Preconception Care: Optimizing Health Before Pregnancy
Preconception care focuses on enhancing a woman’s health before becoming pregnant. With the proper pre-pregnancy care, a woman can create a healthy environment in which a child can grow and develop for nine months. This new standard of care in maternal-fetal medicine involves the use of biomedical treatment to prevent disease and health problems while increasing a child’s chance of normal development while in utero. With this approach, women should begin to optimize their health 4 to 12 months before trying to conceive.
Preconception and prenatal care play a pivotal role in reducing pediatric health problems such as mental health conditions. Statistics show that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism and 1 in 6 children in the U.S. have a learning or developmental disability. Between 1997 and 2011, food allergies in children have increased by 50 percent. By addressing health concerns before becoming pregnant, women are better equipped to create a more favorable environment for a baby to develop. From testing and genetics, we can also discover the specific diet, supplements, and nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy.
The biomedical approach includes a series of goals that aim to reduce a developing child’s risk of health and developmental problems by putting attention on metabolism and cell biochemistry. This approach looks at how our body works on a basic cellular level to produce energy and create healthy development. It also takes into account genetic makeup, nutrient status, levels of oxidative stress, and how well the digestive system works. The goals of the approach are to reduce toxins in the body, enhance digestive health, correct nutritional deficiencies, and supplement the body according to personal biochemistry and genetics.
With preconception care, the goal is to treat a woman’s health before getting pregnant through a series of testing and treatment methods. The biomedical approach may test for problems with metabolism and treat using natural methods like diet, detoxification, supplements, herbal remedies, and lifestyle modifications. Here are just a few examples of how personalized medicine initiated before conception can optimize a developing baby’s health during utero:
- Low Vitamin D levels have been associated with preterm birth and a higher risk of C-section births. We can test a woman’s vitamin D levels and offer supplements if needed to reduce these risks.
- Folic acid is important during preconception and pregnancy to reduce the risk of neurological impairment. Women may require different forms of folic acid for proper absorption. We can perform genetic testing to detect genetic variants that could result in issues with detoxification, methylation, and glutathione production. From here we can determine the best supplement option for you.
- Zinc is important for the growth and development of a fetus. The balance between zinc and copper is just as important. During preconception, we will look at these nutrients in detail.
- Babies that are iron-deficient may experience delays in language and may display behavioral problems. Iron is most important the first few weeks before conception and into the first and second trimester. We can test and correct iron deficiencies before conception occurs.
- Melatonin can increase the quality and quantity of oocytes (female eggs). To boost your odds of conception, melatonin can be taken during preconception.
Examples of Testing
A woman’s gut health is important to her baby’s overall health and development. Proper gut health reduces a developing child’s risk of asthma, allergies, colic, and eczema. In addition to using the proper probiotic, women can use personalized medicine such as stool testing to determine the level of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
We can also identify pathogenic bacteria and yeast that could potentially be passed to the baby during birth. Testing and treating for bacteria and yeast before pregnancy is important as most herbal treatments cannot be used during pregnancy. It’s also wise to use prescription antibiotics and antifungals before pregnancy to avoid exposing your child to these medications during pregnancy.
Bacteria in the vagina are a child’s first gut inoculation during birth. We aim to optimize vaginal health before birth and treat any conditions such as bacterial vaginosis or yeast to avoid antibiotic exposure to the developing baby. Other testing that can be performed includes genetic testing, amino acid panels, toxicity panels, and vitamin/mineral testing.
The rising rates of autism and ADHD diagnoses are alarming. Despite advancements in maternal medicine, these rates continue to increase. By choosing to optimize care during the preconception phase, we can reduce the risk of health problems and create a healthier environment for a baby to develop.
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