What is pre-conception care?

In Australia, Traditional Chinese Medicine is enjoying growing popularity amongst couples seeking to enhance their fertility by using natural methods.  News of positive experiences and successful outcomes are spreading as natural, holistic, adjunctive and alternative support to conventional medical fertility enhancement (IVF) are being sought.

The unfortunate reality of age

In the West women are choosing to have their babies much later in life and have often taken the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) during their most fertile years from adolescence to mid-thirties to avoid pregnancy.

Unlike men who produce fresh semen daily, women are born with all the eggs that they will need for their entire reproductive lifecycle.  As women age so do their eggs.  From her late 30’s a woman’s fertility is in natural decline.

For older women who have decided to have children later in life, the combination of reproductive aging and the undesirable side effects of the OCP can have a devastating impact on natural fertility.

If women are looking to give themselves the greatest opportunity of falling pregnant it is advisable that they start trying sooner rather than later and either avoid using the OCP or cease it as soon as possible.

Pre-conception care should ideally commence up to 12 months prior to pregnancy.  The aim of Chinese Medicine pre-conception care is to promote optimal gynaecological health in preparation for pregnancy.  It is designed to get a woman’s body in the best possible position to fall pregnant, stay pregnant and nourish a baby for the entire pregnancy and beyond.

Falling pregnant is only one aspect of good reproductive health.  The next challenge is for women to be able to carry a baby to full term and then breast feed, care for, love, grow and nurture a child from infancy into adulthood.

Pre-conception care should be considered as part of preventative medicine, beginning up to 12 months prior to women consciously attempting to fall pregnant.

To understand the importance of pre-conception health one might consider the analogy of a garden.  Imagine that the lining of the uterus represents the fertile soil that provides the material foundation for seeds to germinate and grow into mature plants.

Prudent gardeners know the importance of preparing, tilling and fertilising the soil long before they plant their crop.  They understand that the nutrients contained within the soil provide the sustenance for the plants whole life cycle, not just germination.

So it is with growing babies.

Chinese Medicine realises the importance of cultivating a rich, nutritious endometrial lining as preparation for providing the nourishing substrate from which new life springs forth.

While Chinese women have a cultural understanding of the merits of pre-conception care, our experience it is that it is a difficult concept to ‘sell’ to Western women.  Typically women consulting Chinese Medicine practitioners have been trying to fall pregnant for some time without success and are impatient to get the ball rolling.  They tend to be reticent to commit to cultivating optimal reproductive health in advance.

Along with acupuncture and herbal medicine, pre-conception care usually involves a combination of diet, lifestyle and exercise modification.

Pre-conception care assumes a woman to be fertile.

Helpful hints to enhance fertility

  • Cease OCP as soon as possible
  • Address menstrual irregularities sooner rather than later
  • Space your children, allowing adequate time for  post natal recovery and recuperation
  • Reduce stress, practice relaxation, yoga, meditation, have a holiday
  • Consider having children in your 20-30’s.
  • Avoid cold, raw foods and fluids, processed and junk food
  • Regular exercise that is appropriate to your fitness level
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid or restrict alcohol intake
  • Keep your reproductive organs warm, wear a singlet or a tummy warmer to protect your midriff