If you want to optimise your chances of a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby, use the few months prior to conception to prepare your mind and body with these effective techniques.
- Meditation, Relaxation and Visualisation
Stress plays a huge role in how our hormonal system is functioning. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can impact many of the reproductive hormones, particularly progesterone. Progesterone is involved in ovulation, as well as producing and maintaining the endometrial lining to house a foetus throughout pregnancy.
One of the most effective ways known to reduce stress levels is to practise meditation. This can be on your own or with the help of an audio guided visualisation. There are some fantastic meditation downloads that I recommend to my clients, specific to fertility. Your body does not know the difference between what is real and imagined so be like a sports athlete and visualise your end goal and the process required to get there. Some ladies prefer a very anatomical vision of a fertilised egg travelling through the fallopian tube and settling into the uterus. Others find it beneficial to picture more abstract images. There is no right or wrong so enjoy 10-20 minutes where you will be undisturbed, at least 3 times per week to focus your attention on your body and your future baby.
To further enhance relaxation and reduce detrimental stress hormones, include regular bodywork treatments, such as massage, acupuncture and reflexology. Look for a therapist who is suitably qualified and experienced in fertility and pre-conception.
- Keep Active
As we all know, exercise is beneficial for our health for numerous reasons and studies have shown a sedentary lifestyle to be associated with a higher risk of infertility. However, with regard to fertility health, the type of activity is important. I recommend that my clients maintain moderation and avoid excessive high-intensity forms of exercise when trying to conceive. This form of activity can put a lot of stress on the body and increase cortisol production, as well as deplete the vital energy necessary for the healthy functioning of the reproductive system.
Maintaining regular movement remains crucial for efficient circulation of blood so balance is the key. Yoga, pilates, low impact gym and weight bearing exercises and brisk walking are all good choices, as well as being generally more active in your daily life.
- Keep your womb warm
Think of your womb as a little incubator; a nest for your growing embryo. The luteal phase (post-ovulation to menstruation) is the yang phase of the cycle; characterised by warmth, promoting the movement of blood and energy and stimulating implantation. It is during this time that progesterone is highest, which increases the body temperature in preparation for nurturing a fertilised embryo. If energy and circulation to the womb is weak, it will not provide adequate nutrient supply and your follicles may not be able to ripen to their fullest. You may experience conditions of congestion within the uterus, cramps and pain, sluggish blood flow, ovulation problems and hormonal imbalance.
It is important to avoid cold food or drinks or raw foods to increase reproductive health, when trying to conceive and during pregnancy. Warm foods and drinks are the most beneficial for enhancing digestive fire and building energy and circulation around the abdomen and reproductive organs. Nourishing soups and stews are ideal, as are herbal teas. Instead of salads, enjoy steamed vegetables, especially during the cooler months. Add warm chicken or vegetables to an otherwise cold meal and choose porridge over cold cereals for breakfast. Equally, warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and chilli are often abundant at this time of year, for a very good reason!
Always keep your feet warm, especially around the house and never go barefoot on cold floors. In Chinese Medicine, the energy channels that reach your reproductive organs begin in your feet so ensuring good circulation here is crucial.
- Go Organic
Reduce exposure to toxic chemicals such as those found in non-organic foods and cosmetic products by changing to natural brands with organically produced ingredients. There are a whole host of product ingredients and pesticides that are known to have a disruptive effect on your endocrine (hormonal) system. They are therefore particularly essential to avoid when preparing for conception, pregnant or breastfeeding. This is becoming more widely acknowledged as more and more people are switching to natural cosmetic brands and organic food to avoid this toxic overload.
- Self-Help Abdominal Massage
Self-massage to the abdomen has numerous benefits for your reproductive health, including enhanced blood flow to the womb. This creates a more fertile environment for a developing embryo and the ovaries will receive more nutrients and oxygen for developing eggs. Gentle work here can also release tight ligaments around your uterus and ovaries, which can restrict vital blood and lymph flow.
Once you have been shown how to perform your massage safely, practising for a few minutes every day becomes a wonderful ritual to form part of your pre-conception plan, in between professional
treatments. Many ladies find that their massage is a nurturing self-care practice that becomes associated with relaxation and they feel positive to be doing something to actively benefit their reproductive and fertility health. I also teach ladies to build on this self-care practice with specific acupressure and reflexology points.
It is advisable to prepare with positive lifestyle changes for a minimum of 4 months before trying to conceive and these tips apply to both partners. This is to allow your changes to have an effect and to provide enough time for the development of new healthy eggs and sperm. For women, remember to adopt the same diet and lifestyle choices when preparing to conceive as you would when pregnant.