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7 Tips To Optimize Pre-Pregnancy Health from A Functional Nutrition Dietitian

7 Tips To Optimize Pre-Pregnancy Health from A Functional Nutrition Dietitian
After I miscarried in May of 2021, my physical and mental health took a turn for the worst. When I woke up I had zero energy, I felt SO depressed and I gained 10 lbs without changing my diet or lifestyle. I knew that if I wanted to get pregnant again and have a healthy pregnancy, I needed to focus on regaining my health.

I spent more than one year trying to improve my health before my husband and I started trying again. He told me regularly: ‘envision yourself as an olympic athlete training for the olympics. A healthy pregnancy is our olympics’.

 

Preconception health is critical for everyone. This is the 90-day window before you plan to start trying. It serves as a critical time to improve egg quality and sperm health which can help to improve fertility, pregnancy outcomes and the lifelong health of the baby. Here are some basic but essential ways to prioritize your pre-pregnancy health for both you and your partner:

  1. 1. A Nutrient-Dense Diet

 

Before jumping to the importance of a prenatal, using a food first approach to nutrient-density is absolutely key. Afterall, food is medicine! This is especially true when you think of all of the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients that the body can get from nutrient-dense whole foods that are critical for preconception and pregnancy. 

 

A 2021 study showed that a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet before and during pregnancy was associated with a lower risk of gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and preterm delivery. Not to mention that the mom’s diet also influences baby’s taste preferences, brain development, gut microbiome and so much more. I love the book Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols and would highly recommend reading prior to pregnancy!

2. Both Partners Take a Prenatal *At Least 90 Days Before Conceiving*

 

Research shows that a whole foods nutrient-dense diet and prenatal supplementation can support optimal growth and brain development; decrease risk of DNA damage and can lower risk of pregnancy and birth complications. 

 

I am on the Medical Advisory Board for WeNatal, a supplement company for both men and women. My husband, Johnny and I took WeNatal more than 90 days before conceiving. I’ve continued taking this prenatal throughout my pregnancy. I love WeNatal because they have all of the most important nutrients (Choline, vitamin D, methylated B vitamins, etc.) and the nutrients are in therapeutic doses, they are bioavailable, and contain no fillers or unnecessary ingredients.

3. Stress Reduction

 

Again unplugging more often is really key for lowering stress levels. I personally prioritized breathing exercises, low intensity exercise, walking and unplugging. Lowering stress is essential for supporting healthy hormonal balance and particularly for improving progesterone levels.

4. Blood Sugar Optimization

 

Blood sugar imbalances and elevated blood sugar levels can negatively impact fertility by altering hormones, damaging egg health and negatively impacting sperm quality. 

It also drives insulin resistance which leads to elevated levels of insulin which also has a negative impact on reproductive hormones. There are insulin receptors in the ovarian cells. When you have high levels of insulin, those cells produce more androgens in females which drives menstrual irregularity, lack of ovulation, facial hair growth, weight gain and more.

 

Before trying to conceive, I really prioritized stable blood sugar levels. I made a lot of the home-cooked meals from my Blood Sugar Reset Bundle and I also tracked my blood sugar levels on and off with a Continuous Glucose Monitor to work on improving my insulin sensitivity and overall metabolic health.

5. Testing Nutrient Deficiencies 

 

Having adequate levels of the essential nutrients is critical for conception and pregnancy. Remember that pregnancy is such a nutrient-dependent process. Even mild deficiencies can decrease egg quality, sperm health and lead to detrimental effects on embryonic development.

 

It’s so important for both partners to access your nutrient deficiencies, antioxidant needs, inflammation levels, gut imbalances, and more. This is especially true after you have been pregnant, given birth or been breastfeeding–all of these experiences are very nutrient-dependent. 

 

The average American has a hard enough time getting enough nutrients in their diet–let alone when they are using those nutrients for them and a growing baby. I will absolutely retest after pregnancy and after breastfeeding to ensure that I am replenishing my nutrients.

6. Testing Hormones

 

The proper balance of hormones is essential for efficient reproductive cycles such as the ovulation process in women and the overall system of conception. Men may also experience hormonal disorders that affect their fertility, such as low testosterone levels.

 

When my OBGYN said that she wouldn’t test my hormones, I decided that I would get my own hormone testing done. I worked with a colleague who is a naturopath to outline the best way to improve my hormones. I specifically focused on increasing my progesterone and lowering cortisol because both were out of balance.

7.  Limiting Environmental Pollutants 

 

Limiting the body’s exposure to unnecessary environmental pollutants is especially important during pregnancy but something that I also focused on prior to getting pregnant to decrease oxidative stress. Think of your hair care products, soap, lotions, makeup, cleaning supplies, laundry detergents, perfumes/ cologne, candles, and more. We’ve been trying to limit environmental pollutants for years but I got more diligent prior to getting pregnant to try to lower the baby’s exposure to these endocrine disruptors. 

 

Once I got pregnant, I stepped things up again. Some of the things that I have done during pregnancy include: not dying my hair,  not painting my nails, regularly washing bed sheets, hand washing, and thoroughly washing feet in the shower to decrease environmental chemicals that get on my hands/feet and then track throughout the house. These are choices that worked well for me but something that you need to decide is best for you.

There you have it! I hope these recommendations are helpful for you and your partner as you start to plan for pre-pregnancy health. You don’t have to be perfect 100% of the time–I certainly am not. It’s all about being consistent and taking small steps to change your habits over time. And if possible, try to do them together! Getting pregnant and having a healthy baby is a team sport! 

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Brigid Titgemeier MS/RDN/IFNCP

Brigid Titgemeier MS/RDN/IFNCP

Brigid is a functional medicine registered dietitian, nutritionist and health advocate. She was a cofounding dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine under Dr. Mark Hyman and co-created an integrative and functional nutrition course at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine. She is now the CEO and Founder of Being Functional Nutrition, a digital coaching company for better labs, symptoms and relationships with health. Brigid works with clients to create optimal health with personalized nutrition and food as medicine.

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