Protocol for Conception

 Image: Summer Sanders

Image: Summer Sanders

Preparing your body, mind, and spirit can help you lay the foundation for a healthy pregnancy. As much as we’d like conception and pregnancy to be an easy and natural process, these days it often isn’t as effortless as we’d hope. More and more people are having difficulties conceiving, and this can be one of the most stressful, frustrating, and disheartening experiences ever. Supporting the body and mind both before and during pregnancy is essential in having a healthy pregnancy and allowing mama and baby to thrive, both during pregnancy and post-birth.


Follow this guide to healing and supporting the body in order to prepare it for pregnancy:

Balance your hormones- Hormonal imbalances are one of the main causes of pregnancy difficulties and infertility, so focusing on balancing them is a top priority. Signs of hormonal imbalances include amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation), excessive breast tenderness and enlargement, ovarian cysts, breast fibroids, vaginal dryness, low libido, severe acne, abnormal hair loss or growth, fatigue, and PMS. Getting your hormone levels tested is the fastest and easiest way to see if anything is off. Keep in mind that minor imbalances don’t always show up on blood tests, but can be the main cause of conception issues, so paying attention to potential symptoms is important.

Seed Cycling- An effective method of balancing menstrually-related hormones, seed cycling involves alternating with different types of seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower) between your two main menstrual cycle phases. 


Nutrition

It often happens that women make serious nutrition changes only once they’ve become pregnant. If we implement these changes ahead of time, however, we can prepare the body for a healthy pregnancy. To prepare a healthy womb/home for the baby, we should treat our bodies as if we are already pregnant - as soon as we even start thinking about conceiving. We want to flush out and eliminate any toxins that could be stored in the womb in order to create a healthy home for the baby to live for 9 months. Avoid processed foods, sugars, and refined carbs, as well as factory-farmed meats and fish. Any substances that deplete nutrients in the body should also be avoided, including caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. Nature has a wonderful way of allowing the right things to happen, so by preparing the body for pregnancy, we are letting it know we are ready to conceive.

Focus on:

Protein - The building blocks of our bodies, protein is essential in creating a strong, healthy womb. Great options include organic free-range eggs, organic meats, wild-caught fish, organic kefir, and organic tempeh.

Zinc - is essential for female reproductive health, as it helps to balance hormonal irregularities. It’s also an antioxidant that helps to reduce damage and stress to the body, which improves health and resilience and works toward preparing the body for pregnancy. Oysters are one of the highest food sources of zinc.

Vitamin B6 - While the B vitamins work synergistically and should be supplemented only as a complex, vitamin B6, in particular, helps to balance out the menstrual phase, specifically the luteal (second) phase. Vitamin B6 also supports mucus production, which is crucial for conception as it plays an active role in the sperm’s travel from the cervix to the uterus.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) - as their name implies, are essential to so many of the body’s functions. They’re important to the reproductive system as they support hormone production and increase cervical mucus. They also reduce inflammation in the body, which could potentially be impeding conception. Ensure you’re getting healthy amounts of EFAs daily by increasing consumption of cold-pressed oils (olive, avocado, flax, walnut, or hazelnut), hemp seeds, avocados, wild-caught fish, organic butter from grass-fed cows, nuts, and seeds.


Exercise/Circulation- Exercise is an important component of overall health and should be encouraged before and during pregnancy. As long as you aren’t doing anything too strenuous (such as training for a marathon or doing Olympic lifting), exercise can be highly beneficial and supportive of a healthy pregnancy. A routine should be put in place before pregnancy occurs. This will help to combat the fatigue related to pregnancy, increase endurance, and prepare the body for labor. Blood volume doubles when pregnancy occurs, which can cause blood stagnation and poor circulation. Promoting healthy circulation before pregnancy occurs will help to support blood flow, eliminating stagnation once these levels increase.

Cardio- is excellent for heart health and mental clarity. It will help to prepare your body for labor by increasing endurance. Labor can be a lengthy process, so preparing your body is essential. Try to do 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity cardio 3-4 times per week. This could consist of power-walking, jogging, dancing, or swimming.

Core Strength- Our stability, posture, and weight distribution depends on the strength of our core. The sudden excess belly and breast weight that develops during pregnancy can cause strain on the lower back, hips, and legs. We can support this added weight by strengthening the core. Pilates is a wonderful exercise which was designed with the woman's body in mind. It focuses on core strength as well as stretching and elongating muscles.

Kegels- Kegel exercises are quick, easy, and effective exercises that help strengthen the pelvic floor, which are all the muscles connected to the reproductive system. By doing these exercises, we can increase the strength of our vaginal muscles. This increases libido as well as sexual pleasure, which can help with conception. Strengthening the pelvic floor will also facilitate labor, prevent labor-related injuries, and help with post-labor recovery.

Yoga - is a mindfulness practice which will help strengthen the body as well as calm the mind. It can bring an aspect of peace into your life while supporting your physical body. Daily gentle yoga practices are a wonderful pre-pregnancy and pregnancy workout routine.


Supportive Herbs:

Red Maca - A well-known adaptogen used in traditional medicine in South America, red maca is specific to female reproductive health and supports the body in maintaining balanced hormone levels. High in protein, red maca reduces PMS and enhances stamina and libido.

* Maca also increases sperm count & strength.

Shatavari - An Ayurvedic herb that is used as a female tonic, it helps to increase libido and reduce vaginal dryness, stimulating fertility.

Red Clover - Used in traditional herbal medicine to increase estrogen levels, red clover is also effective in helping to establish hormonal balance.

Nettle- There are constituents in the plant called glycoproteins which inhibit sex hormone binding. This constituent helps the body to modulate hormone production. It is useful in cases of estrogen or testosterone dominance in women and men.

Red Raspberry Leaf- Helpful for balancing hormones pre-pregnancy & helps alleviate morning sickness during the first trimester & supportive to drink regularly during the last trimester. 

*If you have PCOS or a thyroid illness, know that these are more serious conditions that interfere with hormonal balance and must be addressed with a nutrition practitioner. 

*Consult with a nutritionist prior to taking any herbs or supplements


Supplementation

Certain nutrients are needed in extra amounts to support the body through conception and pregnancy. Consider adding the following supplements to your daily regimen for added support on top of a nutrient-dense diet:

High-Quality Daily Prenatal - Essential in helping to prepare the body, it should contain all the necessary nutrients to prepare the womb for conception. *you can start taking this up to 1 year prior to conception

*Consider Genetic testing through companies like 23 & me - if you have an inability to process folate, be sure your prenatal contains the active form. You can also reach out for to a holistic nutritionist for comprehensive support. 

Magnesium - This vital mineral helps to reduce stress by relaxing the muscles, especially of the uterus, and can increase libido/positive sexual experience to increase conception. Magnesium also helps with bone development.

Dosage: 4-600 mg/day

EFAs (Fish Oil or 369 Formula) - As discussed above, EFAs are important to hormonal function and brain development, and have anti-inflammatory benefits. There’s a higher need in pregnancy to support fetus development. Fish oil high in DHA is especially beneficial as DHA is essential in the neurological development of the fetus.

Dosage: 2,000 mg/day

Probiotics - These increase healthy gut flora, boosting the immune system and preparing healthy gut flora for conception.

Dosage: 10 billion to start, can increase to 50 billion


Supporting the Mind
 

Stress Reduction - When our bodies and minds are in a stressful place, we go into survival mode, aka “fight or flight” mode. Our bodies have no way of knowing what’s going on in the external environment - they simply notice stressors and tries to protect themselves. During times of high stress, the body will prevent conception as it won’t perceive a safe and positive environment in which to have a baby.

Keeping stress levels down is vital in allowing our bodies to conceive. Meditation practice, enjoyable activities, exercise, limiting sugar and caffeine intake (to avoid excess stimulation), and proper sleep will all help to reduce stress.

Healing Past Trauma - We hold trauma within our bodies, and it’s often buried in our subconscious minds. This can be a very difficult thing to face but can be essential in having a healthy pregnancy and birth experience. Pregnancy and birth take a huge toll on the body and can be a trigger for past traumas to come up.

If you have a history of sexual trauma or abuse, healing from this can have a truly positive impact on your pregnancy. Seeking support from a professional can be helpful, or joining a woman's circle, womb healing, reiki, or healing meditation group can help unearth this pain and trauma and help you move past it to heal.

Visualization- Begin "calling in baby". Visualization can be supported through various tools such as journaling, meditating, new moon rituals, and intention setting. Incorporate one of these practices on a weekly basis to envision and call in your baby. Believe that it’s possible and that the baby is on its way - building trust with your body can go a long way!

Whether you’re preparing for your first pregnancy or already have children, the experience of trying to conceive and then being pregnant represents an undeniable lifestyle change. Acknowledge this, establish new routines and habits that support the change, and be gentle with yourself as you navigate the many changes to your mind, body, and lifestyle.


Choosing a Midwife or OB

The decision of what type of medical professional you want during your labor is yours to make, and discussing this with your partner and family can help to reduce stress once you become pregnant.

A midwife can provide you with a more holistic, intuitive approach to your pregnancy. They’re typically more inclined to recommend natural remedies and herbs to support you during your pregnancy. With a midwife, you also have the option to give birth at home or at a birth center. Although midwives have a more natural approach to pregnancy and birth, they are 100% qualified to recommend medication if needed and will guide you if medical intervention is necessary. If surgery was needed, an OB would take over.

An OB will provide you with a more allopathic approach to your pregnancy. They use a more modern approach to birthing and often involve more instances of intervention, such as induction, episiotomy, and the use of forceps. OBs only deliver in hospitals, and are qualified to perform necessary surgeries such as cesareans. If you feel more comfortable and safer in a hospital environment, an OB is likely a good choice for you.

*You can also do both - find a fantastic OB & Midwife that work together as a team. 

Finding a Doula

A doula is a trained professional who provides emotional and physical support to moms-to-be and their partners/families, as well as access to resources regarding pregnancy, labor, and postpartum care. They have no medical responsibility but serve as a birth partner to the pregnant woman. Doulas aren’t meant to replace the women’s partner or family members - they provide support to everyone involved.

They can help create a birth plan and assist with other important decisions, as well as provide support during labor. There are also postpartum doulas who provide support for the months post-birth. They’re usually the first to meet you when labor begins, and the last to leave your side. Extra support can help to create the birth you envision.


Other Support

Acupuncture, osteopathy, and chiropractic care can greatly increase the chances of conception and can also support the body through pregnancy. Seek out additional physical support to help prepare the body for a healthy pregnancy and to correct any underlying imbalances.

The key to a healthy, successful pregnancy and labor is honoring your body and your life to create a welcoming home for your baby. Whether you’re planning to conceive as soon as possible, or within the next year or two, it’s never too late to start taking the appropriate measures. You and your baby deserve it!