The science behind preconception care plus Jades top tips
BY JADE WILLIAMS
As a naturopath, I find preconception care fascinating. The reserch behind diet and environmental influences on the egg and sperm as they are developing before conception is abundant, and constantly evolving. Based on current research, six months is the gold standard time necessary for best preconception outcomes. So what is happening on a microbiological level, and how can we influence this for the best? I’ll step you through it.
Ovarian microbiology 101
Females are born with all finite amounts of primordial follicles that will mature and develop as they age. The quality of those follicles depends on their mothers and maternal grandmothers. While we cannot change our primordial pool of follicles, we can change the surrounding granulosa cells, theca cells and the oocytes as it is maturing through each stage of folliculogenesis - several growing stages the follicle takes to form and grow to eventually release a mature oocyte and turn into a corpus luteum. The result is ovulation. Folliculogenesis is the process that can undergo change in preconception care.
(Patrick, Hannon, Thomas, Curry, 2018)
It takes two
Ample research confirms that sperm health is equally important in the fertility equation. The extent of DNA damage in sperm is an important factor to address for any couple trying to conceive. Sperm provide genetic material for embryo and baby which is a 50/50 split, highlighting the need for both partners to change their behaviours for preconception care in that six-month window.
In a nutshell, what this information tells us is that the health of the mother and father before and during pregnancy can impact their child's lifelong health. During the six months, it takes for sperm and egg to develop, positive diet and lifestyle changes during this time will benefit the their development. So what are some of these positive changes?
My top tips are the following:
Reduce BPA exposure
One toxin proven to compromise egg quality and fertility is Bisphenol A (BPA). Despite years of attention to its dangers, this chemical remains present in items from plastic containers to paper receipts. Throughout a series of investigations, one research group found even slight exposure to this chemical in the later stages of egg development can interfere with cell division and cause chromosomal abnormalities.
Top items to replace (with glass or stainless steel):
Reusage storage containers
Microwave safe bowls
Reusable plastic water bottles
Plastic drink bottles
Boost your antioxidant levels through the diet
Antioxidants provide support to mitochondria, energy powerhouses in the cell. We need more and more mitochondria as follicles develop and need it for fertilization to occur. Anything we do to boost mitochondria function and help eggs produce more energy will improve egg quality and viability.
Antioxidant specifics and where to find them:
Licopen - a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes and concentrated cooked tomatoes such as tomato pastes
Beta Carotene - is found in sweet potatoes and carrots
Anthocyanins - found in purple berries
Green tea, dark chocolate
Source a high-quality prenatal supplement
Taking a prenatal vitamin is hands down the most vital thing to do before trying to conceive. Vitamins present here such as folate are not only critical for avoiding birth defects and miscarriages but may play a role in improving chances of conceiving. Avoid cheap over-the-counter products and one with activated folate - Folinic acid or Methylfolate. We have some excellent ones at the clinic that don't require an appointment.
I hope this information has helped paint a picture of what preconception is and why it is a fascinating part of my practice. In a preconception consultation with me, I will review ones medical history, diet, detoxification, lifestyle, exercise, methylation, recent blood tests, and toxin exposure and tailor a preconception plan unique to your circumstances.
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Dumollard, R., Duchen, M., & Carroll, J. (2007). The role of mitochondrial function in the oocyte and embryo. Current Topics in Developmental Biology, 77, 21–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0070- 2153(06)77002-8
Fett, R. (2019). It Starts with the Egg: How the Science of Egg Quality Can Help You Get Pregnant Naturally, Prevent Miscarriage, and Improve Your Odds in IVF. Franklin Fox Publishing LLC.
Kulkarni, A., Dangat, K., Kale, A., Sable, P., Chavan-Gautam, P., & Joshi, S. (2011). Effects of Altered Maternal Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 and Docosahexaenoic Acid on Placental Global DNA Methylation Patterns in Wistar Rats. PLOS ONE, 6(3), e17706. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0017706
Machtinger, R., & Orvieto, R. (2014). Bisphenol A, oocyte maturation, implantation, and IVF outcome: Review of animal and human data. Reproductive Biomedicine Online, 29(4), 404–410. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rbmo.2014.06.013
Pascoal, G. de F. L., Geraldi, M. V., Maróstica, M. R., & Ong, T. P. (2022). Effect of Paternal Diet on Spermatogenesis and Offspring Health: Focus on Epigenetics and Interventions with Food Bioactive Compounds. Nutrients, 14(10), 2150. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14102150
Patrick R. Hannon, Thomas E. Curry (2018). Folliculogenesis.
Encyclopedia of Reproduction (Second Edition), Academic Press, Pages 72-79,
ISBN 9780128151457, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-801238-3.64628-7.
Silva, R., Carrageta, D. F., Alves, M. G., Silva, B. M., & Oliveira, P. F. (2022). Antioxidants and Male Infertility. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 11(6), 1152. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox11061152