Top 5 Lifestyle Tips to Support Preconception Health
If you’re thinking ahead to starting a family and want to make some changes to optimise your health, then these lifestyle tips for preconception are essential reading. Highly relevant for both men and women, they are carefully crafted to support conception, pregnancy and beyond. It’s never too early to start preparing yourself for pregnancy; whether it’s a distant thought that’s sitting at some point on the horizon of your future, or something you’d like to happen soon – these tips are relevant for everyone. Ideally a preparatory period of at least 3 months is recommended before trying to conceive. This is to help get your health in tip top shape. Anything more is an added bonus. Don’t worry though, it’s never too late either.
Now is always the best time to make positive changes for your health.
1. Clean up your diet
It’s no coincidence this is top of the list. It’s No.1 because it could well be the single-most important step you can take to support your reproductive health. Whether this is officially a ‘diet’ or ‘lifestyle’ change is debatable. Its potential impact on reproductive health however is not. This tip is so important that it had to be included either way. Sadly, we are all surrounded, every day, by a sea of toxins, and this includes exposure through food and drinks including water. Many of these toxins are categorised as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs). In simple terms, this means they are known to have the potential to disrupt our hormones, including many hormones that are involved in reproductive processes. And some EDCS are known specifically to alter oestrogen levels – these are called xenoestrogens. It is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid exposure to EDCs and environmental toxicants and this is now considered to partially explain the decline in human fertility that has occurred over the last 50 years. Toxin exposure also has the potential to impact pregnancy outcomes and adversely affect baby’s health during and beyond pregnancy. One way to reduce your exposure to these harmful compounds is to choose organic food because the use of harmful EDCs is prohibited in their production. Installing a good quality water filter on your home tap can help to improve the purity of your tap water too.
2. Clean up your home environment
And swiftly following at No.2 is the message to clean up your home environment. The same toxins that have infiltrated our food and water supplies are ubiquitous through our home environments too. It is impossible to avoid toxins altogether, however it is completely possible to significantly reduce your exposure. Many EDCs are found in household cleaning products, air fresheners, washing powder, cosmetics, toiletries, personal care products, cookware (such as non-stick pans) and in plastics such as food packaging and food storage containers. Avoid plastics wherever possible, and swap to natural versions of these common household products to significantly reduce your overall exposure. Adding house plants can act as an air filter in your home too. Find more ideas on reducing your overall toxin exposure here.
Stress and fertility are intimately connected. And whilst occasional stress is a normal part of everyday life, when stress is ongoing or chronic this can have negative health effects, including on male and female reproductive health. Among many other effects, stress hormones such as cortisol may impact ovulation for women, and chronic stress may affect sperm quality in men. Sadly, this can become a vicious circle for anyone who’s been trying to get pregnant for some time or going through a cycle of IVF as these can be particularly stressful times. Incorporating activities into your lifestyle that help to reduce stress and restore calm and relaxation are therefore essential. These may include mindfulness meditation, yoga, pilates, gentle exercise or something entirely different. Any positive habits that help you to unwind and completely switch off from daily worries and to do lists are worth doing regularly. Find more gentle suggestions to help you cope with stress here.
4. Prioritise sleep
Regularly getting good quality sleep is important for every aspect of health, including reproductive health. There are many possible ways that lack of sleep may impact the ability to conceive, and not least because when you aren’t getting enough good quality sleep, stress hormones increase – which may impact both ovulation for women and sperm quality in men. From a practical perspective, lack of sleep has a significant effect on libido too. Some experts have postulated a possibility that reproductive health is closely linked to circadian rhythm; so the sleep-wake cycle may influence ovulation and sperm maturation processes. When circadian rhythms are disrupted then, due to lack of sleep or erratic sleep patterns, it may lead to negative effects on reproductive processes. Improve your sleep by focusing on sleep hygiene – this includes steps such as getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, avoiding devices at least 2 hours before bed and keeping your bedroom environment calm, clutter-free and exclusively for sleep. Find out more on how to sleep well here.
5. Regular exercise
Regular exercise is great for every aspect of your health, and that includes reproductive health too. Regular exercise has the potential to support sleep, improve mood, increase libido, support ovulation and sperm quality and is a highly effective way to reduce the impact of stress. And any exercise is a great place to start, such as a gentle daily walk. Start small and the benefits will soon start to accrue over time.
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