 

We also know that nutrients such as folate and antioxidants (vitamins C, E, CoQ10, NAC, etc.) improve male fertility and the chances of conceiving. Both men and women’s fertility can suffer due to low nutrients and oxidative stress which can be supported by taking a comprehensive bioavailable prenatal supplement in the 3-6 months leading up to conception. And since almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it is wise to consider taking a prenatal throughout your childbearing years.

Think of it this way, by taking a prenatal supplement before you get pregnant, you’re doing the following:

 

  • Building nutrient reserves and setting a solid foundation for growth: The preconception period is typically defined as three months before “trying,” and this is the ultimate period to build up your reserve of critical nutrients. In other words, it’s the time to get your garden soil ready to plant a seed. If the soil is depleted or lacking in nutrients, the plant won’t thrive, be resilient in the face of stressors, or grow to be the healthiest it can be. The preconception period is your chance to get the soil ready for the most bountiful harvest possible.
  • Supporting long-term health:  The preconception period is not just about growing a baby, it’s also about how you grow a healthy baby. We know from study after study that what happens in the womb plays a huge role in a child’s long-term physical, emotional, and social health as well as their risk of developing diseases throughout life. The food eaten and supplements taken before you get pregnant can impact your baby now and for decades to come.
  • Influencing genetic expression: Your health and nutrition status during the preconception period have the potential to change the genetic code of your future baby, with consequences that can extend across multiple generations! This is known as epigenetics, an emerging area of research that looks at the connection between environment, our behavior, and DNA expression. Certain foods and nutrients can literally turn genes on or off, as well as send messages to your baby from the day of conception. So, what we decide to do and the supplements we take now can impacts your future family for generations to come.
  • Improve egg and sperm quality: Contrary to popular belief, research shows that sperm and egg quality can be improved, and the highest quality sperm and eggs create the healthiest babies (and even grandbabies). During the preconception period, following a healthy lifestyle, engaging in regular stress reduction practices, following a healthy Mediterranean-style diet, and taking a comprehensive prenatal can improve the quality of both sperm and egg. It takes about 74 days for a sperm to fully mature, so even if previous sperm had been damaged, taking a prenatal supplement for at least 3 months prior to conception along with healthy lifestyle choices can help new sperm mature to their full potential.

There will always be factors outside your control that can impact your fertility, but the good news is that we have many factors within your control. These include lifestyle, diet, stress management, and supplement choices. It’s never too early to begin taking steps toward preparing your body for a healthy pregnancy, but those 3-6 months prior to conceiving are critical in setting the foundation for a healthy mom, dad, baby, and future generations. 

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Lisa Dreher

Lisa Dreher

Lisa is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Integrative Health. She has been practicing for over a decade and works full time at Dr. Mark Hyman's UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.

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